Twentieth Century Women

Please help me welcome mystery author, Kay Kendall, as today’s Wednesday’s Guest. She writes the Austin Starr series and recently released a prequel to those stories, After You’ve Gone that I reviewed here last Sunday. Since the story takes place during Prohibition, I thought we could try a common drink of the time called The Bee’s Knees. It was made with bathtub gin, which didn’t taste very good, so lemon juice and honey were added. 

I’ll take mine with bottled gin, but the lemon juice and honey sound good. Join me if you’d like.

Now, here’s today’s post from Kay.

When I write mysteries, I focus on human emotions and motives rather than technical gadgetry. I care much more about why someone committed a crime than how. That inclination makes more sense if the book takes place before the time CSI techniques existed.

Luckily history intrigues me.

Even if you disliked your own history classes, I try to entertain you in my mysteries as I offer bits of history as background to my murder plots. If you’re caught up in the search for a killer, and also grasp a little about the past—plus how it all led to where we are today—then I’m delighted.

I love considering how women’s lives have changed throughout history. Offer me a costume drama in movies or on television and I will watch. Bring it on! Imagining what my life would have been like, for example, as a pioneer wife in Texas (where I live now) fascinates me.

Actually, thinking about my Texas grandmother’s life in the early years of the twentieth century eventually led me to develop a crime novel set during Prohibition and the Jazz Age. My grandmother was a strong, bold woman. I have photos of her dressed as a boy when she was in her early teens, and even as a mature woman she went deer hunting and spent hours in a rowboat with her husband, fishing on the lakes north of Dallas. At the same time, she was a church-going mother of three who wore big picture hats and lacy dresses. Yet she could shoot, fish, and ride horses as well as any man.

Small wonder then that she became the inspiration for the protagonist in my new book, AFTER YOU’VE GONE. Born on the second day of the new century—January 2, 1900—Walter MacGregor (named for her father and known as Wallie) is twenty-three when the book opens. An avid fan of Sherlock Holmes, she longs for more adventure than her hometown of Gunmetal, Texas, offers.

When a freak accident horrifies the town, Wallie believes she sees a scene that shows evidence of foul play. Annoyed that no one agrees with her—including the sheriff and her dad—she sets out to prove her theory. Soon she’s knee-deep in flappers and floozies, Chicago thugs sent south by Al Capone, and a crime lord in the sinful port city of Galveston.

This mystery is a prequel to my Austin Starr Mystery series because Wallie becomes the grandmother of Austin Starr. In the first book, Desolation Row, the heroine Austin Starr is a new bride whose husband is jailed for killing an anti-war activist in 1968. She is forced by circumstances to prove his innocence. No one else believes in him, least of all the police.

Austin Starr’s second case is detailed in Rainy Day Women. Her best friend joins a women’s liberation group and becomes the prime suspect when the group’s charismatic leader is killed. The reader goes along with Austin when she visits her first meeting of the feminist group and experiences the power of the ideas she finds there.

The subject of women’s rights and the motives for murder in this particular book are shockingly fresh and topical. Women’s struggle for equality is still news. Sexism is still alive, despite many advances for women. I hope my books will not only entertain you—but also inform about women’s lives back in the day. The similarities and differences just might surprise you.

About me:

I live in Texas with my Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and a spaniel named Wills. I’m terribly allergic to the bunnies but love them anyway. Before I wrote fiction, I did international public relations—in the US, Canada, the Soviet Union, and Europe. I worked in Moscow during the Cold War. Earlier I’d turned down a job with the CIA in order to attend grad school and study history. Because of my degrees in history, I take pains to get historical settings and details right—no anachronisms allowed. I am a member of the national board of Mystery Writers of America and president of its southwest chapter. I blog with the Stiletto Gang and am a contributing editor to The Big Thrill, the online monthly magazine of International Thriller Writers. Visit me on my WEBSITE and find me on The Stiletto Gang BLOG, You can also find me on FACEBOOK * TWITTER * and LINKED IN

Buy links:

Amazon links worldwide
My publisher ($4 off list price)

Barnes & Noble
OR independent bookstores, including Houston’s superb Murder by the Book

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