A cocky, wise-cracking young Juvenile Probation Officer battles troubled lives and senseless deaths as he establishes a career and finds adventure friendship, romance and a new home in Hawkins County. Although fictionalized, this bittersweet story is based on actual people and events on a small, rural county. But "Hawkins County" is more than a corrections casework study. It is a trip back to the 1970's, and it's all here - the movies, the TV shows, the tunes, the jokes, the humor, the heartache, Vietnam - all the elements that influenced our lives during the era. "Hawkins County" is for baby boomers, Vietnam veterans, law enforcement officials, social workers, youth counselors, probation officers - yes, even juvenile delinquents and others who have found themselves on the wrong side of the law - and everyone else who savors a nostalgic story about life as it happened during the 1970's.
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By Steven Ulmen
Nov 16, 2011
ROUNDUP MAGAZINE REVIEW FEBRUARY 2007 This is not a Western, but it is an unusual book that illustrates the changes the 1960s and 70s brought to American culture and law enforcement. Based on the author's own experiences as a juvenile probation officer in rural Hawkins County, Minnesota, the story line traces the coming of age of an immature, cocky probation officer, who learns how to help youngsters caught up in the criminal justice system, and guide them to a more useful life. It is not a happily- ever-after sort of book as Jack Johnson finds his small mistakes handling his juvenile clients can lead to big consequences. The death of a teenager who is fleeing the police is a sobering... More > experience for Jack. Particularly well drawn is the character of Pat O'Connor, the son of an alcoholic. Pat is avoiding arrest on a warrant for breaking his probation. He avoids drugs and thievery, but runs with a bad crowd. He is sensitive teenager, very protective of his dad, and Jack's... More > goal is to reform Pat's behavior. This is an interesting book for its social commentary and the flavor of the 1970s. "Review" Steve Ulmen is not new to the world of law enforcement or corrections, having devoted his entire adult life to working with the unfortunate segment of our society that ends up entangled in the criminal justice system. His new novel, (Hawkins County) draws from life at a time shortly after he started as a probation agent in a small southern Minnesota community. Ulmen was not far removed in age from the central character of the story so the thought and words come from a unique perspective. He lays bare many of the reasons for juvenile delinquency in the 1970's and shows how small mistakes can have profound, life-shattering effects on the young people and those around them. Ulmen works hard in the piece to try to insure accuracy of places, events, slang and dress. Sometimes he fails, but the fault may be more one of memory than deceit. The writer lived through many changes in how system treats and deals with criminal offenders. The "get tough" attitudes of the 60's and 70's gave way to more permissive and gentler types of supervision in the 80's and 90's. Once again we see society and the courts demanding treatment of our youthful offenders with an iron fist. The novel is not about whether the methods used then were right or wrong, rather it searches the soul of one young man facing an immovable system, and the effects of those encounters. An enjoyable read and a look back into the past, particularly for those of us who lived through it as part of the "system" Jerry Huettl, Public Safety Director for the city of Mankato, MN and model for the character of Officer Lowell McCarthy in the story. Mr. Huettl also served as an expert consultant on police procedures as detailed in the book. 5.0 out of 5 stars An original story told with a humor and candor that holds the readers full and rapt attention from beginning to end, May 8, 2006 By Midwest Book Review (Oregon, WI USA) - See all my reviews This review is from: Hawkins County (Paperback) Pat O'Connor is a juvenile delinquent who, with the aid of his alcoholic father, spends most of his time outrunning the police who have a warrant for his arrest for a probation violation. His gang consists of five other delinquents, including their sociopathic son of Judge Charles Halloran, the Hawkins County Juvenile Court Judge. Can cocky, wise-cracking Juvenile Probation Officer Jack Johnson keep Pat and his buddies from self-destruction? Can he divert any of them from becoming career criminals and long term incarcerated prisoners of the state's penal system? Set in a southern Minnesota rural community and drawing upon his many years of service as a Juvenile Probation officer, Steven Ulmen's debut novel is an original story (but one that could be taken from the ledgers of any juvenile justice system today) told with a humor and candor that holds the readers full and rapt attention from beginning to end. Flashback to the turbulent 1970s, February 17, 2011 By Audrey Kletscher Helbling - See all my reviews This review is from Bad Moon Arising, Lulu title Hawkins County (Paperback) Jack Johnson has just graduated from Mankato Stave University with a sociology degree. Teenager Pat O'Connor doesn't give a rip about school. Soon the lives of the two intertwine in Steven M. Ulmen's story of changing lives and changing times during the turbulent 1970s. If you were growing into adulthood then, the details in Bad Moon Arising (Lulu title Hawkins County) will seem all too familiar. From the powder blue leisure suit that Johnson wears for his job interview as a LeSueur County probation officer to the avocado appliances to the many song references, like the book title drawn from Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Rising," this is pure 70s. Within the story line, you'll follow Johnson as he struggles to deal with rebellious, pot-smoking teens, except for O'Connor, who come under his probationary supervision. On a personal level, he struggles in his relationship with his long-time girlfriend. As you might expect of a 70s novel, Ulmen also tosses the Vietnam War into the mix when Johnson's childhood friend goes off to war. Ulmen, a retired probation officer, writes with the knowledge of experience, making this fictional book even more believable. Sometimes, though, you simply have to shake your head and ask, "Was it really like this in the 70s?" Through-out his story, this Mankato author weaves familiar (to Minnesotans) 1970s names and places--the Gibbon Ballroom, Whoopee John Wilfahrt, Chuck Pasek and The John Deere Bandwagon, The Jolly Green Giant... Some of the sexual content and language in Bad Moon Arising (Lulu title Hawkins County) may offend readers. Yet, both are an accurate reflection of the era. At times, though, Ulmen's many references to 1970s songs seem overused and contrived. That aside, he offers a compelling story that draws readers into a rural Minnesota community, into the courthouse, into the backwoods home of a juvenile delinquent and, sadly, into a car driven by a high-on-weed teen. (Review written by Audrey Kletscher Helbling and first published in Winter 2011 issue of Minnesota Moments magazine.) < Less< Less
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