The life and Times of Charley Parkhurst

Bruce Von Stiers

Karen Kondazian is an actress whose work includes guest roles on shows like NYPD Blue and Frasier and in films like Cobra, Shootout At the Ok Corral and The Blue Hour. Linda is also a writer. She wrote the well-received book The Actor's Encyclopedia of Casting Directors.

Karen has also written a book on the old West. Based in fact, this novel is about the life of Charlotte “Charley” Parkhurst, a woman who lived most of her adult life as a man. The title of the novel is The Whip and was published by the Hansen Publishing Group.

The book opens with a fictitious letter to the reader dated 1901 from a writer who had an opportunity to meet Charley years earlier and who actually wrote the novel. Actually, let me back that up a minute. The book actually starts out with the poem In Blackwater Woods from the American Primitive by Mary Oliver. The poem and the letter prime the pump, so to speak, for the reader.

The reader is introduced to Charley on a day in May of 1879. The reader also gets to meet the writer, Thomas Byrne. It seems Byrne was trying to learn more about Charley and his life as a “whip” or stagecoach driver. The reader learns that although Charley looks rough and really kind of beat up, he has a gentler side. Charley's health is failing as well.

From there the novel takes the reader to Charley's beginnings. A baby was left at an orphanage in Boston in 1812. That baby became known as Charlotte. The author takes the reader through Charlotte's less than perfect childhood at the orphanage. The only shining light is an older boy named Lee who looked out for her.

As punishment for something she had no control over, Charlotte is assigned to help the stable groomsman, a craggy older black man named Jonas. This one event, this punishment, then sets the stage for the later part of the story.

The novel moves through Charlotte's life as she runs away from the orphanage, finds work as a maid and doing other menial tasks and basically laying low. Lee is always there, somewhere, somehow keeping an unhealthy grip on Charlotte's life.

Charlotte is able to escape Lee and find happiness with someone else. For a short while. And then tragedy strikes by the hand of Lee. This tragedy and the aftermath sets Charlotte on a path of retribution and vengeance. This drives her to extraordinary measures until the point where she is no longer Charlotte, but has become Charley Parkhurst, “whip” extraordinaire.

But that's only half the story. The other half tells of how Charley lives as a man and the people in his life. It covers the romantic entanglement Charley finds himself in and a possibility of having a family once again. But nothing is easy in the old West and most certainly not for Charley.

This novel is truly a mixed bag of genres There is the historical part of the story from 1812 moving forward sixty some years. Then there is the romance part; loves won and lost. And finally there is the Western lore part of the story; guns, dust and retribution. The author has blended these genres very well to tell an intriguing and thoroughly entertaining story.

The Whip is available at selected book retailers and and other online venues.

To find out more about this book and its author, visit


Back to the BVS Reviews Main Menu

© 2014 Bruce E Von Stiers