The Power of Mad Men—and Plain Old Mad Men Too.

Kay Kendall’s Rainy Day Women is the second book in her 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.  Kay fills us in on the lure of the 60s. 
The Power of Mad Men—and Plain Old Mad Men Too
The advent of Mad Men on television witnessed—or helped cause—the return of the 60s to the popular consciousness. For three decades before that, the tumultuous decade of the 1960s had a bad rep. After all, it was such a divisive time, and people grew tired of it. The vibrant economy of the 1980s turned the page decisively on “radical chic,” and even some 60s activists turned to making money, big time.

These days In fashion magazines and stores, the number of retro-hippie clothes and accessories astonishes me. I’ve purchased three items with long suede fringe—stockpiling against the day when fringe falls out of style again.

Yet it’s not just 60s fashion that lures me in. I confess I’m a fan of that benighted decade. Even before Mad Men hit TV in 2007, I had changed course, leaving my public relations career behind, and turned to writing mysteries set in the 60s. I decided to follow that old maxim, “Write what you know.” As a child of the 60s I had stories to tell.

And that’s not all. I firmly believe that an author should write what she loves—and my favorite books are historical mysteries. I chose my time period guided by the many authors who locate their sleuths and spymasters during the wars of the 20th century. The two world wars and the Cold War are overrun with novels, and the only large wars of last century not “taken,” not overrun with mysteries, occurred in Korea and Vietnam. The latter is a comparatively empty niche that I thought needed filling with more mysteries. I show the life of a young woman—not the radical type who made headlines, the Hanoi Janes or Angela Davises—but a moderate swept along by history’s tides. All that turmoil lends itself to drama, intrigue, and murder.

Rainy Day Women is set in August 1969, in the days between the Charles Manson murders in Los Angeles and the big rock festival in Woodstock, one she had hoped to attend. Instead, Austin flies to the West Coast, where she discovers a knack for solving mysteries, built on her CIA training and inspired by the countless Nancy Drew books she read as a child. Of course, after placing herself in danger, Austin lives to fight another day—in her coming adventure. Called Tombstone Blues, the mystery I’m writing now is set in Vienna and features plenty of Cold War spies.

Second-wave feminism is a subject I wanted to explore for a long time, and I tried hard to balance the entertaining mystery aspects in Rainy Day Women with the historical details of the setting. Though that time may be long gone, I “bring it all back home” again—the endless searching for a much-needed payphone, the need to solve a crime without using CSI-style techniques, and the casual sexist attitude of way too many men. Yes, they were the wrong kind of mad.

NOTE: Bringing It All Back Home is the title of a Bob Dylan album released in 1965. Composed during his most astonishing period of white-hot creativity, the album contains such masterpieces as “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” “Mr. Tambourine Man,” and “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.” Some literary critics in the U.S. and the U.K. have compared Dylan to Shakespeare. While I don’t go quite that far, I’m a staunch fan. That’s why I name my mysteries after his song titles. Dylan’s work is vast in scope, and believe me, he wrote enough song titles to cover every eventuality in fiction that I could dream up.


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Austin Starr is at it again, tackling a mystery in the heady days of budding feminism. But this time around she has to juggle her investigation with a new baby. A totally absorbing book.  ~~Terry Shames, award-winning author of A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge
 Austin Starr is back, great news for mystery fans. Suspenseful and entertaining, this is a worthy follow-up to Kendall’s excellent debut, Desolation Row. ~~Miranda James, New York Times bestselling author of the Cat in the Stacks mysteries

Kendall's crackerjack amateur-sleuth novel, set in the days of Mad Men, reminds you how much has changed since then, but also that the rules for writing a knockout mystery remain the same: compelling characters, vivid setting, absorbing story. ~~Timothy Hallinan, award-winning author of the Poke Rafferty Bangkok thrillers and the Junior Bender mysteries

 Kendall paints a vivid portrait of the times – everything from macramé purses to bell bottoms and beads – but it’s her protagonist who wins our hearts in a mystery that explores issues as timely today as they were for the Woodstock generation.  Highly recommended. ~~Lynne Raimondo, author of the Mark Angelotti crime novels, Dante's Wood, Dante's Poison, and Dante's Dilemma
Vivid detail of the 1960s and a clever plot make Rainy Day Woman an outstanding follow-up to Kay Kendall’s strong debut, Desolation Row.  Austin Starr is a memorable protagonist, and Kendall’s skill at crafting a compelling mystery kept me turning the pages! ~~Robert Rotstein, author of The Bomb Maker’s Son and Corrupt Practices


Kay Kendall lives in Texas with her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. In her former life as a PR executive, Kay’s projects won international awards. Now she writes historical mysteries that capture the spirit and turbulence of the 1960s. DESOLATION ROW (2013) and RAINY DAY WOMEN (2015) are in her Austin Starr Mystery series. Austin is a 22-year-old Texas bride who ends up on the frontlines of societal change, learns to cope, and turns amateur sleuth. Kay’s degrees in Russian history and language help ground her tales in the Cold War, and her titles show she's a Bob Dylan buff too.

@kaylee_kendall Kay blogs on 1st & 3rd Wednesdays



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