After earning nominations on a few occasions, author Warren Easley has won the Spotted Owl Award, bestowed annually for the best mystery book of the year by a writer in the Pacific Northwest.
"Getting a prize like this that represents writers in the Northwest meant a lot to me," the author said.
Easley, who has lived in rural Newberg for 26 years, won for the eighth installment of a series on Cal Claxton — who runs a one-man practice out of the tiny Oregon town of Dundee. The book titled "No Witness" follows Claxton as he tries to solve the murder of a family member of an undocumented immigrant.
The book centers around the theme of immigration and the plight of the group of people known as "Dreamers," who came to the United States as children but do not have citizenship. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's aggressive searches for undocumented immigrants loom in the story.
"The police are stymied because this is the immigrant community and they really don't want to talk to the cops. All the undocumented people were scared to death. Since they won't come forward they trust Cal, and he goes forward to solve the case," Easley said. "In fiction it's all about walking around in someone else's shoes. In this book you're walking around in shoes you may not have walked in before."
Easley said his books have a brisk pace and sharp dialogue. The plot also is more than meets the eye, he added.
"I like stories that are fairly complex. In this book it's not just about the murder. There's something else that was going on in the wine country. There's two mysteries embedded in the book," he said.
Easley, who has a doctorate in physical chemistry, began his writing career after he retired in 2002. It took him 11 years to get his first book deal. Since then, he has won a number of honors for his work. The latest award, Easley said, is fitting because the goal of the series has been to paint a detailed portrait of the Pacific Northwest.
"My wife says these books are like letters to the Northwest," he said.
A committee within the group Friends of Mysteries decides upon the Spotted Owl Award each year. They have yet to officially announce Easley's honor.
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