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 . . .
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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.
Interview with Donn
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’m not really sure—call it a journey to an unplanned destination. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t trying to create something. I began writing music at age 14, but at age 18 I got interested in poetry—the Romantics, of course. It seemed natural to try to create the kinds of things I liked. So I began writing bad poetry and very bad short stories. Before I thought seriously about becoming a writer, though, the Korean War interrupted. My next two decades of Army brought only bare-facts technical writing. After that came graduate school and the painful switch to academic writing. I had no time for creative writing in either situation. But when I retired from college teaching (English lit), I decided to make a try at becoming a writer. I began by seeing if I could write the kind of poetry I enjoyed teaching. Once that was proved, I turned to writing a novel. Converting from literary thinking to fiction thinking took longer than I expected. It took two years to write my first novel, The Lazarus File. It was published in 2002, and it’s still selling as an e-book.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
The ideas come from experience (Army and college teaching) joined to research, though the way that these combine with others to form viable fiction ideas remains a mystery. While the Cold War was in progress, Ambassador (and historian) Lewis Tambs interested me in the unholy alliance of Colombian guerrillas, drug lords, and Soviet subversion. That and my Army experience, plus research, led to The Lazarus File, a novel about spies and airplanes in the Caribbean. College teaching taught me the constant tensions in the campus environment. So I asked, “What would happen if a professor actually said what the rest of the faculty was thinking and didn’t dare say?” Then a New York Times article on musical hallucinations gave me an idea for the hero’s distinctive quirk. The result was the Preston Barclay Mystery series, with a hero who lives with his own internal music score. But in either suspense or mystery, something impish in me inserts comedy into the most emotionally intense scenes. Readers always have a laugh along with the emotion.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
At age 91, I’m not as active as I used to be. Today I’m just doing church and what I can do electronically—helping other writers with their manuscripts, judging writing contests, etc. Unexpectedly, I’m doing a lot of counseling and praying on Facebook. In earlier years I was into pick-up basketball games and running 10Ks. After my wheels came off, Mildred and I enjoyed walking the nearby woodland trails. It’s always been reading—a healthy mixture of fiction with nonfiction about US foreign policy. To keep up with things generally, I maintain active membership in the National Association of Scholars and the Military Officers’ Association of America.
Do you have any suggestions to help someone become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Two items: The first is patience. The process of learning to write for publication is as long and intricate as mastering piano playing or basketball. There are no short cuts: Hours in the practice room or on the practice field are required. Second, take time to learn basic grammar and punctuation. Every problem in these mechanics, however small, interrupts an editor’s flow through your story. The first error starts the editor (or reader) wondering what other errors will follow. Getting the mechanics right aids the flow of the narrative and avoids inviting the editor (or reader) to become a critic.
What project are you working on now, and how do we find your books?
The quickest way to find my books is my Amazon author page, https://tinyurl.com/y65hm55c. You can also read some of the first chapters there. What am I working on now? I’ve begun writing Book Four in the Preston Barclay Mystery series. After that, I’m not sure. For several decades I’ve been fascinated by an idea. Would it be possible to write a contemporary novel generally imitative (or adaptive) of Renaissance epic romances like Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso or Spenser’s The Faerie Queene? It would be quite a task, and I doubt that I’ll ever try it. I also doubt that it would be publishable as commercial fiction. But still, it’s a fascinating idea . . . Maybe someday . . .
Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, August 19
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
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.