I’m honored to host day three of Kathleen Kaska’s blog tour “Travels to Austin: A Trip Back in Time.” She’s celebrating the upcoming release of her fourth Sydney Lockhart mystery, MURDER AT THE DRISKILL (Austin, Texas) by writing about famous, infamous, and legendary locales in the Texas state capital whose promo campaign is “Keep Austin Weird.” At the end of the tour, she’ll give away a signed copy of the book. To be eligible, leave a comment. Follow the other stops on the blog tour and leave comments along the way for more chances to win!
Today’s stop features the notorious Alamo Hotel. Kathleen says:
Sadly, the Alamo Hotel, built in the 1920s on the corner of Sixth Street and Guadalupe in Austin, Texas, is no longer with us. I was fortunate to have stepped into the infamous hotel before it was demolished in 1984. By the mid 1970s, the hotel had fallen on hard times and had become a hang out for drug dealers, prostitutes, and heavy boozers; so my visit inside was quick. But in its heydey, the Alamo was a fairly decent hotel. It boasted of baths in all eighty rooms and stick-to-your-ribs chow at Zekes Café on the first floor. Zekes’s was famous for its eggs and brains breakfast. The lounge also hosted its share of Austin’s live music acts, which drew the late night rabble-rousers, and often the Austin cops.
In MURDER AT THE DRISKILL, I used the Alamo as the temporary residence for two of my characters in the series, Sydney’s boyfriend and PI Ralph Dixon and his partner, Billy Ludlow. Having just moved to the Capital City, the two detectives checked in to the Alamo, which was only a few blocks from their new agency, until they could find permanent digs.
When Sydney’s cousin Ruth Echland comes to town, she discovers an “engineers’” convention has filled almost every hotel room in the city. Billy graciously books Ruth a room at the Alamo. As you can imagine if you’ve read my other Sydney mysteries, Ruth’s stay lasted a total of five minutes.
Here’s a short excerpt where Ruth, now camped in Sydney’s apartment, explains why the hotel wasn’t up to her standards:
“This sofa is comfy. You should sleep well,” she said. “And it’s a good thing I brought my own magazines, you have nothing of value to read. Those women in National Geographies have the fashion sense of a pagan. They don’t even bother with blouses.”
“National Geographic; and they are pagans. Let me guess, the Alamo Hotel wasn’t up to standard.”
“Hardly! The door was opened to the room next to mine and there was this half-naked man passed out on the bed. His snoring rattled the walls. The sheets on my bed were dingy yellow and there were no hangers in the closet. Staying with you isn’t much better, but it will be for one night only. Thank God I will be at the Driskill tomorrow night once those train guys leave.”
I think about the old Alamo Hotel every time I visit Austin and lay my head on a pillow. On the very spot where the Alamo was located stands a new hotel, which is where I choose to stay when I’m in town. It’s not the Driskill, but I think even Ruth would approve.
Although the Alamo Hotel is no longer, you can get a peek at its interior and that of Zeke’s Cafe, by checking out Willie Nelson and Merle Haggards’s “Pancho and Lefty” YouTube music video.
Now here’s a taste of MURDER AT THE DRISKILL:
You’d think that newspaper reporter Sydney Lockhart, comfortable at home in Austin, Texas, could stay away from hotels and murders therein. But when she and her detective boyfriend, Ralph Dixon, hang out a shingle for their new detective agency, they immediately land a high-profile case, which sends them to the swanky Driskill Hotel. Businessman Stringer Maynard has invited them to a party to meet his partner/brother-in-law, Leland Tatum, who’s about to announce his candidacy for governor. Maynard needs their help because Tatum is hanging out with the wrong crowd and jeopardizing his chances for winning the election. Before Sydney can finish her first martini, a gunshot sounds and Leland Tatum is found murdered in a suite down the hall.
History, music, and mystery – what’s not to love? Here are the links to other stops on Kathleen’s blog tour:
11/24 Condo Douglas
11/25 Lois Winston
11/28 Helen Fairfax
Kathleen Kaska writes the award-winning Sydney Lockhart mysteries. Her first two books MURDER AT THE ARLINGTON and MURDER AT THE LUTHER, were selected as bonus-books for the Pulpwood Queens Book Group, the largest book group in the country. Kaska also writes the Classic Triviography Mystery Series. Her Alfred Hitchcock and the Sherlock Holmes trivia books were finalists for the 2013 EPIC award in nonfiction. Her nonfiction book, THE MAN WHO SAVED THE WHOOPING CRANE: THE ROBERT PORTER ALLEN STORY (University Press of Florida) was published in 2012.
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