Colorado Book Award winners: Top row, left to right: Diane Les Becquets, Carter Wilson, Wayne MillerBottom row, left to right: Ashlee Cowles, Barbara Nickless, Carrie Vaughn, Mona Awad
Some of the Springs' own local authors were honored at the 2017 Colorado Book Awards, “an annual program that celebrates the accomplishments of Colorado's outstanding authors, editors, illustrators and photographers,” presented by Colorado Humanities. Awards were announced at a reception on Sunday, May 21, hosted in Parker, Colorado.
The award recipients from the Colorado Springs area, who took home awards in three out of 14 categories, are as follows:
Mark Lee Gardner won in the category of “Biography” with his book Rough Riders: Theodore Roosevelt, His Cowboy Regiment, and the Immortal Charge Up San Juan Hill
; Barbara Nickless took home the “Mystery” category with her novel Blood on the Tracks
; and Ashlee Cowles won in the category of “Young Adult Literature” with Beneath Wandering Stars
See below for book synopses and author biographies.
Rough Riders: Theodore Roosevelt, His Cowboy Regiment, and the Immortal Charge Up San Juan Hill by Mark Lee Gardner (William Morrow)
The first definitive account of this legendary fighting force and its extraordinary leader, Theodore Roosevelt, Rough Riders is narrative nonfiction at its most invigorating and compulsively readable. Two months after the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor in February 1898, Congress authorized President McKinley to recruit a volunteer army to drive the Spaniards from Cuba. From this army emerged the legendary “Rough Riders,” a mounted regiment drawn from America’s western territories and led by Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt and his men quickly came to symbolize American ruggedness, daring and individualism. He led them to victory in the famed Battle at San Juan Hill, which made Roosevelt a national hero and cemented the Rough Riders’ place in history.
Mark Lee Gardner is the author of To Hell on a Fast Horse and Shot All to Hell. He has written many articles about the American West, and has been a visiting professor in the Southwest Studies department at Colorado College. He lives with his family in Cascade, Colorado.
Blood on the Tracks by Barbara Nickless (Thomas & Mercer)
A young woman is found brutally murdered, and the main suspect is the victim’s fiancé, a hideously scarred Iraq War vet known as the Burned Man. But railroad police Special Agent Sydney Rose Parnell, brought in by the Denver Major Crimes unit to help investigate, can’t shake the feeling that larger forces are behind this apparent crime of passion. In the depths of an icy winter, Parnell and her K-9 partner, Clyde ― both haunted by their time in Iraq ― descend into the underground world of a savage gang of rail riders. There, they uncover a wide-reaching conspiracy and a series of shocking crimes.
An English degree and a sense of adventure led Barbara Nickless to work as a technical writer, raptor rehabilitator, astronomy instructor, sword fighter, piano teacher and journalist. Now an award-winning author, she spends her free time snowshoeing, caving and hiking the Colorado Rockies.
Young Adult Literature
Beneath Wandering Stars by Ashlee Cowles (Merit Press)
After her soldier brother is horribly wounded in Afghanistan, Gabriela must honor the vow she made: If anything ever happened to him, she would walk the Camino de Santiago through Spain, making a pilgrimage in his name. The worst part is that the promise stipulates that she must travel with her brother’s best friend — a boy she has despised all her life. Her brother is in a coma, and Gabi feels that she has no time to waste, but she is unsure. Will she hesitate too long, or risk her own happiness to keep a promise? An up-close look at the lives of the children of military families, Beneath Wandering Stars takes readers on a journey of love, danger, laughter and friendship, against all odds.
Ashlee Cowles is a high school teacher who grew up an Army “brat,” and subsequently worked with a nonprofit that supports teens in military families. She holds graduate degrees from Duke University and the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and teaches literature and philosophy. As a student, Cowles studied abroad in Spain and walked part of the Camino de Santiago.