Friday, January 31, 2014

Kay Kendall's Desolation Row

My favorite stories involve romantic suspense set against a backdrop of great turmoil and danger. Stories about World War II and the Cold War fit the bill for me. I wanted to write my own version of that kind of romantic suspense. Also I love to read historical mysteries set in England, France, Germany, Russia, and so on. I decided my first book would be set in a foreign country during wartime.

The result is Desolation Row—An Austin Starr Mystery. This is my debut book published in 2013 by Seattle-based Stairway Press.

Austin is only 22 years old when she marries her college boyfriend and they leave Texas and move to a foreign country. She’s coping with these changes when her husband is jailed for a murder he didn’t commit. Alone and far from home, she sets a dangerous course to find the real killer. When she also becomes a captive, things go from bad to worse. Two young lives and a new marriage are in jeopardy!

The time is 1968. The foreign country is Canada. The war is in Vietnam.
Lots of Americans don’t consider Canada to be foreign. So calm and easy to take for granted, Canada . Why, it might just as well be the fifty-first state. But the US and Canada are not identical at all. While the countries of the English-speaking world may all bunch up on a sliding scale that would represent a continuum of political and social attitudes, one should never discount the real differences that exist among them. 
I used to ponder these differences daily. You see, I lived in Canada for two decades, occupying a front row seat to watch Canadian-ness play out in front of me. Also, my husband is Canadian…and all my in-laws. Yes, I consider myself a Nona fide expert. In Desolation Row I treat Canada like the unique country it is. 

Secondly, the only large war of last century not “taken,” not overrun with mysteries, occurred in Vietnam. It is a comparatively empty niche that I concluded needed to be filled with more mysteries—and I decided I was the one to do the filling.

I show what life was like for young women of that era—not the type that made headlines, the Hanoi Janes or Angela Davises, but the moderates who nonetheless got swept along by the tides of history during the turbulent sixties. All that turmoil lends itself to drama, intrigue, and murder.

My heroine Austin Starr is young and na├»ve, and her mother taught her that the role of wife and mother is the only one that will bring fulfillment to a female. Austin is not sure this is true, but she goes along with it and, with that grounding, feels she must go to Canada with her husband, even though she does not want to leave Texas. Her husband is a political activist, but she’s not. In fact, she has a secret he doesn’t know. She was undergoing CIA training before she moved to Canada.

When her husband David is jailed for murdering the son of a US Senator, also a draft resister in Canada, only one thing counts for Austin—proving David’s innocence. After that, she hopes somehow, someway, to return home to Texas. That is an over-arching question to the books in my series—will Austin ever return to the United States, which is her heart’s desire?

Now I’m writing the second book, Rainy Day Women. All titles in my mystery series are from Bob Dylan songs. I make sure that any title I use is from a song that had been released by the time my story takes place. Dylan is a prolific song writer so it’s not hard to find an appropriate, evocative title. In the case of Desolation Row, the title captures David Starr’s sense of desolation as he waits in a row of cells in prison. In Rainy Day Women murder occurs in women’s liberation groups in Vancouver and Seattle. 

Basically, Desolation Row is a love story, and the politics end up being pro-soldier and anti-war. Many veterans of the Vietnam conflict have told me they enjoyed my book. I find that very gratifying. Anyone who fights for our country deserves our un-ending support.

KAY KENDALL is an award-winning international PR exec who now writes mysteries. She and her Canadian husband live in Texas with their spaniel Wills and several house rabbits…to which she’s allergic…but she loves them anyway!

You can learn more about Kay by visiting her sites:

Media links are


Leave a comment with your email address to be eligible to win one of two books Kay is giving away.


Jean Henry Mead said...

Welcome to Mysterious Writers, Kay. It's great to have you join us here.

Jackie King said...

Kay, Your novel sounds like just my cup of tea! Put me in for your drawing. But if I don't win, I'll download it on Amazon.

Got to read this book

Sharon Smith said...

I feel spell-bound and intrigued after reading the post about "Desolation Row!" I would love to have an autographed copy of this book. I can't wait to read it. I am keeping my fingers crossed in hope of winning one of Kay's books!!!

marja said...

This sounds like a very entertaining story. Thank you so much for telling us about it.
Marja McGraw

Patricia Gligor said...

"Desolation Row" sounds intriguing. I can definitely relate to Austin, who lives in the era when women were taught that marriage was "the answer." We've certainly come a long way since then!

Sheila Deeth said...

I'd love to go to Canada one day, having lived in England and the US. And I'd love to read this--sounds like great characters, great time, and great place!

Kay Kendall said...

Thanks to all for your interest in Desolation Row. Many readers say I got time period just right & that I used details & expressions they remember but haven't thought about in ages. I was a history major and love "the olden days." If you do read my book, by winning or otherwise, please do let me know how you like it. Good luck to all!

Jane Buttery said...

I can see that this would have a lot of interest for me as I love mysteries and I live in Canada. I wish you good success with sales. If you have an ebook, I will go for it.
jane in Ontario and at