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A thriller in West Linn

Local author sets first mystery novel in West Linn


Photo Credit: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - In 2011, Ken Baysinger sat down to write a book that had been on his mind for many years. He kept the story local so that he could write about what he was familiar with.When Ken Baysinger first discovered his gift for writing, he was a teenager working on a deadline.

He’d waited until the very last minute to write a term paper for his high school English composition class and — in between a couple of weekend dates — typed furiously at his father’s Smith Corona typewriter. The paper may have been “thrown together,” but he turned it in on time.

When his teacher returned the paper, there was no grade, but rather the dreaded “see me after class” note. Anxious and confused, Baysinger visited the teacher.

“There’s no way you wrote this,” the teacher said.

The paper, in his teacher’s eyes, was simply too good to have been produced by a junior in high school. Baysinger didn’t know what to say — the paper was, in fact, his.

When offered the chance to re-write the paper, Baysinger refused on principle, and he failed the class as a result. But it was a formative experience, one that Baysinger remembers now as he promotes his mystery novel, “El Camino,” which is set in West Linn.

“That was the first true indication that I had some kind of writing ability that may be extraordinary,” Baysinger said.

“El Camino,” which is Baysinger’s first novel, tells the story of a private investigator named Corrigan, who sets out on the trail of a forgotten cold case after a Chevrolet El Camino car is pulled from the Willamette River. The book is set in the 1980s, and local readers will find plenty of familiar settings throughout the story’s progression.

“All of the locations mentioned in the story are real,” Baysinger said. “You can get in a car and follow the story, location to location, as it develops.”

For Baysinger, who has lived in Oregon City since 1974, keeping the book local ensured a sense of realism.

Photo Credit: TIDINGS PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - The book is set in the 1980s, as a private investigator named Corrigan pursues a forgotten cold case.

“You read Stephen King books and they all take place in Maine or thereabouts, because that’s what he’s familiar with,” Baysinger said. “You read John Grisham books and they all take place in Mississippi, or the south. It would only make sense for me to put my story here.”

Though the idea for the story percolated in Baysinger’s mind for decades, it wasn’t until November of 2011 that he began writing in earnest. Working his day job at Windermere Real Estate, Baysinger carved out free time when he could and wrote the book in just five months.

“November is the start of the slow season in real estate, and 2011 was a very slow period of time,” Baysinger said. “So having time to write was not an issue ... it was easy to sit down for maybe four to five hours a day to write the book in a five month period.”

Going all the way back to that high school term paper, one of Baysinger’s greatest talents is writing quickly, with a purpose. “Writer’s block,” wasn’t an issue; if anything, he had too many ideas.

“The funny thing is that some of the best parts of the story were things that happened spontaneously while I was writing,” Baysinger said. “They had no particular inspiration, weren’t part of any plan, they just showed up.

“And so from time to time, I’d have to back off and say, ‘Well I like that, now how does that contribute to the conclusion of the story?’ And sometimes it didn’t, and would have to go.”

As he works on his second book, which will feature many of the characters from “El Camino,” Baysinger says he is inspired by writers like Tom Clancy, Michael Crichton and Frederick Forsyth.

“I say this with reluctance because I don’t pretend to be Tom Clancy, Michael Crichton or Frederick Forsyth,” Baysinger said. “But those are three writers whose material I really always liked. And the reason I liked them is they made their stories real by telling me how things happen — they included that level of technical detail.”

Promoting the book has proven to be perhaps even more difficult that writing it.

“It’s just been a huge hurtle,” Baysinger said. “The book is out there, but most book stores are not putting it on the shelf, because space is limited, and they’ll go with John Grisham every time ... we’ll get there.”

Baysinger is set to appear for a book signing at Bullseye Coffee Aug. 13 from 4 to 6 p.m. On Aug. 24, he will be at Concordia University’s George R. White Library and Learning Center from 4 to 6 p.m., and he is also scheduled to appear at the West Linn Rotary Club Sept. 24 from noon to 1 p.m.

The book is available at Graham’s Stationery in Lake Oswego.

For more information, visit kenbaysinger.com.

Contact Patrick Malee at 503-636-1281 Ext. 106 or pmalee@westlinntidings.com.

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