Why I Write Mysteries
When I was four years old, I planned my first escape. At the time, my family lived two doors down from my godparents. I loved visiting them. Aunt Henrietta always treated me with cookies. One afternoon, I asked my mom if we could visit and she said, “Later, after you’ve had your nap.” Well, “later” and “nap” didn’t suit me one little bit. I sneaked out into the backyard and scoped the area. I discovered I could duck-walk below the windows to the fence and squeeze through the gate without opening it. I was on Aunt Henrietta’s doorsteps in mere seconds. Before I could say cookie, my mom was at the door. I should have known my aunt, my mother’s sister, would tattle.
For the first and only time, for only one time was necessary, I got the “good girl” lecture. That lecture destroyed my sense of adventure, turned me into a shy, quiet kid, and caused me to lose all my self-confidence. Okay, maybe that last statement is an exaggeration, but that’s how I felt. So I worked really hard the rest of my childhood to never disappoint my parents. I never sneaked out of the house again. I never lied to my parents; well, almost never, but you get the idea.
I honestly believe this is why I became a mystery writer. I live vicariously through my main characters, doing things I’d never have the nerve to do and saying things I’d never say. In “words,” living dangerously.
I also became a mystery writer because I love reading mysteries. In my younger years I read all fifty-six Sherlock Holmes stories and everything Agatha Christie wrote. I marveled at Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie’s remarkable ability to plot. In college I became hooked on authors like Dashiell Hammett, Mickey Spillane, Rex Stout, and Raymond Chandler, who created hardboiled detectives. Hammett’s Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon and Chandler’s Philip Marlowe in The Lady and the Lake were true inspirations for me. I also enjoy the humor of Elizabeth Peters, Janet Evanovich, and Lisa Lutz. When I started writing mysteries, I wanted to create hardboiled detectives, but I wanted my stories to be light and humorous. And I wanted my protagonist to be a woman. The result was sassy, sexy, twenty-nine-year-old Sydney Lockhart. My series is set in the early 1950s. I chose this decade because it was a pivotal time for women in terms of lifestyle choices. Sydney’s an independent woman, struggling to make it on her own—not an easy task back then. Oh, yes, and she’s very sneaky and lies often.
Kathleen Kaska is a writer of mysteries, nonfiction, travel articles, and stage plays. When she is not writing, she spends much of her time with her husband traveling the back roads and byways around the country, looking for new venues for her mysteries and bird watching along the Texas coast and beyond. Her latest mystery is Murder at the Driskill (LL-Publications). It was her passion for birds that led to the publication The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story (University Press of Florida).
Changes are happening fast and furious for reporter Sydney Lockhart and her detective boyfriend, Ralph Dixon. No sooner than they open their new detective agency, a high-profile case walks through the door. Stringer Maynard, an influential Austin businessman, wants business partner/brother-in-law, Leland Tatum, investigated before Tatum’s campaign for governor begins. Seems Tatum has been keeping company with an avante garde crowd whose activities might jeopardize his chances of winning the election.
Maynard invites Sydney and Dixon to the famous Driskill Hotel for Tatum’s formal campaign announcement. Before they even meet the candidate, a gunshot sends them hurrying into the next suite where they discover Tatum has been shot and killed. Suddenly their professional services turn to a murder investigation. As the suspect list grows, Sydney acquires an unwanted partner Lydia LaBeau, a twelve-year-old daughter of one of the potential murderers. To assist Sydney in clearing her father’s name, Lydia dresses up like Sherlock Holmes and begins to collect her own bag of evidence. Although much to Sydney’s annoyance, Lydia proves to be the smarter detective.