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Judge uses years on the bench in writing mystery novel
MARBLE HILL, Mo. -- Retired judge Bill Hopkins took some of his experience on the bench in Bollinger County, wove into it some stories he has heard people tell for years, and the result is the first of a series of three mystery novels with Judge Rosswell Carew.
The book is set in Bollinger County, mostly in Marble Hill, but Hopkins said he took a few liberties with locations. Anyone trying to place some of the landmarks in the book may not recognize any of them.
"I've been hearing stories ever since I was a little kid," Hopkins said. "I remember my grandfather telling them, my dad telling stories about people around here. It made me want to tell stories, fictional stories."
Hopkins will sign copies of the book, published by the Southeast Missouri State University Press, at a launch event at the university from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday.
Most of the book's characters are not based on anyone recognizable from Marble Hill or the county.
"They just sprang out of my imagination," he said.
One character in the book, however, is real.
"The dog is my dog," he said. "I wanted to put her in the book, and I got her in there."
The dog, Scooby, in the book spends her days under the shirt of a motorcycle rider, riding with him -- something Hopkins says is fairly common. Bikers like to take their dogs with them, but it's hard to get a big dog on a bike.
The dog, the biker, an eccentric snitch Carew befriends, and even Tina, Carew's love interest, all make up part of the story of the investigation that follows when two dead bodies are found along a riverbank.
Carew's secret desire is to solve crimes more so than judge the criminals, and that gets him in trouble with local law enforcement and puts him and Tina in jeopardy.
"I wrote it as a judge who was tired of listening to stuff on the bench and wanted to be a detective if he got the chance," Hopkins said.
There's some of Hopkins in the judge, but he said "he's a lot braver than I am. I would not do any of the stuff he did."
Hopkins' imagination created the characters and the plot that twists and turns throughout the book. The characters seem to take on a life of their own, he said.
"I know a lot more about the characters than I put in the book," he said. "Some of these people will show up again. My characters are a lot of fun to hang out with. I often wonder what the characters are doing off the page."
The second of the series is now being edited, and Hopkins is writing the third one. "Courting Murder" is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble's website and from his law office at 303 Plutarch St. in Marble Hill. Some local book signings are in the works.
Hopkins has been writing fiction, nonfiction, poetry and plays for more than 50 years. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America, the Missouri Writers Guild, Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Southeast Missouri Writers Guild and the Horror Writers Association.
He has served as a prosecuting attorney, administrative law judge and an associate circuit judge. He is a member of the Missouri and Colorado bars and is a graduate of the University of Missouri and the Denver School of Law.
He and his wife, Sharon -- also a published mystery writer -- live in Marble Hill.
Marble Hill, MO