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Author Update 2024: Robert D. Kidera

Robert D. Kidera is a podcaster, a baseball nerd, and the author of the award-winning Gabe McKenna Mystery Series. Book six of the series, BURN SCARS (Black Range Publishing, May 2024), finds Gabe “caught in the crossfire between two cartels warring for control of fentanyl trafficking in New Mexico.” Look for Bob on his website and on Facebook. Read more about him and the Gabe McKenna books in his 2015, 2017, 2019, and 2021 interviews.

When readers turn the last page of BURN SCARS, what do you hope they take away from it?
I hope my readers feel it has been time well spent and that they have enjoyed reuniting with Gabe McKenna and his friends (and enemies). The story has a serious purpose, as it asks how much one should be willing to risk righting the wrongs of this world. I want that question to resonate with my readers and perhaps spur them to examine that challenge for themselves.

The fifth book of the Gabe McKenna mysteries, A LONG TIME TO DIE, concluded the series in 2021 with a wrap up of the story arcs. What made you come back to the series and give readers another look at your main character’s life?
Writers can only write the stories they have. Last year, I took a respite from the Gabe McKenna series to write a standalone novella, CHANDLER IS DEAD, and have been working on a historical fiction novel, HELL SHIP, for the past three years. But this new Gabe story popped into my head, and I developed it because I enjoy telling stories about Gabe McKenna and had many requests from my readers for a new novel in the series.

Tell us about the journey from inspiration to completed book for this sixth in the series.
BURN SCARS took me sixteen months from concept to realization. Raymond Chandler once said that stories must marinate before they can be written well, so when the story idea occurred to me, I gave it a good think before going to the keyboard. In each of the Gabe McKenna books, I feature a different one of Gabe’s friends as his main “sidekick.” This time, I chose his personal lawyer, Erskine Pelfrey III, an unassuming man who could walk into an empty room and get lost in the crowd. I had a lot of fun developing their relationship and bringing Erskine into the story as one of the heroes.

You’ve described Gabe McKenna as a guy to be counted on, one who has a basic honor and decency to him, even if he does tend to go off recklessly from time to time. And as a former boxer, he can be knocked down, but not out. Who are some of your other returning characters?
Gabe is at a different stage of his life in this story. He’s pushing sixty, a bit unsettled and ready for a rest. But his previous deeds have left him with enemies unwilling to forgive and forget. He also needs his friends much more in this adventure, and it takes the cooperative effort of Gabe, Erskine, Onion, Sam, C.J., and even a couple of federal agents to carry the day.

New Mexico is the main setting of the series. What areas of the state do you take readers to this time?
Aside from Laguna Pueblo, where Gabe is living when the story begins, the action centers around a small settlement town of Marquez in Sandoval County and at a remote mesa that straddles Guadalupe and Quay Counties and, of course, Albuquerque and Santa Fe. There’s a brief detour north to Colorado. Gabe travels in this story by horse, SUV, private aircraft, and even a jazzed-up motor home.

What are some of the more interesting facts you discovered while doing research for the book?
I delved into more of the mining history of New Mexico, but most of the research I had to do dealt with the current scourge of foreign drug cartels operating in our state. It’s a far more complicated and deep-rooted problem than people generally realize and not much of it gets into the news.

Amazon categorizes BURN SCARS as Vigilante Justice, Noir Crime, and Organized Crime. If you didn’t have the limitations of Amazon categories, how would you characterize the book?
I don’t like the Amazon categories because they suggest your story and characters can be pigeonholed or understood simplistically. BURN SCARS is my longest book to date, and as the sixth entry in an ongoing series, the characters, their actions, and motivations have become more nuanced and complex. I advise disregarding categories and letting the story and its characters unfold for you in surprising ways.

What’s on your to-read pile? Who is your favorite fictional character?
Atop my read pile right now are books by New Mexico authors: The Wide, Wide Sea, which just came out, by Hampton Sides; Joe Badal’s Everything to Lose, the only one of his books I have yet to read; and Anne Hillerman’s Lost Birds. My favorite fictional character? Philip Marlowe, like Gabe McKenna, a hero neither tarnished nor afraid.

Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
Audio. Now that I am producing two podcasts, I am exploring sound as a persuasive medium. Audible has turned several of my novels into audiobooks, but I am excited at the chance to produce audio versions of all my novels on my own. I’ll start that project later this year and into 2025.

