by Ellen Hawley
What does loving motorcycles have to do with writing thrillers? For Babs Lakey, everything. Babs is the co-owner, with her husband Lewis and Howard Hirsch, of Roy’s Repair, a motorcycle shop in South Minneapolis. She is also the author of two thrillers, Spirit of the Straightedge and Spirit of the Silent Butler.
Babs belongs to Women on Wheels and likes to plot out her books when she’s riding on the back of Lou’s motorcycle.
“It takes away all the normal worries of life,” she said. “I’ve done a lot of plotting on the back of the bike.”
Both of Babs’ books are about revenge. The first, Spirit of the Straightedge, is about a young woman who’s been abused all her life. When her best friend is raped and murdered – and when it becomes clear that the police aren’t going to catch the killer until he kills again – she becomes an avenging army of one. Soon, she is no longer working alone; she has drawn together a tightknit group of people who take care of one another and retaliate ruthlessly against anyone who’s wronged them.
Spirit of the Silent Butler follows the same character. She’s grown some, and her approach to revenge is less violent, but she’s still a woman who won’t let herself – or anyone else – be kicked around.
“She wants to help the helpless,” Babs said, “but there’s almost a supernatural element that comes into play in the second book. The forces of good are uniting against the forces of evil. There’s a spiritual aspect to the avenging. These are not simply revenge books. They’re character driven, and under everything is the spirit of community . ”
Babs was drawn to the story because she knows what it’s like to want revenge.
“I have a violent and abusive past,” she said, “and I know a lot of other people who have. I can see why there’d be a point where women would want to avenge themselves and protect the innocent.”
A lot of readers – both women and men – must feel the same way, because they email her about the book, using words like “riveting” and “chilling.”
Even her publisher has a strong personal commitment to the book. The publisher “has her own horrific story in her background,” Babs said. “The book rang true to her and she told me she was literally cheering at the end.”
Babs’ business philosophy is simple: “I believe in taking care of people. I’ll find out what their needs are and help them fulfill that. It’s not a sales gimmick, it’s the most important thing.”
Lou shares her philosophy, she said. “He’s the same way about fixing people’s bikes. There aren’t many craftsmen left in the world, people who care what happens to people once they leave the business and you have their money.”
The idea of community is also natural to Babs. She and Lou work hard to make Roy’s Repair part of a community of motorcycle riders. The high point of their year is the bike show they hold every year, on the first Sunday in October. “It’s good clean fun for the whole family,” Babs said. They don’t make money from it, and they don’t expect to. They do it to draw motorcycle people together. The first show, ten years ago, drew a crowd of fifty. The estimates of last year’s crowd ran from 2,000 to 8,000.
Both of Babs’ books are published by Over My Dead Body! Books and will be in bookstores in May. They can be ordered now from www.overmydeadbody.com. They will be signed by the author and shipped for free or you can pick up a copy at Roy’s Repair, 3232 Snelling Avenue, Minneapolis.
A film based on the first novel is in the works from Snarlydog Productions. Auditions for local actors are planned next fall, and parts of the production will be filmed in the Twin Cities.