After You’ve Gone By Kay Kendall: Review/Giveaway/Interview

Feb 23, 2019 | 2019 Articles, Kathleen Costa, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Kathleen Costa

This week we have a review of After You’ve Gone by Kay Kendall, along with an interesting interview with Kaye. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of After You’ve Gone and a link to purchase it from Amazon.

After You’ve Gone: Austin Starr series by Kay Kendall
Review by Kathleen Costa

“What’s in a name?”

Shakespeare asked that question, but as much as a rose would still smell sweet, a name could mean everything to a young girl… If your name is Agatha, you’re set to be a mystery writer. If your name is Buffy, you’re bound to be a vampire slayer. But if your name is Walter MacGregor, you’re destined to…well, if you’re a girl, you’re destined to be a “handful.” Better nicknamed “Wallie,” craved adventure, read Sherlock Holmes stories, wrote in daily journals, and refused to be defined by societies role for women…yes, a handful. It’s 1962, and Wallie is eager to finally share with her sixteen-year-old granddaughter Austin details from her journals about Uncle Rory. After twenty-five years gone from the family, Rory, Wallie’s father’s prodigal brother, had returned…returned with a cryptic comment, “They’re fixin’ to kill me.”

After You’ve Gone earns 5/5 Bootlegged Kegs…Roaring Entertainment!

It was November, 1923, prohibition is in its infancy along with a woman’s right to vote, and Uncle Rory has returned spouting claims that it’s life and death, his life and death. Wallie, at twenty-three years old, has been curious about her mysterious Uncle Rory since fifteen years ago she found his picture and met silence from family to her questions. But, here he is larger than life in his cowboy hat with stories of adventure and trouble, roughnecking and bootlegging, wandering and women. As an only child, she was also fascinated by the sibling rivalry that sparked between him and her father. With too much curiosity to manage properly, Wallie channels her favorite character, Sherlock Holmes, to learn why her Uncle left decades ago and why has he returned…but answers there will be none! Accident? Not according to Wallie.mystery

What an adventure! I am new to Kay Kendall’s work, but her steady-paced writing style, vivid depiction of the 1920s, and entertaining characters had me hooked. This prequel to her Austin Starr Mystery series needed little references to background to keep newbies engaged. She penned an absorbing first-person narrative sharing Wallie’s inner thoughts, dreams, and frustrations along with laying out the drama. Although she created a plethora of rich characters representing class, race, gender, and illustrating a criminal element, I greatly enjoyed Wallie who may be destined to be one of those trailblazing women in the MacGregor family. It was intriguing to see how she pushed the envelope while navigating the rules and expectations society had for her and other young women. Even a couple of romantic entanglements get thrown into the mix. Wallie did get her wish for adventure (so does the reader), but the dangers attached to such freedoms put her, her family, and others at risk. Gangsters. Gangs. Murder. Mayhem. From Chicago to Galveston to Gunmetal, all wrapped up in flappers, boas, and bootleg! Roaring excitement!

Be a Big Kay Kendall Fan!

Names can often work like self-fulfilling prophesies. With a name more associated with males, a woman might be perceived to be stronger or more capable, therefore she can act stronger and more capable. Kay Kendall’s Austin Starr two-book series follows a twenty-something women also saddled with a more masculine name. Desolation Row (2013) is set in 1968 during the Vietnam War era. Austin has moved to Toronto with her draft-dodging husband falling upon a dead body that implicates her husband in murder. Rainy Day Women (2015) is set in August of 1969, during the time the Manson murders and Woodstock occurred. Austin arrives in Seattle, with an infant in tow, to help a friend accused of murdering a women’s lib activist, but she learns that an old enemy might be out to get her, too. After You’ve Gone (2019) highlights Austin’s grandmother Wallie during the 1920s providing some insight into where Austin may have inherited her strength, love of adventure, and penchant for danger.

Kathleen Costa is a long-time resident of the Central Valley, and although born in Idaho, she considers herself a “California Girl.” Graduating from CSU-Sacramento, she is a 35+ year veteran teacher having taught in grades 1-8 in schools from Sacramento to Los Angeles to Stockton to Lodi. Currently Kathleen is enjoying her retirement revitalizing hobbies along with exploring writing, reading for pleasure, and spending 24/7 with her husband.

Interview with Kay Kendall:

KRL: How long have you been writing?

Kay: 1999 was when I began writing fiction.

KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called, and would you tell us a little about it?