What writing projects are you working on now?
Once BURN SCARS is out the door, I’m returning to HELL SHIP, the historical fiction novel I started a few years ago. In MIDNIGHT BLUES, I killed off an elderly World War II vet named Phil Friganza. I miss the guy. So, I’m making him the hero of this story and bringing him back to life, so to speak. I’m also going to be working on the audiobooks I mentioned and transitioning my podcasts from audio to audio with video and posting them on YouTube. I’ve been asked if there will be any more Gabe McKenna novels. Well, you never say never again.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kat has a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

Author Update 2021: Robert D. Kidera

Robert D. Kidera is a retired teacher turned award-winning author of the Gabe McKenna mystery series. A LONG TIME TO DIE (May 2021), released through Black Range Publishing, is the fifth and final book in that series. Bob is a member of SouthWest Writers, Sisters in Crime, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and International Thriller Writers. You’ll find him on his website and on Facebook. Read more about Bob and the Gabe McKenna series in his 2015, 2017, and 2019 interviews.

What would you like readers to know about the story you tell in A LONG TIME TO DIE?
A LONG TIME TO DIE is the culminating novel in the Gabe McKenna Series. It relates the final reckoning for Gabe in his struggles against evil that began six years ago in RED GOLD. He faces daunting questions about himself and all that he has done. Ultimately, it’s the problem of how we can confront and combat evil without becoming evil ourselves.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
Since this book concludes the series (at least for now) it presented the challenge of how to tell a taut, self-contained story while at the same time wrapping up the story arcs that have been going on for all five books in the series.

Who are your main characters, and what would their best friends and worst enemies think about them?
Gabe Mckenna is my protagonist, as he has been throughout the series. In each of my books, I have given him a different “side-kick” and a different challenge. Gabe’s best friends know him as a guy to be counted on, one who has a basic honor and decency to him, even if he does tend to go off recklessly from time to time. His enemies are frustrated in their desire to put an end to Gabe’s efforts to thwart them once and for all. A former boxer, Gabe is the kind of guy who can be knocked down, but not out.

When did you know the protagonist or his story was strong enough for a series?
I realized this when Suspense Publishing not only accepted RED GOLD for publication but asked me to make at least a three-book series out of Gabe McKenna.

How did A LONG TIME TO DIE come together?
This book came together more gradually than its predecessors. It took me about two years to get the concept together, tell the story, and go through the editing cycle, and this process was further stretched out because of the COVID-19 pandemic and a resulting backlog at my publisher. This was one of the reasons I came to the decision of forming my own publishing company and taking greater control of the process.

Tell us about the “journey” of choosing the title.
I had several different working titles before settling on A LONG TIME TO DIE. Gabe has struggled with accepting loss throughout this series. I wanted this book title to reflect what he has come to realize. That is, Gabe realizes that the toughest loss is the loss of love in his life, and that pain takes a long time to die.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
The best part was putting it out under my own imprint, and then reissuing all the previous Gabe McKenna novels through Black Range Publishing, my new company.

What do you want to be known for as an author?
Most of all, I’d like to be known for my latest book being my best.

What is the greatest tool in a writer’s arsenal?
Aside from the ability to tell a good story, the writer’s greatest tool is the willingness to put in their best effort every day.

What typically comes first for you: a character, a setting, a story idea?
The characters always come first. Always.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I am currently working on a historical novel, HELL SHIP, about a young man from Northern New Mexico who endures captivity as a Japanese POW during World War II.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I now have my own publishing company, Black Range Publishing, and will be starting my own twice-monthly podcast, THE BLACK RANGE PUB, at the end of August. I hope my readers will also enjoy my podcasts, which celebrate the people, history and culture of the American Southwest.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

Author Update: Robert D. Kidera

Robert D. Kidera is the author of the award-winning Gabe McKenna Mystery series with four books released through Suspense Publishing since 2015. His newest novel, Midnight Blues (2018), deals with the timely topic of human trafficking. You’ll find Bob on his website and on Facebook. Read more about Bob and the Gabe McKenna series in his 2015 and 2017 interviews.

What is your elevator pitch for Midnight Blues?
How far would you go to save a child? How high a price are you willing to pay?

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
The Gabe McKenna novels have all had a humorous dimension to them. But this novel deals with a very serious and disturbing reality. It was a difficult balancing act.

Who are your main characters in the book?
In Midnight Blues, I surrounded my protagonist Gabe McKenna with an unusual ensemble of allies: a reclusive 93 year-old World War II desert rat, a dwarf with a Thompson submachine gun, a thrice-divorced childhood friend on the run from his alimony obligations, an Apache long-haul trucker, a college professor who has lost all her grant funding, and a gimpy-legged former prize fighter who drives a hearse but serves the best barbecue in town. And the bad guys are bad: MS-13-cartel-bad. It’s an interesting mix.

