We asked Kenneth L. Levinson where he found Adam Larsen…
When I was fourteen, my parents bought me a guitar for my birthday. It was a cheap instrument that I christened, "El Producto" because it looked like a cigar box with strings. Little did I know, that gift would shape the rest of my life. After weeks of struggling through the tiny brochure that accompanied the guitar, I managed to learn Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley, a maudlin folk song about an 1866 murder in North Carolina. The song's primary plus was that it only requires two chords.
Over time, I learned more chords and, therefore, more songs. Like thousands of other aspiring musicians, I began writing my own words and music. Many of the early compositions were angst-ridden, and most of them were awful—although none of them were about murdering anybody. And, for the record, I had never been to North Carolina. Somehow, I ended up playing at parties and was even invited to join a newly-forming easy listening band. We could have called ourselves The Rehearsers, because that's mostly what we did. We did perform a dozen or so shows and, predictably, I fell in love with the piano player. That didn't work out, except that it inspired me to write some nice songs. Decades later, she and I are still friends.
During all of this, I worked in the advertising department of the Rocky Mountain News. My job was to help "dummy" the daily paper, which meant using a thick black pencil on coarse paper to draw the spaces where the ads are filled in around the "news hole". I believe I still hold the record for squeezing the most ads into a Monday morning newspaper. The head of advertising congratulated me on the feat, which made that edition very profitable, and then respectfully directed me never to do that again.
The band broke up, just as my songs were becoming professional, such that I was no longer rhyming "moon" and "June." When the notion becoming a lawyer bubbled to the surface, I realized I'd reached a crossroads in my life. After pondering the choices—and discovering that the deadline to sign up for the LSAT was only a few weeks away—I made my decision. That August, I began law school at the University of Denver. That meant leaving my job at the News. I have a suspicion they replaced me with a rhesus monkey.
Although I continued writing music—by the time I was in my thirties, I'd written over five hundred songs and a really bad musical comedy—my would-be career as a musician/songwriter was out of reach. To succeed in the music business, as in most other professions, you need to be out there performing, making contacts, building a following and learning the business.
But the thing is, I discovered along the way that our choices in life aren't necessarily "all or nothing" propositions. I outgrew El Producto and bought my first Gibson guitar. Some newly-found lawyer friends enlisted me to join the band for a show the nascent Colorado Women's Bar Association was performing for its members. That led me to the Denver Law Club, where I've been playing guitar for annual shows ever since. My bandmates are talented judges and musicians. They are truly amazing. Sometimes during a performance, I pause and just savor what an honor it is to be part of that group.
I began reading Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen and Erle Stanley Gardner when I was in seventh grade. And, of course, Rex Stout. Along the way, I started writing murder mysteries. That genre captured my imagination. The pure logic, the sleight of hand... And now my eighth Adam Larsen mystery is scheduled for release by Uncial Press in January, 2023.
This has been a joyous and unbelievably rewarding journey. If we are fortunate, we find the path that leads to what we truly need in our lives, and not the things we merely thought we needed. If you listen carefully, those things are there to be found.
And, after all, isn't the journey a lot more than the merely reaching your destination?