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Friday, October 24, 2008

Spotlight on Donn Taylor and Rhapsody in Red


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. Afterwards, he completed a PhD at The University of Texas and taught English literature at two liberal arts colleges. He is the author of two novels, The Lazarus File and Rhapsody in Red, as well as a book of poetry, Dust and Diamond: Poems of Earth and Beyond. He is a frequent speaker for writers' groups and conferences. He and his wife live and attend church near Houston, Texas, where he writes fiction, poetry, and articles on current topics.

by Donn Taylor
Published by Moody Publishers


"That Wednesday, two weeks before Thanksgiving, was a bad day to find a corpse on campus." Preston Barclay is a self-made recluse (and he likes it that way). Teaching college history allows him time to grieve the loss of his pianist wife and find relief from the musical hallucinations that have been playing in his head since her death. But when he and a headstrong colleague, Mara Thorn, discover the body of another instructor on campus, Press's monotonous solitude is destroyed.

When the preliminary evidence singles out Press and Mara, they must take some chances (including trusting each other) to build their own defense---by bending the rules just a little bit.

They choose to form an unlikely alliance to stay ahead of the police, the college's wary and incompetent administration, and whoever is trying to get away with murder. Otherwise, they both might end up unemployed, behind bars, or worse...

Buy Your Copy of Rhapsody in Red Today!


1. What gave you the inspiration for this story?

Several things. This didn't happen in a hurry. I liked Raymond Chandler mysteries and thought I'd try my hand at a mystery with a cranky protagonist. I'd taught twenty years in small denominational colleges, so I set this one on a college campus. That gave the opportunity for light satire of college life. Then I read a newspaper article on musical hallucinations: a few people have a constant torrent of music in their minds, and they can't turn it off. (It's said that Beethoven and Schumann had these.) So I made my protagonist a history professor with musical hallucinations. For the faith theme, I've long been fascinated by the problem of evil in the world. How do we explain it? So all of that gradually coalesced into the premise for "Rhapsody in Red."

2. How much of your own experiences influenced your characters? What aspects became traits that are theirs and theirs alone?

First of all, I don't put any personal experience or anyone I've ever met into a story. The college and its faculty are entirely fictitious, and my former colleagues can read it without fear of finding themselves there. But I did put in the conflicts that I'd seen exist on college campuses. I gave my protagonist the characteristic of actually saying what many faculty wish they could say but don’t dare. That's why he stays in trouble. The only thing that translates more or less directly from me is that my professor's specialty is Renaissance history of ideas. My specialty was Renaissance literature, but viewed from the perspective of history of ideas. Other than that, the characters' traits are completely their own.

3. If one of your characters were an ice cream flavor, what he/she be and why?

The hero, if you can call him that, would be Neopolitan—a mixture of many flavors. As a history professor, he accepts Matthew Arnold's view of culture—the best that has been thought or said in all ages. The heroine would be Homemade Vanilla that's been frozen with a hard exterior. After a bad teenage marriage, she's clawed her way up to a PhD in comparative religion and is determined to continue succeeding on her own with no help from anyone. But she has sweetness under the icy exterior.

4. What themes exist in Rhapsody in Red that you hope the reader sees? Are there any themes that weren't overt but developed as the story progressed?

First of all, I have a problem with people who write fiction to prove a point. If that's the objective, they should write nonfiction and make their point through evidence and reasoned argument. Fiction proves nothing: it can only illustrate. That said, there are some realistic themes in Rhapsody. The college does accurately illustrate the usual conflicts of commercialism vs. academic standards, education vs. indoctrination, and secularism vs. religious orientation. And there’s a straightforward treatment of the problem of evil. I don't think the book contains any other—except possibly the inadvisability of always saying what you think.

5. What were your most difficult parts to write? Your favorite?

The most difficult part was chapters two through about five. That's where a lot of essential information and backstory had to be worked in, but it had to be balanced with moving the story forward. I must have blocked those out four or five times and rewritten them more than that. My favorite part? There's a chapter where a suspect tries to bribe the hero with a kiss. He gets lipstick on his teeth, and that gets him in trouble with the heroine, who thinks he's been playing around while she took dangerous risks in their investigation. They have an encounter with a lot of wordplay: "She burns incense." "In what sense was she burning?" Etc.

6. When is your next book coming out and what is the story?

It's not contracted yet, but it's a sequel to Rhapsody in Red. It's another murder mystery with the same hero and heroine. It's set on the same campus but with a very different crime problem. Thematically, it deals with the problematic relationship of imagination to reality and with the problem of slander. But it's also light-hearted, with a good bit of comedy.

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Thank you, Donn, for being in the spotlight with us.

Readers, leave a comment for your chance to win a FREE autographed copy of Rhapsody in Red.

If you wish to comment but don't want to be entered, say so when you post. Make sure you also leave your email address (name at domainname Wouldn't want you to miss out on winning a book. :)

And if you want to make certain you don't miss anything, check the box that says 'email follow-up comments to:' when you leave a comment and they'll be sent to the email address associated with your blogging account. That way you'll be notified of any comments and will know when I announce the winner.

This week, the contest is open to anyone worldwide.

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Deborah said...

please enter me! this looks really good

Martha A. said...

I love mysteries, especially ones with a touch of humor! Please enter me!

windycindy said...

Please put me in your drawing for this mystery/suspense book. I really appreciate it! Thanks, Cindi

Pamela J said...

I just got my copy of Rhapsody in Red this morning and can't WAIT to read it! I'm SURE whoever wins this one is getting a GREAT book!
Pam Williams

Carolynn said...

Sounds exciting, please enter me, thanks!

Tiffany Amber Stockton said...

We have a winner from this drawing and that is:


Congratulations! I've sent your mailing information to Donn so he can send out your book.

Others, check out the interviews on Sally John, Maureen Lang, Virginia Smith, Andrea Boeshaar, Sandra Bricker and Golden Keyes Parson to see if you've won.

As always, thanks to everyone for your continued support.

Anonymous said...

I am not entering the contest. Mr. Taylor I just want to tell you I have read "Rhapsody in Red" and absolutely loved it. I could not put it down. Am anticipating the publishing of your next book.