Tell us about the plot development and how long it took to write the story.
The plot of Midnight Blues borrows elements from The Hero’s Journey, The Wizard of Oz, and The Magnificent Seven. I had the general structure when I started, but many additional twists and turns presented themselves along the way. It all took me one year—seven months for the first draft, four months of revisions, one month working through edits with my publisher.

What makes this novel unique in the mystery genre?
The topic of human trafficking has not often been the focus of mysteries down through the years. And I am donating a quarter of my profits to local and state agencies that combat human trafficking and need our support.

Was there anything surprising you discovered while doing research for the book?
Indeed, there was. I had no idea of the extent of the problem I was writing about, especially here in New Mexico and on the Pueblos and Reservations. I was appalled.

What was your favorite part of putting together Midnight Blues?
Aside from getting to create so many interesting characters, the most enjoyable part of writing any novel is when you finish it!

Of your four finished novels, which one did you enjoy writing the most, and which was the most challenging?
My first novel, Red Gold, presented the greatest challenge. I was still learning the ropes while I wrote it and needed nearly three years to complete it to my satisfaction. I enjoy each of my novels in different ways—they all present their own challenges and rewards. Like kids, you love them all.

You didn’t get serious about writing fiction until later in life. What did your mature self bring to the writing table that your younger self never could have?
By the time you’ve lived sixty years, you have greater insight into the human character and the strengths and weaknesses we all have. Or you should, if you’ve been paying attention.

What is the hardest part of writing?
Knowing where to start your story and knowing where to finish it.

What do many beginning writers misunderstand about telling a story?
That it’s just as much—if not more—about characters than about plot.

Do you have writing rituals or something you absolutely need in order to write?
Not really. I’m pretty flexible about my writing process. I don’t even need coffee.

What kinds of scenes do you find most difficult to write?
Definitely the sex/love scenes. They keep turning out too funny.

What projects are you working on now?
I’m finishing the fifth Gabe McKenna novel, On Beyond Midnight, and deep into research on Hellship, my first stab at historical fiction.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
How much I appreciate them.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

Author Updates: Robert Kidera & Patricia Smith Wood

Robert Kidera and Patricia Smith Wood both write mystery thrillers set in New Mexico, and both have been busy writing and publishing since their respective interviews for SouthWest Writers (SWW) in 2015.

Red Gold (2015) is the first novel in Bob Kidera’s Gabe McKenna mystery series released by Suspense Publishing. The book introduces Gabe, a man dealing with grief and personal demons, who searches for a lost treasure (and reasons to live and love again) and finds a world of violence and deceit at every turn. In Get Lost (2016), Gabe fights bloodthirsty criminals while racing to uncover the connection between seven corpses buried in his barn and the murder of an old friend. The newest installment, Cut.Print.Kill. (2017), finds Gabe working as a movie consultant. Illusion, deceit, drug cartels. Murder and mystery. Gabe McKenna battles it all to uncover the truth in a web of lies.

With Cut.Print.Kill. just released, that makes three books published in the Gabe McKenna mystery series in two years. What was your secret to getting those books done?
I work on my writing every day—writing new chapters, editing existing ones, critiquing, researching, developing my social media platform, or reading in my genre. Usually a work day includes a combination of those activities. If you want to be a writer, you need to make it happen. And because my writing career was delayed until later in life, I came to it with a full load of stories and characters who’ve rattled around inside me for much of my life. It’s the application of a lifetime of daydreaming.

What do you focus on to keep readers coming back for more of Gabe McKenna?
There are only so many plot lines out there, so for me it’s all about the characters. I’ve created an ensemble of compelling and quirky people around Gabe. It makes for a richer, more engaging reading experience. Unlike other series (think Holmes & Watson, etc.), Gabe has a different “co-star” in each novel. It makes him more multi-faceted and gives each book its own flavor. One of the challenges of writing a series is character consistency from book to book, even as they change with every story. I have a backstory framework for each of my major characters that gives them distinct identities in my mind as I write.

What is the best compliment you’ve received as an author?
While I’m grateful for the recognition and awards I’ve won, what matters more to me are the comments from my readers about how much they’ve enjoyed my books and characters. One compliment I’ve received a number of times is from former New Mexicans who feel a reconnection with their pasts and this land from reading my books. It’s great to hear that!

