Donn Taylor: Combining Wit and Wisdom in His Mystery Series
I’ve not had the pleasure of meeting Donn Taylor in person but he is a fellow client of Linda S. Glaz and also a fellow LPC author. I’ve enjoyed Donn’s wit and ahem, may I say, corny jokes, via Facebook, email, and even in his novels. They always bring a smile to my face if not a groan to accompany it as well!
His second Preston Barclay mystery novel, Murder Mezzo Forte, is the only one of Donn’s I’ve read so far and enjoyed it immensely. These novels star a college professor who has unusual ever-present music in his mind, like an orchestra playing the musical score to his life. However, I will let Donn explain more of this on his own.
Welcome, Donn! I’m so pleased to have you as a guest on my blog this week. Please tell us about your writing journey. How did it start?
I’m not really sure. 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—and began writing poetry and some very bad short stories. The Korean War interrupted, and the next two decades of Army brought only bare-facts tech writing. After that came graduate school and the painful switch to bloviated academic writing—and in both situations no time for creative writing. Two decades after graduate school I retired from college teaching (English lit) and decided to see if I could write the kind of poetry I enjoyed teaching. That point proved, I turned to seeing if I could publish a novel. It took longer than I expected to convert from literary thinking to commercial-fiction thinking. That first novel—The Lazarus File—took a couple of years to finish. It was published in 2002, and it’s still selling as an e-book.
Thank you for serving in our military, Donn.
What made you decide to write inspirational fiction? And more specifically suspense and mystery?
When I began writing The Lazarus File, I didn’t know there was such a thing as inspirational fiction. Suspense was the logical genre for my experience and interests. Former Ambassador (and historian) Lewis Tambs had interested me in the unholy alliance of Colombian communist guerrillas, drug lords, and Soviet subversion during the late Cold War. So I combined that with my military and aviation background, intending to write a novel like Gavin Lyall’s The Wrong Side of the Sky. It would have been for the New York market. But my personal Christian orientation fought back and turned it into a crossover novel. So I had to settle for a local small publisher.
By then I’d heard about the Christian market and turned naturally to it. After another suspense novel (Deadly Additive), I wanted to use my academic experience to write about the problem of denominational colleges turning secular. Mystery seemed the best genre for that. So I asked, “What if a professor actually said what most of the faculty were thinking but didn’t dare say?” The result was the Preston Barclay series, with the outspoken Professor Barclay always in trouble. All three novels in the series thus far are primarily lighthearted mysteries, but the setting and subplots also reflect serious questions of values and ethics.
How has God guided you through this process?
I can’t claim any direct guidance. I’ve received no orders to undertake a particular project. But I believe our Lord’s unseen hand guided me every step of the way. For personal reasons, self-satisfaction, I set out to prove I could publish. But Christian values asserted themselves and turned the hard-core, tough suspense novel I began into a basically Christian novel. And everything I’ve written is steeped in Christian truths. I see God’s hand in the fact that I met the right people and influences at the right times, and the Lord has opened some doors and closed others. Then there is the mystery of where creative ideas come from. I believe that mine (if I can call them “mine”) are gifts from the Lord. I’m not that good on my own. All the way back to graduate school, I don’t think I’ve ever written anything that was not basically the Lord’s gift. That doesn’t remove the brainsweat from the labor of completion, but I believe the basic ideas are given to me. As I say, I’m just not that good on my own.
Do you have any scriptures you’d like to share that have inspired you?
I would share three. Two statements by Jesus form the bedrock core of my belief. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” (John 14:6) And He said, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.…” (John 11:25)
And the third: I am fascinated by the perfect structure of Psalm 19 (“The heavens declare the glory of God…). In the first six verses, the psalmist contemplates God’s physical ordering of the creation. In the next six verses (beginning “The law of the Lord is perfect…), the psalmist contemplates God’s moral ordering of the creation. In the final three verses (beginning “Who can understand his errors?”), the psalmist invokes God’s ordering power to order his own life, concluding with the familiar “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in they sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.”
This is the big day, Donn! Congratulations on the release of Murder in Disguise.
What would you like to tell us about your latest release, Murder in Disguise, Book 3 of the Preston Barclay series, and anything else about the Preston Barclay series?
Preston Barclay is a reclusive history professor who suffers from musical hallucinations. Mara Thorn is a headstrong professor of religion, recently converted from Wicca. In Rhapsody in Red, they solve a murder during fall semester at their small denominational college. In Murder Mezzo Forte, they confront another murder during spring semester.
In the just-released Murder in Disguise, Professor Barclay teaches in a summer term at the state university and Mara is there for research. Here is part of the back cover copy:
Official verdict: Suicide.
But why would that vigorous department chairman commit suicide? Did he kill himself to avoid disgrace from exposure of his rumored activities on the dark side? When visiting professor Preston Barclay (Press) questions his long-time friend’s suicide, he receives threats. He has enough problems already in proving his competence to students and faculty in the newly–hostile environment of the state university. For the new department chairman and campus radicals do all they can to undermine him. And the sexy female siren assigned as his student assistant creates problems there and with his courtship of Mara Thorn.
Press’s questions don’t find adequate answers, rumors accuse his friend of disgraceful activities, and Mara’s research reveals a wide range of criminal activity stretching from the community onto the campus itself. The more things don’t add up, the more dangerous the threats become, and the more determined Press becomes to clear his friend’s name and find the truth about the alleged suicide.
But can Press and Mara’s stumbling efforts prevail against the entrenched forces of the police, campus radicals, and an unseen criminal organization that increasingly puts their lives in danger…?
More about Donn Taylor:
Bio: 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. Now retired from college teaching, he writes suspense and mystery fiction as well as literary poetry designed for the ordinary reader. He is a frequent speaker at writers’ conferences and study groups. He lives near Houston, TX, where he continues to write fiction, poetry, and essays on ethics and U.S. foreign policy.
Where to find Donn Taylor on the web:
And on Facebook.