You can take the girl out of Texas, but you can’t take Texas out of the girl, according to actress Janine Turner. She might have been talking about award-winning author LynDee Walker, whose second book in her Faith McClellan Texas Ranger series, LEAVE NO STONE, launched in November.
Although she now lives in the Richmond area in Virginia, Walker grew up in North Central Texas and worked as an award-winning journalist there for almost 10 years. To her, “writing about the broad skies, the roadside waves of spring bluebonnets, or the parched brown summer fields, is writing about home.”
As a journalist, she covered Texas Rangers cases, but Walker says, “I think the legends and lore surrounding the organization have fascinated me since I was a little girl watching old westerns on Sunday afternoons with my grandmother. Faith has been a really fun character to get to know.”
In LEAVE NO STONE, Ranger Faith McClellan sets out to find a missing woman, but soon finds herself enmeshed in a hunt for a clever and sadistic serial killer. It’ll take all of the skill Faith and her partner Archie Baxter can muster to find the missing woman before the killer strikes again.
LEAVE NO STONE follows Walker’s highly successful series debut, Fear No Truth. “My worst personal fear inspired it,” Walker says. “That idea was one of those lightning-bolt-out-of-a-clear-sky moments.”
Walker also writes the seven-and-counting series about journalist Nichelle Clarke.
“While both series feature strong women, they’re very different,” Walker says. “Nichelle has to find a way into ongoing investigations while navigating deadlines and trying to scoop other media outlets. Faith is usually in the middle of the investigation at hand, trying to catch her culprit while dodging the media. My agent made me see that Faith could carry her own series. He loved the first book, but most of all he loved Faith. He encouraged me to make her the main character and think more in terms of a series than a standalone. He was right—he has a habit of being that—and I look forward to many more cases for Faith.”
What makes Faith tick? “Faith’s biggest fear is that her older sister’s murder will never be solved, and she’ll never have a chance to make sense of the pivotal event in her life to this point. It drives her in so many ways,” Walker says. “From her talent for dealing with the families of victims in her own work, to her relentless pursuit of answers in cases other officers might give up on. The deep understanding of the impact violent crimes have on those left behind—particularly in the early hours and days—and the heart she has for helping people even as she’s working her investigation are Faith’s biggest assets as a law enforcement professional.”
In her desperate search for the missing woman, Faith has to take over the case from the local police. “A hard reality many people don’t think about is that police departments, like any other professional organization, run on people and money. Those resources are finite, and when they get stretched thin, some things take priority over others, not because the command staff and officers don’t care. They’re forced to make a thousand hard choices every day. This can be particularly stark in small departments. In LEAVE NO STONE, the local police were happy to hand Lindsey’s file over to Faith when she showed up asking questions.”
The story has plenty of twists and turns. “I so wish I could plan plot points in advance. Being a total pantser has put me in more than one awkward conversation with a reader when they say, ‘And I loved this twist, I never saw it coming,’ and I say, ‘I know, right?’ because I didn’t see that thing coming either until I was typing along, and all of a sudden there it was. The downside of writing to discover the story, as I do, is that it can leave you with a lot of revising to fit all the pieces together.”
Faith’s partner, Archie Baxter, also is multi-faceted. Walker says, “I love Archie. He’s a lot like my father-in-law who’s a retired police officer, and my favorite uncle who’s a firefighter, rolled into one tough, cynical old cop. Archie has devoted his life to public service. He skipped his chance to have a family of his own in pursuit of the greater good, moving up the ranks to the governor’s protection detail, where he met 10-year-old Faith because he was her father’s bodyguard. He’s the dad Faith always wanted because he’s the dad I always wanted—and he loves Faith like the daughter he never had. His scenes are some of my favorites to write, and I adore learning more about him with every book.”
Walker also found inspiration in the history of the Texas Rangers. “Faith was very stubborn about whom she wanted to be, but what fueled my early interest in her character was the history of women in the Rangers. There were none until 1993, when Governor Ann Richards signed a law that said qualified women had to be admitted. By comparison, the FBI had three female agents by the mid 1920s. Seeing an extremely focused and talented female officer navigate being among the first 20 or so women to do a job even in 2018 added a dimension to my curiosity about Faith and her story that kept me digging deeper: what would possibly motivate Faith to reach for it? That became the central question that built almost everything about her.”
The second book in a series can be more challenging than the first. Walker “definitely felt the pressure to make this one rise above the bar—I was so glad so many folks loved Faith after the first book. I wanted to prove to myself, the publisher, and my readers that Faith had more than one story to tell. The way the story came to me in pieces made it kind of a bear to get in order, but I’m proud of this book and think it lives up to the promise of the first in the series.”
Walker plans to continue both the Faith McClellan series and the Nichelle Clarke series for her loyal fans. “Faith’s next case may involve a political issue of some sort, but that’s about all I have so far—I won’t start writing that book until January. I’m excited to see Faith moving in that world and how her father’s connections will affect her ability to do her job in both good and bad ways. I finished the draft of the next Nichelle Clarke novel on Halloween. It’s titled Hidden Victims, and it’s scheduled for release in April 2020. I can safely say Nichelle has never had a story with this many dead bodies. I hope readers will find a new series favorite in this book.”
Will Faith and Nichelle ever meet? “Quite possibly!” Walker says. “I can see Nichelle going to Texas to visit her mother and somehow getting pulled into a case Faith is working. But no definite plans, so no promises.”
We’ll just have to wait and see.
LynDee Walker is the national bestselling author of two crime fiction series featuring strong heroines and “twisty, absorbing” mysteries. Her first Nichelle Clarke crime thriller, Front Page Fatality, was a finalist for the Agatha Award for best first novel, and in 2018, she introduced readers to Texas Ranger Faith McClellan in Fear No Truth. Reviews have praised her work as “well-crafted, compelling, and fast-paced,” and “an edge-of-your-seat ride” with “a spider web of twists and turns that will keep you reading until the end.”
Before she started writing fiction, LynDee was an award-winning journalist who covered everything from ribbon cuttings to high-level police corruption. Her work has appeared in newspapers and magazines across the US.
Aside from books, LynDee loves her family, her readers, travel, and coffee. She lives in Richmond, Virginia, where she is working on her next novel when she’s not juggling laundry and children’s sports schedules.
To learn more about the author and her work, please visit her website.