Episode 24: Sasscer Hill

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The Nikki Latrelle Mystery Novels are set in the high-stakes world of horse racing -- a world Sasscer Hill knows well and captures in vivid detail. It's impossible to talk about horse racing mysteries without giving a nod to the master, Dick Francis. But Sasscer was also influenced by Walter Farley's Black Stallion series, which she devoured as a child. She also gives a shout out to Tami Hoag and Margaret Maron, and to Dick's son, Felix, whose new series is set in the same realm as Sasscer's soon-to-be-released Fia McKee series. The first book in Sasscer's new series, Flamingo Road, comes out in early 2017. Check out Sasscer's blog for ongoing updates as well as more info on Irish Travelers, Fia McKee, and horses. ;-) As always, if you'd rather read than listen, a transcript is below. Enjoy! Transcript of Interview with Sasscer Hill Laura Brennan: My guest today is thriller author, amateur jockey and racehorse breeder, Sasscer Hill. Her Nikki Latrelle mysteries are set in a world she knows well: behind the scenes at -- and on -- the racetrack. Sasscer, thank you for joining me. Sasscer Hill: I'm delighted to be here. LB: I absolutely want to talk about writing and your books, but first, I want to talk about horses. You grew up around horses? SH: I did. I took a lot of riding lessons as a child, but it wasn't until my father died when I was 16 and a gentleman who had a lot of champion steeplechase horses took me under his wing -- he was a family friend that my family had known. And I learned almost everything I know about horses from him. And then of course I ended up buying a broodmare and had my own race horses for 30 years. So, yeah, I know a little bit race horses and horses in general. LB: It's just an, it's an entirely different world than anything I've experienced. How did you start riding competitively? SH: The gentleman who took me under his wing, as I said, was a big-time steeplechase person, and so of course he was involved in the sport. And I loved it from the get-go. I just thought it was the coolest thing in the world, racing over fences. But scary, you know? And I ended up entering some amateur, little steeplechase races and it was scary as heck, but it was a real adrenaline rush. And a lot of fun. So I stuck with that and won a big race up in Potomac one year when I was 36, and that was my big day. But it is, you connect with horses. When you're really connecting with the horse, it's like you steer him with your mind. It's incredible. LB: Well, you give your horses, and the books, they have so much personality. SH: Oh, they do in real life, not just in books. They have tremendous personality. LB: So you turned to writing, with a T, and why mysteries? What linked racing with murder for you? SH: Oh, Dick Francis, for sure. And I started out of course with Walter Farley's Black Stallion books, and they were always filled with intrigue. And of course like all of us mystery lovers, who didn't love Nancy Drew? And all those kinds books as we grew up, and as we got older we were reading all those wonderful English writers like Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie and I mean I just loved all of those. And of course I graduated to Dick Francis and that was it for me. I thought, boy, I'm gonna write like Dick Francis -- or at least in the tradition of. Nobody can write like Dick Francis, and to try, I thought, would be very foolish. Just in the tradition of. LB: I think there's a commonality though, between you and Dick Francis, in that racing comes first for your main character. SH: It does, for Nikki Latrelle. In the new books that are coming out with St. Martin's, it still at the racetrack, but now instead of a jockey, I'm dealing with a female agent who works for the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau. And that's kind of a different story line, but still it's all about the horses. Because the stories wouldn't exist if it wasn't for the horses at ...

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