About the Book
Book: Rhapsody in Red
Author: Donn Taylor
Release date: September 2018
“IT WAS A BAD DAY TO FIND A CORPSE ON CAMPUS.”
Preston Barclay is a reclusive history professor with musical hallucinations. The feisty Mara Thorn is a newly arrived professor with a strong desire to be left alone. But finding the body of a murdered colleague shakes them out of their quiet lives. Worse yet, police accuse them of her murder, forcing the ill-matched pair into an uneasy alliance for their defense. However, that proves more perilous than they’d thought. To succeed, they have to outwit the police, avoid discipline by the college’s incompetent administration, and escape threats and attacks by the unseen and ruthless forces behind the murder. It’s a one-in-a-hundred chance, and if they fail, they’ll end up unemployed, behind bars, or worse . . .
About the Author
Donn Taylor led an Infantry rifle platoon in the Korean War, served with Army aviation in Vietnam, and worked with air reconnaissance in Europe and Asia. Afterward, he earned a PhD in Renaissance literature and taught literature at two liberal arts colleges. His published works include six suspense novels and a book of poetry. He is a frequent speaker at writers’ conferences. He lives in the woods near Houston, TX, where he writes fiction, poetry, and essays on current topics.
More from Donn
About Rhapsody in Red: From teaching eighteen years in small denominational colleges, I knew that part of the academic world well. So when I came to write the Preston Barclay Mystery Series, that’s where I turned. What would happen if someone dropped a murder into that placid environment?
That was the basic question. But that part of the college world also has internal conflicts and tensions that even the best-intentioned people can’t avoid. That leads most faculty into being discreet. But what would happen if one professor kept saying openly what the rest of the faculty were only thinking? That’s why the series protagonist, Professor Preston Barclay, is always in trouble.
In writing the series I wanted to mainly to give readers an interesting story about a murder and the complications leading to its solution. But I also wanted them to enjoy the story’s interplay of strong and often quirky personalities navigating the varied conflicts of the small-college world.
Whether I’ve achieved those objectives will be decided by each individual reader. But CBA Retailers and Resources Magazine wrote that Rhapsody in Red is “peopled with academia’s most intriguing eccentrics and snobs,” and Christian Review of Books wrote that it’s “a delightful change from the clichés of most novels.”
Readers who enjoy Rhapsody in Red may want to look at its two sequels, Murder Mezzo Forte and Murder in Disguise.
Author Interview with Donn Taylor
What inspires you the most? The reality of Western Civilization—Europe and the US—and its history of achieving the highest level of civilization mankind has ever known. I see it as part of God’s calling His people out of the popular culture of their day. That began with Abraham and continues in the present day. But let’s look at the process from the time of Christ. The world of that time was incredibly cruel. Through Christianity, the West (primarily Europe) gradually emerged from that savagery into what we now think of as civilization, though the process is far from complete. But as of today, only Christendom has that quality, while the rest of the world remains as savage and cruel as it was in the time of Christ. Only Christendom has the answer. The great exceptions within Christendom were Communism and National Socialism, both specifically anti-Christian. In short, Christianity is the civilizing force that has made this progress possible. This understanding inspires me, and elements of it keep appearing in my novels and poetry.
How do you pick your characters’ personalities, or looks? For me, the personalities and situations come first. The looks come later. In planning Rhapsody in Red, the situation came before the characters. Tensions and pretensions—often ridiculous—are widespread among college faculties. Professor Preston Barclay’s characterization began with a question: What if a professor actually said what the rest of the faculty thought but didn’t dare say? He would stay in trouble, of course. Then a New York Times article described a weird experience called “musical hallucinations.” So I gave that problem to Barclay: A continuous stream of music plays in his head, contrasting ironically with events around him. Other characters have come in different ways. In researching drug-smuggling for The Lazarus File, I learned of a Colombian woman named Sol (sun, sunlight) who committed suicide in shame for her husband’s drug activities. In her honor, I gave the name Sol to a heroine whose virtuous character contrasts with Colombia’s depraved world of drugs and guerrillas. But the characterization process is not always that rational. Characters sometimes seem to appear out of nowhere, fully developed. I’m seldom that lucky.
What are your hobbies? At age 91, I’m not as active as I used to be. My non-writing activities are largely limited to what I can do electronically. On Facebook I have genuine friends whom I’ve never met in person. We exchange ideas and encourage each other, and I do a lot of counseling and praying. In my more active years I liked pick-up basketball games and running 10Ks. After my wheels came off, Mildred and I enjoyed walking nearby woodland trails. And I’ve always been reading—a mixture of fiction with nonfiction about US foreign policy. To keep up with things generally, I’m still a member of the National Association of Scholars and the Military Officers’ Association of America.
What was your favorite book growing up? There were many, so it’s hard to choose one. My father read aloud to my brother and me when we were in grammar school. His choices included many of Mark Twain’s books. My favorite was Life on the Mississippi. (I still remember the riverboat pilots’ oaths: “egg-sucking, sheep-stealing, one-eyed son of a stuffed monkey!”) But for my own reading it was probably a collection of Sherlock Holmes stories that I read during high school. (Yes, I compared the written stories with the movie versions starring Basil Rathbone.)
What is one thing in your life that you would say has had the greatest impact on your writing? Or in your life in general? There are three candidates. One is a very personal Christian encounter. A second is character building by the US Army. But the one I choose here is marriage. My marriage to Mildred lasted 61 years, seven months, and four days until the Lord promoted her. I’d been at outs with the church, but her quiet faith led me back in. Through the years, her strength held our family of six together during a variety of assignments and geographical moves. She did it all with a softness that made her a favorite wherever we went. She also taught me and the children the importance of a prayer life. During my teaching years, students flocked to her as a surrogate mother and mentor. Retirement brought us the unlimited time together that we’d always wanted. She encouraged my writing. We talked through the planning stages of my books, and she often read and critiqued chapter drafts. But her character itself was the overriding influence. I’ve tried vainly to capture that in poetry. Only once did I come close:
“She speaks in trust that only grace allows,
Modestly unaware her softness, strong—
Stronger than stone or steel—holds up this house
In love, to let the house hold up the sky.”
To celebrate his tour, Donn is giving away the grand prize of a $50 Amazon gift card plus one paperback copy of Rhapsody in Red!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.
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Adventures of a Travelers Wife, August 20 (Author Interview)
Daysong Reflections, August 20
Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, August 21
For Him and My Family, August 22
deb’s Book Review, August 23
Inklings and notions, August 24
A Modern Day Fairy Tale, August 25
Texas Book-aholic, August 27
Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, August 28
Locks, Hooks and Books, August 29
Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, August 30
Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, August 31
Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, September 1 (Author Interview)
Blogging With Carol, September 1