Modesto Crop Dusting Mysteries: Reviews/Interview/Giveaway

Sep 10, 2011 | 2011 Articles, Lorie Lewis Ham, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Diana Hockley
& Lorie Lewis Ham

Visalia, California born mystery author R.P. Dahlke joins KRL today for a short interview, and Diana Hockley reviews her books set in the Central Valley featuring a female crop duster. At the end of this post you will find instructions on how to enter to win a copy of both of these great books!

R.P. Dahlke

Lorie: Are you from the San Joaquin Valley?

R.P.: I was born in Visalia and then my parents moved us to the Modesto area, mostly on a ranch south of Modesto where my dad ran a crop-dusting business for thirty-five years. I ended up raising my two children on that ranch, then remarried and moved to Livermore, CA. When we both retired, we moved aboard our 47ft. cutter- rigged Hylas and sailed south for Mexico.

Lorie: Where are your books set?

R.P.: The Lalla Bains series is set in the Modesto area and is based on an exhausting two years running my dad’s crop-dusting business.

Lorie: Why did you choose to set them here?

R.P.: I grew up there, I knew some about the Aero Ag industry, having a son who followed in his grand-dads footsteps, and just for fun, I put five or six of my high-school chums in A Dead Red Heart.

Lorie: Are these your first published novels?

R.P.: Flying through Forty got a very short stint in publication, but when my son, a career Ag pilot, died in a work related accident in 2005. After that, I found nothing funny left to write about. Five years to the day of his death, I once again picked up the manuscript, did a deep and thorough scrubbing and republished it as A Dead Red Cadillac. Then took out my notes for the next one and pounded that one into submission and published it a few months later. That’s A Dead Red Heart. I’ve just completed a fun stand-alone romantic mystery based in Mexico. It will be out late this fall or winter on Amazon as both e-book and trade paperback. Then I’ll write the 3rd in the Lalla Bains series, A Dead Red Oleander. Then I’m going to start a fun and humorous series about a woman judge in a fictional little mining town called Wishbone, Arizona.

Lorie: Anything else that ties in with the local setting?

R.P.: The Lalla Bains series has references to Gallo winery, the Aero Ag industry in the San Joaquin Valley and a sidebar about our homeboy, George Lucas. I’d also like to let your readers know about All Mystery e-newlsetter. This is a FREE colorful, monthly e-newsletter with twelve new mystery/suspense books by both NY Times best sellers as well as the newbies in the industry. Find out more on our website. There’s a nice Facebook page for it that shows what’s upcoming every month.

Lorie Lewis Ham is our Editor-in-Chief and an enthusiastic contributor to various sections, coupling her journalism experience with her connection to the literary and entertainment worlds. Explore Lorie’s mystery writing at Mysteryrat’s Closet.

The Dead Red Cadillac by R.P. Dahlke
Review by Diana Hockley

R.P. Dalhke’s novel, The Dead Red Cadillac, featuring female agricultural (crop dusting) pilot Lalla Bain, is as rollicking and sharp a murder mystery as any on the market. In this book her gorgeous vintage red Cadillac is found in a lake, complete with dead body inside. Regarded as a convenient suspect by the homicide detective investigating the case, Lalla feels that she has to save herself from the clutches of the law rather than allow her long time friend, local sheriff Caleb Stone, to extricate her from the mess. Added to much-married Lalla’s problems are a rival crop-dusting company, her father and a suspected druggie employee, and a foot and shoulder injury from an aircraft incident.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It has an energy and good-natured plot which sit well with reading in one sitting and the heroine, Lalla Bains, comes across as rather like the reader’s older sister or best friend. R.P. Dahlke writes easily, the imagery is minimal but places the reader in the right place for getting the essence of the story. I felt as though I were standing beside the characters listening to their very natural dialogue. The characters are likeable and interesting.

All in all, a very good read and highly recommended!


The Dead Red Heart by R.P. Dahlke
Review by Diana Hockley

The return of crop-dusting pilot, Lalla Bain, her now lover sheriff Caleb Stone, father Noah, and the rather unlovely Detective Gayle Rodney, is a most welcome addition to my kindle collection. This plot is a sad one, written with an easy style and clever dialogue. Gulf War veteran and poet, Billy Wayne Dobson, is found murdered in the alleyway behind the local Vietnamese restaurant. Lalla was bemused when she found poems from Billy stuck under the windshield of her vintage Cadillac and then plastered over the candy-apple red paintwork. Dismissing his work as a practical joke, Lalla goes to the alleyway behind the restaurant and discovers Billy Wayne, dying. Some cryptic words and he is gone.

Things go downhill from there.

Fighting to keep her family’s crop dusting company viable and herself out of jail for murder, Lalla goes on the hunt for the killer whose identity answers the tragic question: What would you do if the love of your life lost their chance at a heart transplant to a convicted felon?

An excellent read and well recommended, this is another novel by R.P. Dahlke which is well worth purchasing and one which I intend to keep in my possession.

To enter to win a copies of both of R.P.’s books, simply email KRL at with the subject line “Red”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen September 17, 2011. U.S. residents only.

If you love mysteries, why not check out Left Coast Crime:
Mystery Conference in Sacramento, March 29-April 1, 2012.Registration through 12/31/2011 is only $210 (it goes up to $225 after that). Registration information can be found at the conventionwebsite, or by sending an email to or

Diana Hockley is an Australian mystery author who lives in a southeast Queensland country town. She is the devoted slave of five ratties & usually finds an excuse to mention them in her writing, including her recent novel, The Naked Room. Since retiring from running a traveling mouse circus for 10 years, she is now the mouse judge for the Queensland Rat & Mouse Club shows. To learn more, check out her website.


  1. Would love to read your mysteries. Great to have an author write a mystery in a setting that they know by heart. Glad that you have a cropduster who is a woman. Please enter me for this giveaway. Thank you,


    • I was one of those honored to be a classmate of Rebecca’s and she so graciously included me in her book The Dead Red Heart. I must say that it grabbed me from the start and I loved the book. Now want to read A Dead Red Cadillic immediately. Please enter me in the drawing for Rebecca’s two books.

  2. Fantastic title and great cover. Interesting occupation. Should make for a good read.

  3. I think a female crop dusting mystery is a fantastic idea. Can’t wait to read it and find out more about those small planes!
    W.S. Gager

  4. These books sound good! I would love to read them. I’ve never read about a female crop duster who solves murders before.

  5. I worked in the Modesto area and would love to see how you describe it. At the moment I am in New Zealand. Go All Blacks!

  6. Enjoyed the interview. What an interesting concept to have a crop-duster as the central character. Love the idea and look forward to reading your books.

  7. Thanks so much for entering! A winner has been notified please try again next time!
    Lorie Ham, KRL Publisher



  1. A Dead Red Oleander by R.P. Dahlke/Interview/Giveaway | Kings River Life Magazine - [...] out reviews of Rebecca’s other books in this series here in [...]
  2. Coming Attractions: Summer Reading | Kings River Life Magazine - […] Oven by Laura Benedict (Coming Attractions previewed her new book Bliss House), & an ebook of A Dead Red…

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