Here at Books We Love, we love books. We love writing them, we love talking about them, and most of all we love sharing them with our readers. Welcome book lovers, here you will find original content written by the member authors of the Books We Love publishing community. Visit us at www.bookswelove.net and enter our latest contest
Friday, May 19, 2017
Everything You Need to Know About Kansas by Stuart R. West
When I tell people I write books set in or around Kansas,
I’m either hit with dumb jokes (“I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto.”)
or derision (“Do they have electricity in Kansas?”). Then they ask “why
Kansas?” Besides the first rule of write what you know, Kansas holds a lot of
variety and interesting locales for a thriller writer. Really.
So instead of explaining it time after time, I’m going to
condense it into a basic primer. Here’s everything you need to know about
Kansas. You’re welcome.
FACT: Cowboys and Indians (at least the “traditional” Roy
Rogers types) aren’t running rampant through our dirt streets. Back in my
college days, I had a friend from Venezuela who told me when he first came to
Kansas (and don’t ask me how a Venezuelan ended up there!), he expected
shoot-outs in the streets, barroom brawls, and guys in one-piece long-johns
with a back flap.
Folks, Kansas isn’t the old Wild West. Not anymore. And it’s
not all farmlands either. For instance, I live in a suburb ten minutes away
from downtown, Kansas City, Missouri (where my book Chili Run takes place), and ten minutes from the growing, thriving
megalopolis of Overland Park, Kansas (where the Zach and Zora books take
place). If I feel like going farmland/country (see Ghosts of Gannaway), I can hit that in about thirty to forty
See? Variety! Everything a thriller writer could possibly
want (excluding shark tales, natch).
FACT: Kansas still has active pockets of the Ku Klux Klan
and the mafia. Not really a selling point, just an unfortunate fact. And
good-to-go villains should I ever need them. (Not everything’s up to date in
FACT: It’s illegal to sing the alphabet on the streets at
night in Topeka, Kansas. Don’t ask me why, but it’s true. It’s also against the law to catch fish with
your bare hands so take your penchant for noodling elsewhere, ‘cause it’s not
wanted in Kansas. Here’s the best one: at one time it was against the law to serve
ice cream on top of cherry pie. Thank goodness they changed that law.
FACT: Kansas is host to the world’s largest ball of twine,
the world’s largest prairie dog, and possibly even more disturbing, the world’s
largest hairball! That’s right! Kansas is known for its culture, too! (The
hairball in question was taken from a cow’s stomach, weighing in at 55 pounds.)
FACT: Thank goodness plans to build a “Land of Oz” tourist
attraction in Kansas were scrapped. Not only would it have done more damage to
Kansas’s beleaguered reputation, but the last thing we needed were thousands of
munchkins causing havoc in the streets. True riff-raff, I tell you.
FACT: Kansas alcohol laws are among the strictest in the
United States. Prohibition lasted until 1948, longer than any other state.
Until 2003, you couldn’t buy alcohol on a Sunday or have a glass of wine with
dinner. Grocery stores still prohibit the sale of alcohol (unless it’s 3.2%
beer). There’re some really strange, detailed laws governing alcohol. The
legislators had a whole lotta’ time on their hands since they weren’t drinking.
FACT: Kansas led the way in feminism and civil rights! The
first woman mayor in the United States was elected in Argonia, Kansas in 1887.
And the first black woman to win an Academy Award was Kansan Hattie McDaniel
for Gone With the Wind. Take that California and New York!
FACT: Kansas has the largest population of wild grouse in
North America and I don’t even know what a “grouse” is.
FACT: Kansas is home to two “Big 12” colleges: The
University of Kansas and Kansas State. Oddly enough, they hate one another. I
should know. I lived through the KU/K-State riots in the ‘80’s. Just like in
the old Wild West, people ran through the streets smashing windows and beating
people. I guess not too much has changed after all.
There you have it, everything you need to know about Kansas
and then some. And, of course, you can read all about the seedy, secret
underbelly of Kansas in my books.