in jewelry stores equestrian line unveiling
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (May 2005) As a writer, Kit
Ehrman is accustomed to holding book signings in book stores and local
libraries. But when the owners of a Louisville boutique specializing
in hand-crafted sterling silver jewelry called and asked Ehrman to take
part in the unveiling of their spring equestrian line, the author gladly
accepted the offer.
by Kathleen Adams
Ehrman recently signed
her books at a local store.
Thats because Ehrmans specialty is equine
mysteries. The venues in which Ehrmans stories take place are
the gritty and often times glamorous worlds of show horses and thoroughbred
Her fictional amateur sleuth, Steve Cline, is a college dropout who
prefers working with horses rather than living the life his wealthy
family has orchestrated for him. And while Clines personal relationships
are strained, he moves smoothly within the horse industry.
Nine days prior to the worlds most famous horse race the
Kentucky Derby Ehrman, 48, outfitted in a sparkling red top and
black slacks that she jokingly referred to as her mystery writers
outfit, sat behind a table that displayed her work and sold books.
Halfway through the book signing at Poppie Design Inc. in St. Matthews,
Louisville, Ehrman took a break and said the event exceeded her expectations.
Ive sold nine books, Ehrman explained. You can
often go to book signings and sell only one.
Horse owner Cheryl Blundell was among those purchasing one of several
titles Ehrman had for sale. A self-described horse lover,
the Fredricksburg, Ind., resident said her reading habits are typical
of most equine aficionados.
We horse people read everything we can about horses, she
said. Were all interested in everything horse.
Ehrman first introduced mystery fans to Cline two years ago, in At
Risk, (Poisoned Pen Press $24.94). In the book, Cline, 21, had
to track down show horse thieves in Maryland. In Dead Mans
Touch, Cline transitioned to the race track, met his biological
father for the first time and uncovered a horse doping ring.
Now the most recent release in the Steve Cline mystery series
Cold Burn has the young man working foal watch
at a Virginia thoroughbred breeding farm while trying to discover the
fate of a missing farm employee.
In order to create intricate backdrops for Clines sleuthing activities,
Ehrman, who resides in Columbus, Ind., with her husband and two teenage
boys, relies heavily on her intimate knowledge of the equine industry.
In the late 1970s, Ehrman was content to toil away at a tedious, yet
well-paying government job in Baltimore. But her career path changed
when she read a book by equine mystery novelist Dick Francis.
by Kathleen Adams
Erhman has several books on sale.
I fell in love with the whole horse environment
he depicted so well, Ehrman said of Francis. Reading his
books really put me in that world.
Soon afterward, Ehrman resigned her position and went to work at the
race track. Her job consisted of walking race horses around the barn
following their morning exercise. The process is known as hot
walking. Ehrman said she wasnt well-suited for the job.
I couldnt sleep at night. I was worried a horse would get
away from me and get hurt.
However, other horse-related jobs soon followed. Ehrmans next
stint came at a hunter-jumper show barn. She embellished her equine
resume and was offered a position cleaning stalls.
I kind of lied a little bit and said, Yes, I know how to
clean stalls, when I really had no clue, Ehrman said.
Her new employers quickly caught on when Ehrman used hay to bed down
a stall instead of straw.
Still, Ehrman persevered and within three months she was named barn
When I get involved in something, I immerse myself in it,
she explained. I started reading all the magazines I could get
my hands on. And it seemed like in a year, I knew a lot more than the
other people working there.
A life-long mystery fan, Ehrman also continued reading equine-oriented
fiction. And some 25 years later, she was ready to embark on her own
I had been reading a horse mystery that I loved that was very
funny and well-written and toward the end of the book, the writer let
her protagonist do something really risky and very dumb. I thought,
I can do better than that.
Ehrmans naivety was short-lived.
You want to get that suspense, action and danger, and its
tricky to do that and keep your protagonist smart, she said.
Yet, by all accounts, Ehrman is successful at the task. Her books not
only appeal to readers but also have received glowing reviews from both
the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times.
Barbara Peters, Ehrmans editor at Poisoned Pen Press, said few
authors achieve popularity with both fans and critics.
She knows her stuff about the horse world, Peters said.
Shes created a sympathetic, conflicted character and is
developing him across the arc of several books. You want to see
I want to see where Steve is going.
The mystery market, according to Peters, is highly competitive. After
all, readers arent just being nice when they purchase a book.
They are voting with their money and their time. Thats why, Peters
said, even minimal success is viewed as remarkable.
For any author to achieve a slice of it is like winning the Derby.
I see every day just how difficult it is.
With plans to complete one book a year, Ehrman is currently mapping
out her latest plot. Set at Churchill Downs two weeks prior to the running
of the Kentucky Derby, Ehrman says Cline unearths a scheme to illegally
place horses in The Greatest Race while investigating the murder of
a Churchill employee.
Already deep into the third chapter, Ehrman plans to spend Derby week
conducting research for her next release.
Im doing it backwards as usual, she said. Im
writing it, and then going to see the places. I have my clues in mind.
You put the most important clues at the end. Its like a road map.
Once its completed, Ehrman said the untitled work will consist
of some 95,000 words. And it will invite readers into a world that Ehrman
believes is the perfect setting for a murder mystery.
There are a lot of different layers of people who work in the
horse industry, she said. From the very wealthy, who own
the farms and the top horses, to the people who do the day-to-day work.
That brings a lot of opportunity for things to happen.
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