Kay: My first book, Desolation Row, came out in 2013. Against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, a young bride, Austin Starr, turns amateur sleuth to prove her new husband did not kill the son of a United States Senator. Despite the anti-war setting, Austin is supportive of soldiers because her father, a World War II vet, taught her to be.

KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not, what else have you written?

Kay: My first completed manuscript was a literary novel that never found a publisher. I put it away and turned to writing crime fiction, which is my favorite genre that is also a big seller. Literary fiction is not, at least in America.

KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series? And can you tell us a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.

Kay: After You’ve Gone is new this month. Set in 1923, it’s a prequel to the books in my Austin Starr mystery series. While Desolation Row and my book, Rainy Day Women take place in the late 1960s, After You’ve Gone shows its female lead turning amateur sleuth during Prohibition. Chapter one is a letter written in 1962 to Wallie MacGregor’s sixteen-year-old granddaughter, Austin Starr, and the rest tells how in 1923, Wallie turned from reading Sherlock Holmes stories to solving her very own murder cases. While the setting is small-town Texas, Wallie gets entangled with rumrunners, flappers, floozies, and criminals sent to Texas by Al Capone. He wanted to muscle into the lucrative criminal goings-on in sinful Galveston on the Gulf Coast – and that’s a fact. At her home Wallie has a beagle puppy named Holler, and he often spurs the plot’s complications.

KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?

Kay: Naturally I write to entertain. I do admit, however, to setting my mysteries during eras that interest me for their historic worth or for some moral or social problem that I place against an historic backdrop. I love history, and since my books occur before CSI techniques hit police work, I can concentrate on the personal side of murder and mayhem -motivation. Exploring why people commit the bad acts that land them in a whole heap of trouble fascinates me.

KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?

Kay: My habit is to write between noon and dinnertime. This fits best with the life I share with my husband. If I lived alone, I’m pretty sure I’d write at all hours, whenever the mood struck me, but who knows.

KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?

Kay: A road map in my mind tells me where my story wants to go. I know the opening scenes, the crime, and who committed it and why. Once I know these key items, I begin to write. I take side trips along the way that turn up as red herrings. I can’t do a detailed outline. I find that too boring.

KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?

Kay: My ideal would be to begin to write an hour after I got up each weekday morning. That doesn’t work for me, though. Alas.

KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?

Kay: Absolutely, and as the publishing world has contracted, it becomes more and more difficult to get published. I have many author friends who’ve lost their contracts due to mergers, people who had decent careers. It is a difficult time right now.

KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?

Kay: In 2012 I had offers from two small publishing houses. One appealed to me because it was located in Oxford, England, and had prestigious origins, while the other seemed a more sensible choice. My writing group encouraged me to go with the latter, and I did. How lucky for me! Not only is Stairway Press a joy to work with, but the other publisher went out of business a year later. I dodged a bullet without even knowing it.

KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?

Kay: In 2013 in a bookstore in a Kansas City suburb, there was a large group of female baby boomers who wanted to talk about living with husbands who had served as soldiers in Vietnam. The subject arose because Desolation Row dealt with the anti-war movement and draft resisters. Audience members shared stories filled with anger, PTSD, and guilt. The worst tale was of a recent visit to a VA with a woman’s husband. Vets from the Gulf Wars were talking loudly in the waiting room, saying Vietnam vets should be cut off from their benefits because “they did not win their war.” A nurse agreed with them. That depressing story has stayed with me. Although this isn’t an upbeat anecdote, the audience found the discussion cathartic, and that book event ends up being in my top three, to date. Sadly, that charming bookstore is now defunct.

KRL: Future writing goals?

Kay: I plan a fourth book in the Austin Starr mystery series that brings grandmother and granddaughter together to solve a murder of a family member at a conference in Vienna. The year is 1970, right after the conclusion of Rainy Day Women. At the time, Vienna was a hotbed of spying during the Cold War, and I like to bring my knowledge of Russian history and politics into my books. I think grandmother Wallie and granddaughter Austin will be a new kind of dynamic duo. Wallie will be seventy years old then, brimming with life and lots of spunk. Austin will be twenty-four. For the book title, I plan to use the Bob Dylan song title “Tangled up in Blue” since it hints at how the murder happens to kick off the story. My first two mysteries also have Dylan titles, and “After You’ve Gone” is a popular song from the 1920s that is still sung today. You can find several versions on YouTube, most recently by Fiona Apple.

KRL: Writing heroes?

