Mystery writer

Author Erhman participates
in jewelry store’s equestrian line unveiling

By Kathleen Adams
Contributing Writer

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.

Kit Ehrman

Photo by Kathleen Adams

Kit Ehrman recently signed
her books at a local store.

That’s because Ehrman’s specialty is equine mysteries. The venues in which Ehrman’s stories take place are the gritty and often times glamorous worlds of show horses and thoroughbred race horses.
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 Cline’s personal relationships are strained, he moves smoothly within the horse industry.
Nine days prior to the world’s 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 writer’s 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.
“I’ve 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. “We’re 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 Man’s 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 Cline’s 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.

Kit Ehrman books

Photo by Kathleen Adams

Kit 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 wasn’t well-suited for the job.
“I couldn’t sleep at night. I was worried a horse would get away from me and get hurt.”
However, other horse-related jobs soon followed. Ehrman’s 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 manager.
“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 writing career.
“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.’”
Ehrman’s naivety was short-lived.
“You want to get that suspense, action and danger, and it’s 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, Ehrman’s 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. “She’s 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 aren’t just being nice when they purchase a book. They are voting with their money and their time. That’s 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.
“I’m doing it backwards as usual,” she said. “I’m writing it, and then going to see the places. I have my clues in mind. You put the most important clues at the end. It’s like a road map.”
Once it’s 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.”

Back to May 2005 Articles.



Copyright 1999-2015, Kentuckiana Publishing, Inc.

Pick-Up Locations Subscribe Staff Advertise Contact Submit A Story Our Advertisers Columnists Archive Area Links Area Events Search our Site Home Monthly Articles Calendar of Events Kentucky Speedway Madison Chautauqua Madison Ribberfest Madison Regatta