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Friday, January 25, 2019

AUTHOR KATHLEEN KASKA ON VERTIGO IN MONTANA--HERS AND HER SLEUTH'S

We continue our new Best of/Worst of feature today with award-winning mystery author Kathleen Kaska, who writes the Sydney Lockhart Mystery Series set in the 1950s; the Classic Triviography Mystery Series, which includes The Sherlock Holmes Triviography and Quiz Book; and the Kate Caraway animal-rights series. Kathleen is also a writer and marketing director for Cave Art Press and the author of Do You Have a Catharsis Handy? Five-Minute Writing Tips. Learn more about her and her books at her website.

The Best and Worst of Montana
Awhile back, my husband and I drove the Hi-Line (U.S. Hwy 2) across northern Montana from west to east. This stretch immerses you in “The Big Sky State.” The road was flat with unobstructed views over rolling prairies and wheat fields of infinite continuity. Surely there were other vehicles on the road, but the only ones we saw were in the small towns along the way. One afternoon, we stopped in the middle of the highway, turned up the radio, left the motor running, got out and danced. We’d just spent the night in Cut Bank and were still in a jukebox mood from the Pioneer Saloon. For me this was the best part of Montana.

But before that we drove through Glacier National Park. For those who are not acrophobic, this might seem fun. For me, mountainous roads are nightmares. After finding that motel in Cut Bank, the Pioneer’s shot of tequila slowed the spinning in my head. So I had another.

On our many travels, I’ve encountered several such mountainous roads. The result is always the same: vertigo, dry mouth, racing heart, sweaty palms—shear panic. There’s a few times where I can’t even remember the descent. I didn’t pass out, but some type of survival mode must have wiped out the experience. The times I do remember are feelings of elation whenever the ordeal was over, like an adrenaline rush.

Sadly, the worst part of Montana, for me, is one of the most scenic drives in America. It’s the Beartooth Highway, a sixty-seven-mile stretch of State Highway 212 through Carbon County in southern Montana. Winding through the mountains, it climbs to almost 11,000 heart-stopping feet. This is the setting of my second Kate Caraway animal-rights mysteries, A Two Horse Town. Each book deals with an animal-rights issue. The subtheme is facing one’s fears. Kate is also saddled with my affliction and is forced to face it as she travels these roads—giving me personal insight on a few hair-raising scenes.

A Two Horse Town
Kate Caraway hates giving lectures at the University of Illinois so much that she fears she’ll lose her mind. So, when a student, Nate Springfield, walks into her office with a story of wild horses in danger, Kate takes an immediate leave of absence. Forty-eight hours later, she arrives in Two Horse, Montana, one of the most rugged and isolated areas in the state. In a race against time, she uses her expertise and influence as a well-respected animal-rights activist to assist Nate’s eighty-two-year-old great-grandmother, Ida, in saving her herd of wild mustangs. If the county’s proposal to dam the Crow River passes, Ida’s water source will disappear. Her horses will be sold to the highest bidder and, most likely, turned into dog food.

Before Kate can meet with a small coalition of citizens, who also stand to lose if the dam proposal passes, she stumbles upon a corpse with a knife wedged in his back. The dead man is Frank Springfield, Ida’s estranged son and her number-one enemy, a highly vocal member of the ranching community, who favors the dam. Since Nate is the last person to have seen his grandfather alive, the sheriff issues a warrant for his arrest, and the young man goes on the lam. Kate is convinced of his innocence and determined to prove it, but as she gets closer to truth, she discovers that some men will do anything, including murder, to keep their nefarious scheme from being exposed.

9 comments:

Kathleen Kaska said...

Thanks for having me as your guest today, Lois. I enjoyed reliving the best moments while traveling through Montana and got a chill remembering the worst moment of driving down those switchback mountain roads. I felt kind of guilty giving my character acrophobia, but she handled the situation much better than I did.

ANASTASIA POLLACK said...

Always a pleasure, Kathleen! And having driven on the PCH, I now know not to drive through Montana!

Zari Reede said...

Kathleen, I just loved this story and especially the decent in the old jalopy Kate was driving. I’m claustrophobic and hate flying, so I have used that in my own stories. This use of your fear in Two Horse Town leant real credibility to the book.

Keith Steinbaum said...

Kathleen, a very smart and concise description of your story, the animal rights angle, and the intrigue of a whodunit murder mystery. Seems like a very engaging story and one I'll add to my list of future reads. Authors certainly depend on their own experiences as fuel for their stories and characters in particular and yours about the fear that you felt while driving up and through those mountain roads no doubt lent itself beautifully to the race for time inference you speak about regarding your protagonist. I also commend you for an excellent book cover - beautiful from top to bottom.

Daniella Bernett said...

Kathleen,

Your mystery sounds intriguing. It has interesting premise. I'll have add to my TBR list.

Zoe Tasia said...

I enjoyed your book very much. The setting played such a large part in the story and the description of your MC's acrophobia had my heart beating as fast as hers.

Kathleen Kaska said...

Thanks to all of you who commented, Zari, Keith, Daniella, and Zoe. It's really nice to read your positive and encouraging statements after a hard day at work. Best to all of you and to Lois, who's always allowed me to promote my writing. You're all a true joy.

Roman Empire Mystery Lover said...

I feel the same way you do, Kathleen, about those mountainous hair-pin turns. We have a few here in and near New Paltz, NY, where I live at the foothills of the Catskills. But it's the way you have the reader experience it that made me want to close my eyes for the duration! Thanks for a great ride in TWO HORSE TOWN. June Trop

Kathleen Kaska said...

Hi June, Thanks for your comment. I was beginning to feel I was one of the very few who are afraid of heights. Even though I hated those experiences, I enjoyed writing about them.