STRONG YOUNG WOMEN IN DIFFERENT HISTORICAL ERAS by Kay Kendall
My new mystery, After You’ve Gone, is set during Prohibition, and even in Gunmetal, Texas, times are changing. For example, my heroine, twenty-three-year-old Wallie MacGregor, reads the thrilling tales of Sherlock Holmes while she dreams of becoming a writer and living an exciting life. Then her long-lost uncle turns up at the home she shares with her father, a judge. Uncle Rory is on the lam from his angry bosses in sinful Galveston, where they run a thriving bootlegging operation and other illegal businesses. Soon Wallie is tangling with flappers and floozies and dangerous criminals as she tries to solve a murder that the local sheriff swears is just an accident. Her shenanigans scandalize her prim aunt who wants Wallie to concentrate on choosing a suitable suitor. Besides discovering who is running around killing people, the other big question is whether Wallie can stay alive long enough to figure out which one is her true love.
Writing about the 1920s is a significant departure for me. I set my first two mysteries in the 1960s, amidst widespread political and social upheaval. While my protagonist Austin Starr does hail from small town Texas, her work as an amateur sleuth takes place in Canada. She’s fled there with her draft-resisting husband. So, on the face of it, there’s not much to associate my new mystery with the first two.
However ... they really are connected. The sub-title of After You’ve Gone is An Austin Starr Mystery Prequel. You see, Wallie MacGregor is the grandmother of Austin Starr. Actually Wallie’s real name is Walter, after her father the judge, and carrying a male name appears to have given her an unusual amount of gumption for her era. The love of solving puzzles and the extreme curiosity that Wallie exhibits are traits she passes on to her granddaughter, Austin. Both lead characters are strong women who often buck the conventions of their upbringing. Neither are shy violets, to say the least.
Historical mysteries are my favorites among all crime fiction. When plotting my own books, I like to show how patterns of human nature repeat down the decades, no matter what historical age one reads about. I also confess that I relish the details that show past eras—the changes in language and attitudes, in styles of dress and architecture. Also, by not setting my stories during the present day, I can focus more on character. Not for me the world of high tech and CSI tricks. I prefer to delve into people’s personalities—to discover what makes them tick—and what causes them to murder.
Before Kay Kendall began to write fiction, she was an award-winning international public relations executive, working in the US, Canada, the Soviet Union, and Europe. Ask her about working in Moscow during the Cold War—and turning down a job with the CIA in order to attend grad school at Harvard. Because of her degrees in history, Kay makes sure to get historical settings and details right—no anachronisms allowed. She and her Canadian husband live in Texas with three rescue rabbits and one bemused spaniel. (86 words)