Kay: In historical crime fiction my heroes are John le Carré, James R. Benn, Philip Kerr, and Susanne Elia Macneal. Le Carré (my writing god) is the ultimate in Cold War spy fiction, while the others focus on the great wars of the twentieth century – World Wars I and II and the Cold War. James Ziskin’s mysteries reveal wonderful details of the early 1960s (not related to wartime), and mysteries by Terry Shames set in Texas are real treats. Tim Hallinan writes two series – one in Thailand and the other in Los Angeles, that show masterful writing. While I rarely read noir crime novels, I always must read the books of Reed Farrel Colman, so powerfully and beautifully written. Outside of the crime fiction genre, my literary heroes are Margaret Atwood, Hilary Mantel, Tolstoy, and Shakespeare.

KRL: What kind of research do you do?

Kay: Since I have degrees in history, I set my books in time periods that I know a lot about and find fascinating. Therefore, I don’t have to do copious amounts of research. For the late 1960s I double-checked to ensure I got everything right. I remembered that era and just put myself back in it. How delightful forgetting about the digital world’s stresses. For small-town Texas during Prohibition, I knew the history and the geography but needed to read a little more to flesh out details.

KRL: What do you read?

Kay: Since I began writing mysteries, I mostly read crime fiction, especially historical. I read the occasional literary novel and biography.

KRL: Favorite TV or movies?

Kay: On TV my current “faves” are The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Versailles, Victoria, and Agatha Raisin. Current movies I love are The Favourite, Blackkklansman, Can You Ever Forgive Me, Vice, and Mary Queen of Scots. I adore the two Mamma Mia movies. Such happy films. To my great surprise I thought Ralph Breaks the Internet was astonishingly smart and entertaining. I went with the “grand-kiddos” over Thanksgiving.

KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?

Kay: If you want to write fiction, do it because you love to write, in fact you should enjoy the whole process of bringing a book out into the world – editing, revising endlessly, and promoting. It isn’t easy to write a book and is very time consuming. Don’t think you’re going to be one of these: an instant success, a high earner, the next James Patterson. Get rid of those delusions. If you have them, it’s similar to an aspiring actress going off to Hollywood sure she’ll become the next Angelina Jolie. It ain’t gonna happen! But if you love writing, hanging out with other writers, connecting deeply with a handful (or maybe more) of true fans, readers who get what you are doing, then by all means do it. Or if you feel called to write, do it.

KRL: Anything you would like to add?

Kay: I came late to the game of writing fiction, but I love it. I feel as if I found what I was really meant to do with my life. I have never been happier.

KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

Kay: When I graduated from college with majors in English, Russian, and Soviet area studies, I was recruited by the CIA. As a lover of spy fiction, I thought it would be captivating to be a spy. Then I saw sense, turned down the offer, and went off to grad school instead, studying more Russian history. Later I learned what it was really like working for the CIA and was thankful I was practical and passed it by. I’m still intrigued with the secrets and skullduggery of the spy game, however, but from a distance, thank goodness.

KRL: Website? Facebook? Twitter?


To enter to win a copy of After You’ve Gone, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, with the subject line “after,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen March 2, 2019. If entering via comment please include your email address. US residents only. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also check our our new mystery podcast! A new episode went up this week.

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Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. Historical mysteries are always interesting. It just a glimpse into the past way of life. I started collecting family stories as a teenager. My grandmother and great aunt had lots of stories past down through the years and I developed a love of ancestry especially stories. My grandma always said that the past was very much like the present with adultery, murder, and good ole fornication. The book sounds good set somewhat in the 1920s.

  2. I so enjoy that era! I’m going to enjoy this book, one way or another!!! Thank you for the review/interview, another component of the literary world I enjoy!

  3. Fascinating story and era. Very interesting interview. Many thanks for this great feature.

  4. sure sounds like a great book – thanks for the chance to win a copy

  5. Great interview. I love reading about that era. JL_Minter (at) hotmail (dot) com

  6. This is a great series. So glad to learn there is a new book just out.

    karen94066 at aol dot com

  7. I really like reading historical mysteries and this sounds like a great book.

  8. I love historical novels – thank you for the chance to win a copy.

  9. Hi Kathleen! Thanks for introducing me to another new mystery author! lindaherold999(at)gmail(dot)com

  10. I imagine this was a fun period to
    live in – and also stressful.
    Sounds like an interesting
    story. thanks

  11. I like the Bob Dylan tributes.

    Enter me in the contest!

  12. We have a winner!


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