Tag Archive for: T. Jefferson Parker

The Sixties as Background for Murder

By Kay Kendall
T. Jefferson Parker, the bestselling author of 20 crime
novels, once confided to me that his two mysteries that touched on the Vietnam
War had “my readers staying away in droves.” He explained, “Needless to say, I
never mentioned the war again.” Our paths intersected two years ago at a
thriller writers’ conference, shortly after the publication of my debut
mystery,Desolation Row. He believed
that his readers avoided the subject of a war that Americans know we didn’t
win. Were the sacrifices worth it? Let’s just not think about it.

T. Jefferson Parker and me

I knew the subject matter wasn’t popular, but it was a
book I had to write. I had to get that one out of my system so I could work on
the next subject I felt “called” to discuss, the women’s liberation movement of
the late sixties and early seventies. So, the bottom line for me is that even
if T. Jefferson Parker had warned me ahead of time to stay clear of the war
that many have compared to a quagmire, I would not have paid his advice any
heed. The story of Desolation Row had to come to light. I had to write that book
so that the others that were waiting in line behind it, more or less patiently,
could have their turn too.
The British statesman and philosopher Edmond Burke wrote,
“Those who do not know history are destined to repeat it.” As well, how can you
hope to understand how we got where we are now when you don’t understand where
we came from? Events that happened in the sixties and early seventies still
echo down the decades today. Just as some describe America’s battles in the
Middle East as “the Vietnam War in the sand,” the upheavals of women’s
liberation have not ended. If anything, the subject of women’s place in society
is even timelier than ever.

Rainy Day Women launches on July 7, and I can hardly wait. In book two of her saga, this time intrepid
amateur sleuth Austin Starr searches for a killer of female activists in 1969,
a year after the first mystery took place. A murderer stalks the members of women’s
consciousness raising groups at the University of Washington and the University
of British Columbia. 
During the week of the Manson murders and
Woodstock, new mother Austin bundles up her infant son Wyatt—just three months
old—and flies with him across the continent to help her dear friend Larissa
during her personal crisis. The Mounties have fingered her as their chief suspect
in at least one of the murders.
More trouble ensues.  
I have waited decades to write this book. The women’s
movement played an enormous role in my life, and it’s not an exaggeration to
say that it underlines everything I do to this very day. Getting the fervor and
excitement of the time period right is important. Showing the raw sexism that
was exhibited by many men without any hesitation is also vital. Clearly I believe
in serving up a little history with my murder and mayhem. Just think–no VCRs, let alone DVRs, no cell phones or personal computers, no Kardashians! A long ago time indeed. 
I wonder if any of the other writers in the Stiletto Gang
(those of the right age, that is) participated in women’s liberation groups. Did
any of you readers? If so, I hope you will leave comments here about your experiences.
 I’d love to know how they compare with
Kay Kendall set her debut novel, DESOLATION ROW–AN AUSTIN STARR MYSTERY in 1968. The sequel RAINY DAY WOMEN (June 2015) shows her amateur sleuth Austin Starr proving her best friend didn’t murder women’s liberation activists in Seattle and Vancouver. A fan of historical mysteries, Kay does for the 1960s what novelist Jacqueline Winspear accomplishes for England in the 1930s–present atmospheric mysteries that capture the spirit of the age. Kay is also an award-winning international PR executive who lives in Texas with her husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Terribly allergic to the bunnies, she loves them anyway! Her book titles show she’s a Bob Dylan buff too.

Changing My Life Style

by Kay Kendall

Five years ago I left my
public relations career of three decades and devoted myself to writing 
I thought I knew what this would be like, but I was so wrong. My expectation
was that my life would be solitary, with little outside contact. My world would
shrink and my conversations grow few and far between—held mostly with my
husband, my dog Wills, and our three house rabbits. Well…wrongo!
Instead, my friend
list—both real and virtual—has multiplied like crazy. I converse with new people
all the time and have never been happier. Sure, I do spend hours in what I
fondly call my writer’s lair, dreaming up mystery plots and scheming villains.
But when I need a break, I go online and talk to my virtual friends all over
the continent or attend an author’s event. If it’s my own, I hang out with my
readers, and if it’s for other writers, I talk to writers I admire. 

