Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Have you read Lindy Kelly?

For the eighth in this blog's regular series of author introductions on Kiwi crime, mystery, and thriller writers, we now take a look at the work of former equestrian Lindy Kelly, whose debut adult thriller BOLD BLOOD hit #1 on the NZ Adult Fiction charts earlier this year.

Although BOLD BLOOD was Kelly's first adult novel, it certainly wasn't her first foray into writing. She had previously published more than 100 short stories, sixteen children’s books, dozens of feature articles, 36 poems, and had her writing feature on National Radio and be performed on stage. When I interviewed her for a feature article in NZ Horse & Pony earlier this year, she said she had one goal for her first adult thriller: “I wanted to write the sort of book that I like to curl up with for sheer pleasure... you know, something with excitement and adventure, a bit of danger, likable strong characters, animals, good plot, a few mysteries, a bit of romance, humour, and passion.”

Kelly was born in 1952 and grew up on a farm just outside of Hamilton (in the North Island of New Zealand). She was an animal-lover from birth. “I was a horse-mad little girl,” she said, noting she collected horse books “ad nauseum”, drew ponies all over her school books, and “lived and breathed” horses.

Kelly still recalls her very first pony, Titch, and riding a horse named Trigger at Matangi Pony Club fifty years ago. Her childhood and teenage years were horse-centric; pony club, attending holiday camps at the NZ Equestrian Centre, and riding alongside now-legendary equestrian Mark Todd (double Olympic Gold medallist, 3-times Badminton winner, 5-times Burghley winner, double World Champion, voted IEF Rider of the 20th Century) in the Waikato.

Kelly became a championship-calibre rider on her white-stockinged, black thoroughbred Passport. “You could just travel across country with him, jumping hedges and ditches, fences and logs – nothing would stop him. And it was just this most amazing feeling of freedom; you were flying, flying through the air on this most magnificent creature… fantastic.”

Kelly and Passport were on the cusp of heading overseas with Mark Todd and others to train and compete in the United States, when tragedy struck at the 1971 New Zealand Horse Trials. Torrential rain, a dangerous course, a slip after a big drop jump, a broken leg; Lindy was faced with every rider’s worst nightmare - Passport had to be destroyed. She eventually went overseas anyway, to work in the horse industry, including in Hawaii and Canada, and studying as an instructor under champion European trainers.

On her return to New Zealand, she “taught riding for some time, then married a farmer and settled down”. They moved to Nelson, the sunshine capital of New Zealand (at the Top of the South Island) and later bought a 400-acre farm. Over the years Kelly combined having a family with a variety of jobs, including breeding “stud sheep, angora goats, thoroughbred horses and Jack Russell dogs all at different times”.

Kelly's children inspired her writing career, as she began penning stories they would enjoy, often peppering animals throughout the tales. Her first collection of short stories for adults, WEKA'S TREASURE, was published in 1995. Her writing for younger readers has appeared in a wide range of New Zealand and Australasian journals and educational publications, winning awards including the Australasian Free Xpression Literary 2000 short story award and the Southern Scribe children's short story award. Her plays for children have been performed extensively throughout New Zealand.

In a NZ Book Council interview with schoolchildren, Kelly said her favourite authors are: "Roald Dahl because I love his mischievous, black humour... [and the] other is Dick Francis because his novels are always set in a racing scene. I too love horses and have been involved with riding and racing them so I really enjoy his books and can’t wait for his new one to come out each year."

Perhaps unsurprisingly, when Kelly turned her writing hand to adult thrillers, horses naturally came to the fore. “There’s a shortage of books written in the rural setting, and I’ve never read a book that’s been written in the eventing world, so I thought there was a real gap there,” said Kelly in our interview earlier this year.

In BOLD BLOOD, a suspicious fall, a coma and a phone call destroy Dr Caitlin Summerfield’s city-living, rich boyfriend, overseas-travel filled life and reverie. She reluctantly returns ‘home’ to rural Nelson and ends up playing caretaker for her estranged but now-stricken mother’s horse farm. Helped by rugged event rider Dom and purple-headed teenage groom Kasey, she scratches beneath the surface of high-tech horse-trailers and well-fed thoroughbreds to discover looming financial ruin, and a shot at a million-dollar breeding contract. A contract someone is willing to do anything for, even kill. You can read an extract of BOLD BLOOD here.

BOLD BLOOD did well for a NZ crime/thriller title following its release this February. It hit #1 on the NZ Adult Fiction bestseller list, and stayed in the top 5 for several weeks. Kelly is currently working on her second adult thriller, as well as some other writing. She has also recently been awarded an AMP Scholarship to help her compete at the 2010 World Masters swimming championships in Sweden.

You can read more about Lindy Kelly and BOLD BLOOD in a good article by writer Nicky Pellegrino in the NZ Herald HERE and also on the NZ Book Council website HERE.

Alternatively, if you can find a hard copy of the May 2009 NZ Horse & Pony, you can also read more about Lindy Kelly in my large feature article "Horses in the Blood" in that magazine. Unfortunately that issue has not yet been archived online.

Have you read any of Lindy Kelly's work? What do you think of BOLD BLOOD (or her other writing)? Would thrillers set in the eventing and equestrian world interest you? Please share your thoughts...


  1. Thanks, Craig, for introducing us to a new author. I look forward to reading Bold Blood . I appreciate knowing about new authors and books....

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