This week, I’m hosting author, Kay Kendall.
Kay Kendall is an award-winning author of two historical mysteries. Her second book, RAINY DAY WOMEN (2015), won for best mystery and best book at Killer Nashville in August 2016. It is the second in her Austin Starr mystery series, published by Stairway Press. The first was DESOLATION ROW (2013).
History intrigues me. I love reading about how women’s lives have changed throughout history and adore costume dramas in movies and on television. Imagining how my life would have been, for example, as a pioneer wife in south Texas (where I live now) fascinates me.
So, after reading historical fiction for ages and studying lots of history in school, I now write mysteries set in the past. Even if you disliked your own history classes, I try to entertain you as I offer a bit of history as background to my murder plots. If you are caught up in the search for a killer and also grasp a little about the past and how it all led to where we are today, then I am delighted.
Besides, I like to focus on human emotions and motives rather than technical gadgetry to prove who committed a crime. That inclination forces me back to writing about the days before CSI existed. That means that I had no choice but to write historically.
Finally, stories set during wars are ever-popular, and I felt drawn to write about a war period I myself remember, the Vietnam War. The upheaval of the 1960s is still a controversial subject. My first mystery, Desolation Row, introduced my amateur sleuth who is confused by that decade’s rapid social and political change. Heroine Austin Starr is a new bride whose husband is jailed for killing another anti-war activist. 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 her surprise at what she finds. This movement has come to be called second wave feminism. The subject is shockingly fresh and topical now. Women’s struggle for equality is all over the news, and many argue it is still not achieved, despite many advances.
Even the titles of the Austin Starr books are suddenly more relevant. That great troubadour is again making headlines now. Will he or won’t he be in Stockholm to receive his Nobel Prize for Literature, come December? Austin Starr would be a grandmother by now, and I am sure she’d be keen to find out the answer to this mystery. She is a fan of Bob Dylan, providing the inspiration for using titles of his songs for my books. Rainy Day Women hints at that mystery’s plot. The murders take place in soggy Vancouver, Canada, and Seattle, Washington, plus the victims are all women’s liberation activists. This is my favorite title. It fits so perfectly.
I hope Rainy Day Women will not only entertain you—but also inform about women’s lives back in the day. The similarities and differences just might surprise you.
Rainy Day Women
Kay Kendall’s Rainy Day Women is the second book in the Austin Starr Mystery series. In 1969, during the week of the Manson murders and Woodstock, the intrepid amateur sleuth, infant in tow, flies across the continent to support a friend suspected of murdering women’s liberation activists in Seattle and Vancouver. Then her former CIA trainer warns that an old enemy has contracted a hit on her. Her anxious husband demands that she give up her quest and fly back to him. How much should Austin risk when tracking the killer puts her and her baby’s life in danger?
Excerpt from chapter five of, Rainy Day Women
On Wednesday afternoon I stood in our tiny living room, surveying the few belongings we’d acquired. The furniture was used and scruffy, but Indian cotton throws added color. Snapshots of Wyatt sat on bookcases made of bricks and boards. Books and papers spilled out of them, and more books were stacked around the room. This felt like home. It was our home. This was the first time I’d be leaving it.
My bags were packed, and soon baby Wy and I would be flying west. The lyrics from Peter, Paul and Mary’s record circled in my head—except, unlike in their tale, I knew I’d be back again soon.
Long distance plane travel had never fazed me. In fact, I loved it. If I started Wy out early, maybe the four-hour flight from Toronto to Vancouver would set him up to be a great little traveler. Then we’d share many more trips with him—on happier occasions. I crossed my fingers.
The early sun filtered through the venetian blinds and lit all the places that I’d not dusted in months. I was fortunate David wasn’t like my friends’ husbands. They didn’t tolerate slovenliness in their wives. My mother’s voice barged into my head, shoved the folksingers aside, and announced, “I trained you better than this, Austin.”
Damn it all, for almost two years I’d lived thousands of miles away from her, and still, still, Mother provided the soundtrack in my brain. She never praised, only admonished. I wished I could turn her off like I could our hi-fi. A shake of my head helped me refocus on the coming trip, but I knew she’d pop up again soon.
David had taken the luggage downstairs to our Volkswagen van, and now his footsteps came clomping down the hall toward our apartment. I plucked Wy from his playpen and shuffled over to open the door for David.
“All set?” he said.
“Right.” I held Wyatt against my shoulder and moved into David’s arms to be held in them one last time before leaving.
“I’m so lucky you’re my husband. Have I ever told you how much I love you?”
A tear ran down my cheek. He wiped it away.
“Not in the last ten minutes.” He kissed Wy on the forehead and me on the lips. Wy took the opportunity to burp.
Spit-up stained my fresh blouse. Shoot.
“Can you hold him please? I’ll clean this off, and then we’d better go.” I handed Wy to David and marched into the kitchen for a wet cloth.
Fifteen minutes later we were driving along the Gardiner Expressway toward Toronto’s Pearson Airport. Wyatt gurgled happily on my lap, strapped into his plastic carrier. I held him tightly. The seat belt wasn’t long enough to stretch across two of us, let alone the carrier. He played with my hand for a few moments before the car’s motion lulled him to sleep.
I reached out and patted David’s arm, feeling like the luckiest girl in, well, at least Toronto. Remorse and guilt nibbled at the edges of my heart because I was about to leave this dear man. At the same time, my heart rejoiced at the coming adventure. The sound of Peter, Paul and Mary singing “Leaving on a Jet Plane” swam in my head. Only an act of willpower kept me from humming along.
I hoped the tune I’d sing on my return would be upbeat. Something like “Dance to the Music” by Sly and the Family Stone would do nicely.
With my free hand I switched on the radio. John Lennon’s wail of “Don’t Let Me Down” stabbed into my stomach and twisted the knife. I shot a sideways glance at David.
At the same time he shifted his eyes from the road to look at me. “You won’t, will you?”
“No, no, I won’t let you down, honey.” I punched the radio buttons, looking for a happier song for my send-off. That Beatles song was a guilt trip. The knife twisted another turn in my gut. Swell, a perfect metaphor for my flight out to help Larissa—guilt trip.
. . . And the story continues.
Buy links for Rainy Day Women:
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rainy-day-women-kay-kendall/1122022299?ean=9781941071175
Website URL: http://AustinStarr.com
Blog URL: http://thestilettogang.blogspot.com/2016/09/let-good-times-roll.html < http://thestilettogang.blogspot.com/> I blog every third Wednesday of each month.
Kay and I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.