I met Larry Crawford in Palm Springs, when he was introduced to me by Entertainment News NW editor Barb Fuller.
I learned that Larry had just published a book about a bed-and-breakfast on Orcas Island, where coincidentally, I had stayed with my extended family a few years ago.
I was eager to read Larry’s book, “Kangaroo House,” and ask him about it.
It’s a real page-turner! He’ll talk about at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8, at Village Books, 1200 11th St.
Here’s the synopsis: The mystique of the 1900s provides the backdrop for a close-knit island community located in the San Juan Islands. A fatherless youth seeks to explore the fringe beyond his sparse upbringing. Delving into the margins of lawlessness of the 1920s prohibition years offers him a way forward. The discovery of an unrighteous stronghold of Nazis thought annihilated has dire consequences.
Known as “Bud” to his family and island residents, Larry was born in Friday Harbor as were his mother and father. His grandfather on his mother’s side came to San Juan Island in the late 1880’s and acquired farm land. His father was raised on Shaw Island, the son of Mabel and Cleo Crawford. His grandmother’s parents, the Fowlers, came to Shaw Island in the late 1890’s. His great-grandfather, F. E. Fowler, built the current Shaw Island store, and his grandparents and family lived above the store for a time. His grandmother, Mabel, was the Shaw Island postmistress and operated the store for many years. His father, also named Larry, worked for Foss Tug for a period and became a deckhand for Blackball Ferries before it became Washington State Ferries, and he ultimately obtained his merchant marine officer license and became a captain for the ferry system. The Crawfords moved to Anacortes when young Larry was in junior high because of the crew schedule.
Larry includes all of this family background in “Kangaroo House.”
“My family had a significant amount of history in the islands that I felt I could draw upon to create an interesting storyline,” he says.
“While the story is fiction, much of it is based on real life historical events. From the beginning, I envisioned the storyline relating to events/things I was familiar with as well as drawing upon the disappearance of Hitler at the war’s end.”
He began writing the story some 20 years ago and had roughed the text out 15 years or so ago. Work and life got in the way for the next 10 years or so, he says, and he didn’t spend much time on it.
After retiring, he finally took up the task of finishing it.
“Generally speaking, I wrote on wintertime weekend mornings in a corner desk area in our small vacation getaway on Lake Stevens. I did my research along the way.
For example (no spoilers here): The tug Lorne was a real tugboat and went aground while towing the converted sailing ship America off San Juan Island. America’s figurehead was salvaged and became a recognizable image at Rosario. Blind Island is located in the bay near the Shaw Store and Larry recalls rowing over to it during his youth while visiting his grandparents.
“Broken Point, where (his character) Bud built his home, is actually located on Shaw Island and was once owned by my great-grandfather Fowler, I moved the location of the point to Orcas because felt the storyline flowed better.”
He did get the inspiration for the name of the book when he stayed at the Kangaroo House bed and breakfast many years ago. Additionally, he recalls his dad telling him about knowing the ship captain who lived there and his live kangaroo.
“Like the setting for the novel, I grew up shrouded in the mystique and beauty of the San Juan Islands. It was this upbringing, heightened by history and tales carried forward by generations that shaped the book. The book’s ending hints at the continuation of the adventure.”