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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Keegan

Column: Ken Berry writes second chapter

Ken Berry

Ken Berry

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Break with the crack of the bat, gracefully sprint toward the center-field wall, look over his shoulder and catch a baseball that everyone on hand with a scorebook and pencil already had marked a double? Easy. Same for catching up to a pass thrown by a college quarterback.

But write a book? And not a scorebook, but a novel?

“I was very poor in English,” said two-time Gold Glove center fielder and Topeka resident Ken Berry. “I didn’t know how to put a sentence together.”

We’ll take his word for that, but that was a long, long time ago. Two major steps later toward correcting that problem, Berry, an author of several children’s books, has self-published his first novel, entitled “Twin Snipers.”

The seeds of Berry’s writing career came from the library of his youth, where he said he would check out several books a week in junior high and into high school, where he was the best athlete at Washburn Rural High in Topeka, from which he graduated in 1959.

“I love to read,” said Berry, 74. “I have some authors I read that I can’t wait for their next book to come out.”

He counted the late Vince Flynn among his favorites, has read all 13 of his political thrillers and eagerly awaits the release of his 14th, finished by another author after Flynn’s death.

“I’ll read them, and a year or two later pick them up and read them again,” Berry said.

He planted more seeds toward becoming an author with the steps he took down the aisle when he married Aleda, his wife of 39 years. She edits his books. Andy Valdivia, a retired high school art teacher in Topeka, illustrates them.

Berry said his inspiration for writing “Twin Snipers,” which went on sale on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, TwinSnipers.com and other outlets last week, came from an interview he witnessed on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity.”

Berry said host Sean Hannity interviewed a guest who “did the interview with the lights turned down low and filmed from behind. He had a ranch 20 miles from the border and said he had drug runners coming through his property two or three times a week.”

The guest’s deer cameras, Berry said, revealed that three of the 11 men captured on camera toted AK-47s, and the others had bales of marijuana on their backs.

“I was thinking: ‘I wonder what I would do if I owned that ranch?’ So I created a family, and you have to read the book to see what happens,” Berry said.

He opened the curtain for a peek inside “Twin Snipers,” set in the time period shortly after Sept. 11, 2001.

“It’s about a Mexican-American family,” Berry said. “The father is a helicopter pilot (in the U.S. military) and he inherited 900 acres from his great-grandfather right on the Texas and Mexico border.”

During one of his tours of duty in Afghanistan, the father pulled a sniper “out of a dangerous situation,” and they became friends. The sniper visited the ranch, met his friend’s twin sons and captivated them with sniper stories in the barn. The twins became snipers and served in Afghanistan.

“So the drug cartel notices (the family ranch) is a really low-key, quiet area and they start bringing their drugs through. And that’s all you get to know,” Berry said.

He said he is proud of how the book — “My wife made it a lot better,” he added — came out and has been told by friends who have read it they think it would make a great movie.

Berry played center field and wide receiver at Wichita State, made his debut with the Chicago White Sox in 1962 and ended his four-team career with the Cleveland Indians in 1975.

It’s been 40 years since he read fly balls for a living. He continues to read four or five books a week and doesn’t intend to retire from writing books any time soon.

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