Kathleen Kaska is no stranger to the blog; she wrote a Made It Moment in 2012. But with the release of her fourth Sydney Lockhart mystery, Murder at the Driskill, Kathleen decided to do a blog tour about famous, infamous, and legendary locales in Texas’ state capital of Austin–a city whose promo campaign is “Keep Austin Weird.”As a big fan of non-virtual touring, I can tell you that Austin is one of my favorite stops–Go, Book People! Go BookWoman! Go Bobbi Chukran and the Heart of Texas Sisters in Crime!–and a place I don’t find weird at all. But let’s see what Kathleen has to say…
By the way, at the end of the tour, Kathleen will give away a signed copy of her book. To be eligible, just leave a comment below.
I relocated to Austin at the right time. In the mid-seventies, the Capital City was beginning to thrive. I remember an article published in a national newspaper that proclaimed Austin the most inexpensive place in the county to live. Soon after, the city of near 300,000 began to grow to the tune of a thousand people a month. Almost forty years later, that growth continues. But back then, Austin was a laidback town and Sixth Street, which bisects downtown, running east/west, was considered a bit seedy. A few bold entrepreneurs recognized the area’s potential and opened bars, restaurants, and pool halls. Among a few were Maggie Mae’s restaurant and bar, Paradise Café, Esther’s Follies, and The Old Pecan Street Café, an eatery not much wider than a hallway, which had a courtyard in back and served exquisite desserts. Italian Cream Cake was one of their specialties. Soon locales began to brave the downtown area and it seemed as if a new place opened every week.At the time, I was waiting tables and working my way through college. After work, my friends and I often found ourselves on Sixth Street to check out a new venue. Even through Sixth Street was becoming trendy and safe, I remember venturing into a popular dive called JJJ’s, or the Triple J. In Murder at the Driskill, I modeled the Blue Mist after it. The story opens with my protagonist, Sydney Lockhart, dressed as a guy, on stake out to discover which bartender had been dipping his hand into owner, Jelly Bluesteen’s till. Here’s a short excerpt:
It was my third night at the bar. My sleuthing required that I dress in male disguise and smoke and drink while trying to keep a low profile, which was easy since most folks came to the Blue Mist to do just that, except for the dressing in disguise part. But, hey, I might be wrong. After all, it was 1953, and weird things happened in downtown Austin, Texas.
I suspected this particular bartender the first night. He had a pattern to his pilfering. Once the joint became busy, he’d move to the far end of the bar where the overhead lights failed to reach. When someone paid for the drink, the guy pretended to stuff the money into the register, but instead he executed a quick flicking motion with his fingers, and the bills slid up his cuff.
Tonight had been busier than normal and I watched as a small fortune filled the bartender’s sleeve. At closing time, Jelly came out from the back room and caught my eye. I nodded toward the guilty party. The bartender noticed our sly communication and he suddenly became twitchy. Jelly hurriedly ushered the last drunk out the door, flipped off the neon open sign, and reached for his billy club. In one swift motion, the bartender snatched a wad of cash from the register and my coat off the rack and made a beeline for the door. Since Jelly was too fat to run, I took up the chase, alone.
Kathleen Kaska writes the award-winning Sydney Lockhart mysteries. Her first two books, Murder at the Arlington and Murder at the Luther, were selected as bonus-books for the Pulpwood Queens Book Group, the largest book group in the country. Kaska also writes the Classic Triviography Mystery Series. Her Alfred Hitchcock and the Sherlock Holmes trivia books were finalists for the 2013 EPIC award in nonfiction. Her nonfiction book, The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story (University Press of Florida) was published in 2012.