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First Novel a 'Valentine' to Murdered Grandparents

Book cover for 'Outside Valentine.'
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Book cover for 'Outside Valentine.'

Author Liza Ward's first novel, Outside Valentine, is a fictionalized account of one of the most horrific crimes in U.S. history: the 1958 Nebraska killing spree of Charles Starkweather. During the spree, Starkweather, who had recently turned 19, was accompanied by his 15-year-old girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate.

Although Ward presents a subjective retelling of the murderous tale, she does so from a unique perspective: her paternal grandparents were two of Starkweather's 11 victims.

NPR's Liane Hansen talks with Ward about her fiction debut and her compelling connection to its subject.

Ward began researching the book during her college years, after spending a childhood unaware of the details of her grandparents' deaths. Her parents often told her they were killed by "a bad man," without providing any details.

The author ultimately found the writing of Outside Valentine to be cathartic for both herself and her family. She now feels comfortable browsing through photographs of her grandparents and discussing details of their lives with her father. "My father says that art is his way through the chaos of the world," she tells Hansen.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Liane Hansen
Liane Hansen has been the host of NPR's award-winning Weekend Edition Sunday for 20 years. She brings to her position an extensive background in broadcast journalism, including work as a radio producer, reporter, and on-air host at both the local and national level. The program has covered such breaking news stories as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the capture of Saddam Hussein, the deaths of Princess Diana and John F. Kennedy, Jr., and the Columbia shuttle tragedy. In 2004, Liane was granted an exclusive interview with former weapons inspector David Kay prior to his report on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The show also won the James Beard award for best radio program on food for a report on SPAM.