Writing what he knows

Hal Burton spent his childhood in the Olympic Mountains and after traveling the world - visiting Europe, Asia and living in the Midwest - he has returned to his childhood playground.

"I came back to the Seattle area in 1979 and I reacquainted myself with the peninsula," Burton said. "The peninsula's always been my favorite place."

In 1997, Burton moved from the big city to Lilliwaup, a village on Hood Canal; three years later he began work on his

first novel.

"When I started writing, (the peninsula) is what I knew," explained Burton, who worked as a salesman for a woodworking company in Seattle before retirement.

The settings for three of his four novels are somewhere on the Olympic Peninsula, a pattern Burton insisted he didn't set out to do.

Burton's 2002 debut novel, "Cave of Secrets," is set in Lake Ozette, in a Makah tribal village. His 2006 book, "Voices from the Mountain" is set in the Lake Quinault area of Olympic National Park.

Burton's latest novel, "Tubal Cain," perhaps required the most research and is set near a mine in Jefferson County.

"I write fiction but I like to do it in a historical, real setting," Burton said. "I happened to take a hike on the Tubal Cain Mine Trail, which you pick up (near) 7 Cedars Casino."

Burton found himself fascinated by the copper and manganese mine that existed from 1903 to about 1918.

"The mine never made any money, so I knew when I wrote the story that I had to embellish it a bit," Burton said.

In "Tubal Cain," the mysterious 1906 slayings of two miners inspires a San Francisco-based reporter to board a schooner and head for the Olympic Mountains. As the reporter tries to unlock the mystery, he comes across a slew of secondary characters, including a Quilcene-based pack-trail leader, a Japanese woman who was kidnapped and sold into slavery and a Native American trail hand who is secretly an undercover government agent.

Burton said although his first book was published only eight years ago, he has found a new love in writing.

"I'd always written technical things for my jobs," he said. "Now, I do it for the pleasure. You have a sense of accomplishment that you've written something down and (can) see your thoughts and your ideas in print."

Burton said while the majority of his customers are resorts in Washington and Oregon, he has received e-mails and phone calls from readers across the world.

"People have called me from long distances and said 'I just read your book and I love it,'" Burton said. "That means more than if I sell 1,000 books."

"Tubal Cain" is available at Pacific Mist Books in Sequim. For more information on Burton or any of his books, visit

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