Hawkins County Endorsements

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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.

An original story told with a humor and candor that holds the readers full and rapt attention from beginning to end 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.-Midwest Book Review

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 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 goal is to reform Pat's behavior. This is an interesting book for its social commentary and the flavor of the 1970s.-Roundup Magazine “HAWKINS COUNTY is an intriguing story of a southern Minnesota rural community’s reaction to America’s cultural changes of the 1960’s and 1970’s. The folksy humor brings to mind the kind of story that Mark Twain would have written in modern times.” Dr. Richard Strachan, Professor Emeritus, Department of Anthropology, and Director Emeritus of the Emuseum, Department of Anthropology, Minnesota State University at Mankato. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“This story and its characters made me both laugh and cry, sometimes both at the same time and one caused by the other. Two things are sure – the humor in HAWKINS COUNTY is vintage Ulmen and the characters, even though fictional, are VERY real.” Larry Bauer-Scandin, St. Paul, MN – retired 1970’s Juvenile Probation Officer.

“Clearly a memorable novel of historical fiction is HAWKINS COUNTY by Steve Ulmen. One can recall their first months as a probation officer, as a juvenile adjusting to whatever life throws, or just relax and relive the 1970’s. A country sense of humor reminds all that community corrections was and can be real in the country. Kids, rural America, and the nostalgia of “old times” are all wrapped up into one. Steve helps us relive the past with his personal teleportation expertise. Two thumbs up!” Glen Just, Ph.D., Rochester, MN. Former Juvenile Probation Officer, Professor at Mankato State University, and Director of DFO Community Corrections. Currently Professor of Corrections at Winona State University, Winona, MN

“Ulmen’s HAWKINS COUNTY is a poignant, amusing, and accurate portrayal of life in a small rural county and the county government services available in the 1970’s. This story is accurate in all respects but one. Ulmen refers to me as “rotund.” I was NOT rotund, I was svelt.” Richard Schoenstedt, Elysian, MN – retired social worker and aka Rick Schumaker, social worker portrayed in Hawkins County.

“HAWKINS COUNTY takes a person into the past of small town America from the first page to the last, where the hopeful, the boastful, and the lost live out their lives in ritual relationships. The reader will remember these characters as being a part of their life with some pride, some anguish, and sometimes, regret.” Mike Smith, North Mankato, MN – retired 1970’s adult felony probation and parole agent, MN Department of Corrections.

“I enjoyed the memories that HAWKINS COUNTY brought back to me from my days as a probation officer. Writing a novel about the 1970’s through the eyes of a high school probationer is a unique perspective.” Richard DeBough, Minneapolis, MN – 1970’s Juvenile Probation Officer.

“Words capture the imagination like never before in this destined to become classic about youth in HAWKINS COUNTY, USA coming of age circa the 1970’s. It’s no walk down memory lane – it’s a fast-paced, heart-pounding run! So settle back in your favorite chair. Get on your mark, get set, and turn each memory-soaked and metaphor-rich page until you hold Ulmen’s next novel in your hands.” Larry Burzinski, St Paul, MN – 1970’s Juvenile Probation Officer and currently a high-ranking official with the Division of Licensing, MN Department of Human Services.

“I finished the novel this weekend. It seems to have a little bit of everything in it, from humor to heartbreak. It is very ironic how things in the story seen to parallel Ulmen’s life – right down to the mobile home in the end! It’s the underlying dry humor that cuts it, though.” Teri Glaze, Mankato, MN – 1970’s Juvenile Probation Officer and currently adult probation and parole agent, Blue Earth County Community Corrections, Mankato, MN.

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