Finding a Date for Homecoming

Tory Bauer Mysteries by Kathleen Taylor

In the long run, I don’t think the adult psyche is well served by being popular in high school. I suppose that sounds like sour grapes, since I was always on the outside looking in, but my belief in that basic truth comes from observation, not resentment. Most of us were born ordinary. . .

That line was probably not the first time I whooped out loud at a truth in the writing of Kathleen Taylor, but it was one of the first I recorded in a list that is still growing. I found it on p. 137 of the third in the series The Hotel South Dakota, which may have been the first Taylor I discovered. (I now own them all, and for a suitable ransom, am willing to loan them to friends.) And yes, I was a nerd in grade school and high school both; I got good grades and was on the debate squad and rarely dated. But those aren’t the only reasons I find these books full of humor and truth.

All six of Kathleen Taylor’s books narrated by Tory Bauer, resident of a small town in South Dakota, have an intriguing mystery at their heart. But they also overflow with truths about life in general, with zingers that highlight life in a small rural town. In 1969, Tory Bauer was a high school sophomore, and as is the case for most girls at that age, finding a date for homecoming was “a Life and Death issue.”

Here’s a quote from the first in the series:

Delphi, South Dakota is a dusty little prairie town, the kind people drive through on their way to bigger cities. But as Tory Bauer, middle-aged, widowed, overweight, cranky waitress might say, “Everything that happens in big towns, happens here too. We just don’t look as good naked.”

Tired of mysteries where the sleuth is clever and sophisticated, and none of the people resemble anyone you know? Read Kathleen Taylor.

In 1969, prevailing wisdom dictated that the way to deal with trauma and grief was to indulge in one good cry and never think about it again . . . . “put it out of your mind”. . . .  Amnesia was encouraged.

In my childhood, we were not surrounded by counselors and others paid to help us survive. One day not long after I was dropped as a “city kid” into a rural school when my mother married a rancher, I bloodied the nose of a lout who’d been pawing girls and socking boys his entire grade school career. I’d already fought the toughest girl on the playground to a draw, but drawing his blood solidified my place in the hierarchy. Tory Bauer would understand.

Kathleen Taylor also designs knitwear, has written five knitting books, one mainstream novel, and a paper doll coloring book. She is a spinner, wife, mother, and grandmother; and she lives in Redfield, South Dakota.

Hustle down to your local library and get her books, or buy them at your favorite bookstore– you are likely to want to reread them, and pass them on to friends. In order they are, Funeral Food, Sex and Salmonella, The Hotel South Dakota, Mourning Shift, Cold Front, and Foreign Body.

Linda M. Hasselstrom
Windbreak House
Hermosa, South Dakota

© 2021, Linda M. Hasselstrom

#  #  #

8 thoughts on “Finding a Date for Homecoming

  1. Amy Nelson

    My mother in law passed away more than a decade ago. During her final weeks at home under hospice care, while she still was able to, she began to reread her beloved Kathleen Taylor mysteries. Those books brought her such enjoyment and comfort. Thank you for highlighting them.

  2. Darlene Morse

    Hello Linda! When I read this, I was unaware that you wrote this. I thought of you toward the end since it all is about South Dakota. And then there was your name. About five days ago, while I had to spend the day at home because we were having a new floor installed, I used the time researching. I thought of you and wondered if you were still doing your blog. That led me read your biography and your work to get women’s stories of their lives in SD out there. I took a break and went to see how the floor was coming. The installer was a nice young guy and we chatted. He said he moved to Ft. Collins a year or so ago from South Dakota. Since I had just been reading your blog, I asked him if he knew where Hermosa was and he said yes, his aunt lives on a ranch just outside of town. And she works as your assistant. I then retrieved all the signed copies of your books and showed him and then he went back to work on the floor. I love how we are connected.

    1. Wow! I’m stunned. I have no idea who this young man is, but I’ve sent this to my assistant so she can enlighten me. And this is so often just the way things work in South Dakota: one reason we ought to learn not to gossip! And I’m a fan of Fort Collins; spent many happy hours in the flea markets and some bars there when we lived in Cheyenne.
      I hope you have read the three women’s anthologies I co-edited with Gaydell Collier (now sadly dead) and Nancy Curtis: Leaning into the Wind, Woven on the Wind, and Crazy Woman Creek.
      Thanks for your note!

  3. I’m commenting late here. These mysteries sound like they will make good reading. The title, Funeral Food, makes me smile. I want to read it to see if my idea of Funeral Food and Taylor’s are the same. I have spent way too many hours in Nebraska church basements at funeral lunches. My niece refers to a certain jello salad that is usually on the table as “funeral fluff.” I am now going to look for Kathleen Taylor’s knitting books. I am an avid knitter these days, a beginning spinner, and in my opinion, still a writer. Last week, I pulled out one of my retreat handouts as I prepared to lead a Zoom book chat with my book group. I hope the New Year finds you with good memories and better days to come.

    1. Jane, I am so taken with the Tory Bauer mysteries that I bought several full sets and am introducing my book club to her one of these months when it’s my turn. The events of her small town in eastern SD are so like so many things that happen here that it’s like a gossip at the Ladies Aid

      Hope you are well and content

  4. 4/10/2022 I just wanted to let everyone know I am NOT dead– but the assistant who is supposed to post writing on this blog has been very busy with other matters. Stay tuned for– SOMETIME in the future– my comments on prairie birds, the ultimate turtle, the evening primrose (August), and a poem about pumice.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s