If the stars aligned, what television or movie series would you love to write for?
There are so many. Guess I’m a frustrated screenwriter. For starters, any of John Ford’s westerns—damn that would be a dream come true. Guilty pleasure? I’d love to write a Charlie Chan script just for kicks. As far as television, I wish I could’ve worked on or written for Longmire, a series just concluded here in New Mexico. Or Bosch, Michael Connelly’s LA detective series now on Amazon Prime. Great stuff. My absolute, ultimate dream would be to write a new Philip Marlowe novel, like Robert Parker was allowed to do with Perchance to Dream. An ego-tripping pipe-dream, but why not aim high?

In your last interview for SWW you mentioned writing a historical novel inspired by short stories from Black Range Tales (a depiction of 19th Century New Mexican mining days written in 1936 by James A. McKenna). How’s that project coming along?
It’s still in the planning stages. I’ve gotten a stronger response to my Gabe McKenna novels than expected, so I’ll write a fourth book for the series (Midnight Blues). I hope to have it out by the end of 2018. It pits Gabe and The Onion against child sex traffickers in Northern New Mexico, so it’s got a rougher edge than my earlier novels. I’ll write my historical novel after that. I’ve even formed my own imprint, Black Range Books, to publish it. As to Gabe McKenna’s future, I’ll likely do short stories or novellas after Midnight Blues, if my readers are still out there.

Read more about Bob and his mystery series in his first interview for SWW, and connect with him on Facebook and his website

In the first novel of Patricia Smith Wood’s Harrie McKinsey Mysteries (published by Aakenbaaken & Kent), murder and attempted murder follow Harrie’s acceptance of an editing job for a book about The Easter Egg Murder (2013), a sixty-year-old unsolved case. In trying to discover who wants to destroy the book and its author, Harrie and her business partner Ginger face off against a killer with nothing to lose. Murder on Sagebrush Lane (2015) begins with the discovery of a child alone in Harrie’s flower garden that leads to murder investigations, attempted kidnaping, stolen top-secret data, and a killer out for more blood. In Murder on Frequency (2017), Harrie and Ginger investigate the mystery of an amateur radio (ham) operator still broadcasting five years after his death. The mystery points to the trail of a long-lost treasure and drags the sleuths into murder, abduction, and a showdown with the Mafia.

You’ve written three novels in the Harrie McKinsey mystery series. Did Harrie still surprise you as you wrote her story for Murder on Frequency?
Harrie always surprises me. It’s the strangest thing. I sit down to write and put my hands on the keyboard. I get a glimpse of an idea about what that chapter will cover, and before I know it, Harrie has taken over and gone off in a different direction. People often ask me if she is based on me. I usually say, “No,” but I suppose a tiny part of her is. The rest of her is some reckless adventurer I am absolutely not!

What was the most challenging part of writing Murder on Frequency, and what was the easiest?
I was concerned with keeping a balance between too much amateur radio and not enough to satisfy my ham radio friends. The hams have been among my most faithful fans and have asked to have ham radio be a part of the books from the very first one. I’m pleased so many people have given me feedback that there’s enough amateur radio in the book to satisfy the licensed hams among us, without overwhelming the folks who don’t know amateur radio still exists. The easiest part was finding ways for Harrie and Ginger to keep getting into trouble.

Why did you choose New Mexico as the setting for your books?
Back in the 60s I discovered author Ursula Curtis. She frequently set her mysteries in Albuquerque, and I was so delighted to read them and feel part of the book because of the familiar setting. It occurred to me I could do that for other readers who live in New Mexico, and Albuquerque in particular. I also thought it would be fun to educate people in the rest of the country that New Mexico is actually a part of the United States, populated with people just like them. I’ve received good feedback because of that decision. Plus, I’ve lived here most of my life, and they say you should write about what you know.

What are the hardest kinds of scenes for you to write?
The most difficult scenes have always been the ones where Harrie (or some other character) is put in danger. I’m a softy at heart, and I never want my “friends” to be injured or traumatized. But in writing mysteries, you have to do that occasionally. So, I’ve tried to keep it minimal and focus instead on the characters using their brain power to extract themselves from danger. I also get annoyed with authors who consistently bash their protagonists over the head, and then they never suffer any permanent damage from it. To me that gives false comfort that head injuries are not that serious.

What writing project(s) are you working on now?
I’m currently deep into the fourth book in the series, Murder at the Petroglyphs. The subject was suggested by my dear husband, and I’m really enjoying it. I started using the Scrivener writing program with this book. I don’t know if that’s the reason, but the writing process is easier than in the previous mysteries. I’m having a lot of fun, and I’m loving the research portion of the writing this time. I’m aiming to have Petroglyphs ready by first quarter 2018.

Read more about Pat and her Harrie McKinsey series in her first interview for SWW, and connect with her on and on Facebook and Twitter.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. She has a new speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

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