Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Mad Men, Baby Meerkats & 1969

 by Kay Kendall

In my head these days, I’m living in 1969. I call up memories from that time period—yes, I was a sentient being back then—as I write my W.I.P. (work in progress), a historical mystery.

I call my books “historical” because, even if it’s a time period some of us can remember, that world is so long gone that it is the dead past. Sure, it has ripples into the present, but it is just plain gone.

The award-winning television series MAD MEN has helped bring this era back to fictional life. The seventh and final season of this show has begun, and the year is now 1969. The very one that I’m imagining daily in my head.

Media pundits already privileged to view the closing episodes note that 1969 brought a sour end to a decade that had begun with such bright hopes. President Kennedy’s Camelot is replaced by death at Chappaquiddick. Peace and love at Woodstock progresses to death at Altamont. Campus radicals morph into the Weather Underground . . . and even more death. The year 1969 is also when the My Lai massacre comes to light. (And Nixon becomes President. Enough said.)

Only one thing slowly gets better as the decade progresses—better opportunities for women. As luck has it, women’s liberation provides the background of my W.I.P.—murder comes to women’s lib groups in the rain-soaked cities of Vancouver and Seattle. Hence the title of my second mystery is RAINY DAY WOMEN.

Participating in the women’s movement was a salient point in my life. I remember conversations and episodes clearly from that time and can inject them into my fiction. This adds authenticity to the historical detail.

There’s just one problem. A few people don’t believe how sexist that era was. For example, one man in my writing critique group keeps protesting that males just weren’t that awful back then. He won’t believe me when I assure him that I know what I’m talking about. A twenty-something female gasped when a passage was read aloud that showed a husband ordering around his wife in a preemptory fashion. She said, “I wouldn’t have put up with s**t like that.” In that case, had she lived back then, she would have been a rare bird indeed.

Now I can give people like them—doubting Thomases and Thomasinas—an assignment. I’ll suggest they watch episodes of MAD MEN. Perhaps they will believe the television show when they don’t agree that my writing is historically accurate. (Often an outside source is handy to validate what one knows to be true. I learned that in my corporate career.)

So, where do baby meerkats enter into this—as you might wonder from the title of this post? Please bear with me as I explain. 

I’m a fairly serious person. My fiction writing and my social media posts reflect that. While I admire writers who can routinely toss off witty or humorous comments, I’m not inclined in that direction. Just look at the content of this blog!

I have noticed, however, that people who post darling photos of puppies and kittens develop a devoted following online. Therefore, lately I’ve been experimenting. I salt my Facebook pages with cute photos of baby animals, and these have garnered raves. My favorite shows a wildlife photographer who had become so much a part of some baby meerkats’ life in Botswana that they happily crawled all over him and his long telephoto lens. The money shot is of a baby meerkat standing atop the man’s head in that precious pose so beloved of all us meerkat fanciers.

My hope is that the baby animals on my Facebook pages will draw people in, and then they may stick around to read my more serious musings. That seems to be happening.

But in addition, there has been an unexpected payoff.

As I increasingly dabble in the small pleasures provided by baby meerkats, puppies, and the like, there’s been an uptick in the quality of my life. It’s great to smile more, even as I dwell mentally in that fraught year of 1969.

Here for your delight are the photos and video of baby meerkats, mentioned above. The video is especially recommended:


Kay Kendall is an international award-winning public relations executive who lives in Texas with her husband, five house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. A fan of historical mysteries, she wants to do for the 1960s what novelist Alan Furst does for Europe in the 1930s during Hitler's rise to power--write atmospheric mysteries that capture the spirit of the age.

Discover more about her at


  1. I was forced to be independent during a bit earlier in that period. Hubby was in the Seabees and spent 3--yes, three tours in Vietnam. I was the head of the household when he was gone. When he came home he'd try to tell me what to do, my answer: "You may be a Chief in the Navy, but I'm the Admiral here at home." Worked.

  2. Three tours in Vietnam, seems excessive, to say the least. Good for you, Marilyn, taking care of the important homefront.
    (as asides...My uncle was a Seebee in WWII, Pacific. Now my son is a career officer in the US Army Corps of Engineers. Lots of building in the military.)

  3. Great post, Kay. I agree with you about the treatment of women in that era. We like to think that women's lib had taken hold, especially among the younger generation, but it just wasn't true everywhere. Look at movies from that era and you'll see it all too clearly.

  4. Thanks, James. You and I are living in the same decade as we write our books. You started with the early sixties (smart move) with your debut mystery, "Styx & Stone: An Ellie Stone Mystery." It also shows how put down and put upon women were. Good to remind folks of this, I think!

  5. I hope to catch up to 1969 eventually. My first two books (Styx & Stone; No Stone Unturned) are set in 1960, and the third, Stone Cold Dead, takes place just at the start of 1961, so I'm getting closer! Your Desolation Row is set in 1968 and Rainy Day Women is 1969. Are you afraid you'll run out of 1960s soon? ;-) Or will you just continue into the 1970s?

  6. James, the current plan is to have book three in early 70s, then jump back to clear up stuff that happened in the mid sixties, but from the time frame of looking back. And then I may jump way back to Austin's grandmother, whose cousin was killed in an unsolved shooting accident in the 1920s. A real one that has always intrigued me since the story does not hold together well at all. ...I want to do a Watergate background so that's definitely 70s. I read once where the sixties that everyone thinks about started in 68 and went to 75. There is some sense to that. If I operate that way, then I should be fine. I hope!

  7. Sounds fantastic, Kay! I loved Desolation Row and am looking forward to Rainy Day Women.

  8. Thanks, James. I think it's neat we are writing about two women in the sixties...Your Ellie Stone in Styx and Stone sure has more fun than my Austin Starr has. I'm glad you like my books, and I love yours as well. Can't wait until the second comes out, on June 10. FOLKS! Here is a PW review of No Stone Unturned by James.

  9. I was a young mother in 1969. and I find Mad Men very uncomfortable. I was a corporate wife, and a little lost in that world. Your perception rings very true to me. However, I loved the meerkats. I don't think I've seen them that young. So thank you.

  10. Thank you for your comment, Lil. I hope you watched the short video. The baby meerkats are so cute, young, and fearless. I love hearing them chirping.