T. Jefferson Parker and me

I don’t know if this is
true for authors who write in categories other than mystery/thrillers, but in
this genre, the writers are fantastically warm and welcoming. I expected the readers to be generous, but the
friendliness of other mystery authors was a wonderful surprise.
A case in point was a
signing event last night at Houston’s great Murder by the Book. T. Jefferson
Parker talked about his latest novel, FULL MEASURE.  He has written twenty acclaimed mysteries
over the course of his thirty-year writing career, and I’ve read and enjoyed
many of them. I first met him at the annual ThrillerFest conference held by
International Thriller Writers each July in New York City. That was in 2013
when my debut mystery was released. We shared experiences of writing a
book with the Vietnam War as a background. I talked to him again at
ThrillerFest in 2014, introducing myself again because I 
didn’t expect him to
remember me, even though we had emailed a few times. He said, “Of course I
remember you, Kay.”
His opening words at
last night’s event were, “Great to see you, Kay.” Well, if one of your writing
heroes says that, of course your sense of well-being soars. We talked about books, and he shared the
genesis of his new book, his first literary novel. A young Marine returns from hard duty in Afghanistan to find his America riven
by discord and his family farm under threat from the economic collapse of 2008.
I’m eager to read what this wonderful author has to say on these important
subjects. (He is only one of three writers who’ve won more than one Edgar Award.)
Some of my new friends are writers on this blog.
As a matter of fact, I am a participant because Linda Rodriguez invited me into
the Stiletto Gang after I met her just briefly. Gang member Majorie Brody and I did a book tour together in Alabama and met another gang member at Killer Nashville a few months ago, Debra H. Goldstein. So far other gang members are online friends whom I hope to meet some day soon. Again, mystery authors are
My life is now quite literally a dream come true.
Lest you think it’s this
way with all groups of writers, I hear it is NOT so! A mystery novelist on a
Bouchercon panel a few years ago said he often went to meetings with his wife, a poet, and when poets gather, it gets downright chilly, and even vicious. Therefore he was stunned at his first attendance at
Bouchercon to find all the mystery authors so welcoming. That was my first
Bouchercon too, and I had just put my toe into the big ocean of mystery authors.
 I can’t speak for poets (Linda Rodriguez can though), but I guarantee you, mystery/thriller authors are
wonderful people.
Have you had similar experiences
with mystery authors or readers? I hope you have, and if so, I’d love to hear your tales. Please share.

Kay Kendall set her debut novel, DESOLATION ROW–AN AUSTIN STARR MYSTERY in 1968. The sequel, RAINY DAY WOMEN, comes out next year. Amateur sleuth
Austin Starr must prove her best friend 
didn’t murder women’s
liberation activists in Seattle and Vancouver. A fan of historical mysteries,
Kay wants to do for the 1960s what novelist Jacqueline Winspear accomplishes
for England in the 1930s–write atmospheric mysteries that capture the
spirit of the age. Kay is also an award-winning international PR executive who lives in Texas with her husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel
Wills. Terribly allergic to the bunnies, she loves them anyway! Her book titles
show she’s a Bob Dylan buff too. 


The Vampire Lestat’s Mom and Rambo’s Dad

By Kay Kendall
week the organization International Thriller Writers (ITW) celebrated its tenth
anniversary. The star power of authors present at the celebratory conference,
ThrillerFest, ran the gamut from supernova to red dwarf. Last year when I went
to my first ThrillerFest as a debut author, I was stunned by the numerous super
stars in attendance, and also by how kind and generous they were. This year’s
meeting was even more jam-packed with sparkling talent.

Anne Rice is in center, with her son Christopher the tall man over her shoulder. Others left to right are R.L. Stine, David Morrell, and Scott Turow. 

Rice wrote her first novel about the vampire Lestat in 1985—she was present. David
Morrell wrote his first Rambo novel in 1972, followed by 28 more novels of
various kinds—he was there. Ditto Lee
Child, father of Jack Reacher, who first appeared in 1997, with his nineteenth tale
out next month. Scott Turow dropped by to pick up his award, Thriller Master
2014. His novel Presumed Innocent put
the legal thriller on the map in 2000, and eleven more novels followed. Other
luminaries who spoke at ThrillerFest (whose books you no doubt either read or at
least recognize) include David Baldacci, Steve Berry, Michael Connelly, Lisa
Gardner, Heather Graham, M.J. Rose, and John Sandford.
Here I am with T. Jefferson Parker.
you’re in such company, you can either feel insignificant—or you can choose to
be inspired. I picked the latter. The atmosphere was so supportive, of any
writer at any level, that it was easy not to be intimidated.
One of the main purposes of the ITW organization is to
provide a way for successful, bestselling authors to help debut and midlist
authors advance their careers. Judging
from the two conferences I’ve attended, the contacts I’ve made, and the
networking that is ongoing, I can only conclude that this goal is being met

Ian Rankin with Steve Berry in background

Helping to put the
international in the conference was one of my favorite authors, Ian Rankin. He
flew in from his home in Edinburgh, Scotland, to participate on several panels.
He has written nineteen installments in his bestselling crime series featuring
Inspector John Rebus. Another of my favorites is T. Jefferson Parker. His twenty
crime novels are set in southern California, and his next book is due this
October, called Full Measure.  

I have met Rankin and
Parker at previous book events and corresponded with both of them. They recognize
me as both a super fan of their work and an aspiring novelist. It is
heartwarming and encouraging to be treated nicely by one’s literary heroes. Now
I can’t wait to return to ThrillerFest next year. 
(By the way, I participated on a panel but forgot to ask one of my pals
to shoot the photographic evidence. Darn.) 

Cheers to ThrillerFest!

Kay Kendall set her debut novel, Desolation Row—An Austin Starr Mystery,
in 1968. The Vietnam War backdrop illuminates reluctant courage and desperate
love when a world teeters on chaos. Kay’s next mystery, Rainy Day Women (2015) finds amateur sleuth Austin Starr trying to
prove a friend didn’t murder women’s liberation activists in Seattle and
Vancouver. Kay is an award-winning international PR executive living in Texas
with her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Very allergic to bunnies, she loves them anyway! 
Her book titles show she’s a Bob
Dylan buff too.