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Karen Kondazian and Louis L’Amour: A Review



When the Going Gets Tough


Katherine Hauswirth


Besides meeting kindred spirits, one of the nicest things about this column is the access to books of all kinds from publishers and publicists. These perks include genres that don’t usually draw me, and I surprised myself when I signed on to read the novel The Whip. Normally reading “a piece of the “Old West” in a cover blurb would have me passing on the book. But this one had a hook.

 Charley Parkhurst, when she was alive, was known far and wide as a brave and highly skilled stagecoach driver. Women didn’t drive stagecoaches, you say? Well, she lived most of her life as a man; it was only after her death that Charley’s gender was discovered, to the incredulous surprise of the “tough guys” who (thought they) knew “him.”

 Author Karen Kondazian found a gem when she found Charley’s story, and she’s done a good job polishing and embellishing it. There isn’t a lot of verifiable information about Charley’s life, and Kondazian discloses up front that she’s made up some historical details. It is a novel, after all. But the draw of the story, for me, was that it was based on someone who must have had one heck of an adventure, whether or not the novel gets the particulars exactly right.

Newest Book Review for The Whip


08-31-12: Karen Kondazian Cracks ‘The Whip’

Stages of Identity

There’s always some true story out there that’s stranger than fiction. The question facing a writer is whether or not to tell the story as fiction, or simply write a work of non-fiction. If you choose the latter, you can be limited by what we know of the subject; if that adds up to “not much,” then your book is going to end up being mostly conjecture. But if you choose to fictionalize a real-life “stranger than fiction” story, you run the risk of writing a novel less interesting than reality.

It’s a matter of balance with this sort of material and Karen Kondazian gets the balance right with ‘The Whip,’ a slim, smart western based on the story of Charlotte “Charley” Parkhurst. Here’s the backstory; Charley Parkhurst, brought up as an orphan, was a renowned stagecoach driver in California for Wells Fargo (called a “whip,” thus the title) who had runs from Watsonville to Santa Cruz and from San Francisco to Sacramento. When he died in 1879, it was revealed that he had been a woman living as a man for the last 30 years; moreover, evidence showed that Charlotte had at one time borne a child. A small dress was tucked away in a chest. That’s pretty much what we know.

Elan Woman Magazine Spotlights Karen Kondazian’s “The Whip”

Karen’s career began at age eight when she was chosen to be one of the infamous children on Art Linkletter’s “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” The opportunity to miss school during tapings was all it took for Karen to abandon her life’s goal of becoming a spy and focus on acting. She completed her B.A. at San Francisco State College, and Karen then continued her schooling at The University of Vienna and The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts.

Karen’s first professional acting work was in the award winning off-Broadway production of The Trojan Women. Her theater career has included starring opposite Ed Harris (be still my heart) in Sweet Bird of Youth, Stacy Keach in Hamlet, and Richard Chamberlain in Richard II. She won the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Actress in The Rose Tattoo, (in which her work as actor and producer so impressed Tennessee Williams that they became friends and he gave her carte blanche to produce any of his work in his lifetime).

Karen in Front of the Wells Fargo Silver Reef Museum

The Whip Newsletter – June Issue

Click to read our June Issue of The Whip Newletter

Click to read our June Issue of The Whip Newletter

From the Page to the Screen with Jan Wahl

NBC’s Jan Wahl takes on The Whip

Hi Whip fans! We’ve got some exciting news!


San Francisco television (KRON/NBC) film critic and historian Jan Wahl has invited Karen Kondazian, author of The Whip, to discuss her book on Ms. Wahl’s television show on June 2nd. They’ll be chatting about Charley Parkhurst, the inspiration behind The Whip, and about the fascinating process of transforming this great summer read into a big screen adaptation.

 “I read the entire book in three days… really a great story. I saw the movie all the way through the book…” — Jan Wahl

Hilary Swank in "Boys Don't Cry"

The film Albert Nobbs recently showed us women of the same timeframe who lived as men in Ireland. Albert is remote and scared even in this courageous choice, but his friend, played brilliantly by Janet McTeer, reminds me a great deal in looks and the gruff-but-kind temperament of our Charley. Charley also has a wit, born of survival skills and intelligence. I would have liked to know Charley, and now I feel I have met her.

Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan in "I'm Not There"

Our First Newsletter

Click to Read Our First Newsletter

Click to Read Our First Newsletter

Praise from Barnes & Noble for Karen Kondazian

Store Manager Recommends The Whip


Booksellers from ’round the globe have received this lovely letter from Barnes & Noble store manager Danyel Lund in St. George, UT. The Barnes & Noble at Red Cliffs Mall played host to Karen and many of her fans for a book signing earlier this month.

Thanks Danyel!



Article in San Francisco Books & Travel – Winter 2011/12


COWBOY UP: Art Kusnetz reviews Karen Kondazian’s The Whip


One thing I learned growing up around horses is an appreciation for Cowboy culture. Cowboys by nature tend to use idioms as shorthand to express their feelings. For example, “I loved you better than my horse.” This means I’m breaking up with you and I regret my foolishness for letting you into my heart—a mistake which I now recognize and rectify. Cowboy culture can be both a philosophy for life and a mindset for dealing with the world. This mindset lends itself to great stability especially in the face of adversity and is often invoked by the simple phrase, “Cowboy Up.”

Like a nugget of gold pulled from the riffles, Karen Kondazian’s debut novel The Whip embodies this cowboy culture. The Whip is based on the true life story of Charlotte “Charley” Parkhurst, who, for thirty years, passed as a man. Working as a Whip, a stage coach driver, for Wells Fargo, she became one of the best at her job and that was before she shot and killed a notorious bandit in a gunfight! Her secret only became known upon her death—her motivations remained a mystery.

BookBabe Review of The Whip


The Whip by Karen Kondazian

by Tara Chevrestt, Book Babe Blog


Charley Parkhurst was a stagecoach driver for 30 years. Charley Parkhust was really Charlotte. She started out as an abandoned baby in on an orphanage step and became a drinking, shooting, tobacco spitting, revenge getting stagecoach driver. This is her story.

The orphanage: A cruel headmistress goes too far with her punishments. On one hand, she accidentally introduces Charley to her lifelong love: horses. On the other hand, she turns a kind and caring boy into the makings of a monster. This boy was Charley’s protector and will soon become her enemy.

Rhode Island: Charley falls in love, but the rest of society, and namely, her “brother” don’t agree with her choice of love interest. The loss of her man and her baby lead to the loss of her femininity as she dons male attire and becomes a stagecoach driver in order to travel to California to hunt down and kill her husband’s killer. But will she get her revenge before the man can do her, her life, and her loved ones more damage? Will she be able to do what needs to be done? Life hasn’t been good to her as a woman that’s for sure. Will it treat her better as a man?

Jim Beaver Quote on “The Whip”


Star of HBO’s Deadwood and author of Life’s That Way.


Jim Beaver

“I pretty much owe my career to Karen Kondazian. She championed and produced my play VERDIGRIS, which led to my being signed by a giant agency and subsequently to my career writing and acting in television and films. For years I’ve been hearing about this astonishing true story she was turning into a novel, and finally it’s out. It’s an amazing tale about a strong, passionate and determined woman, a real-life heroine who lived her life as one tough hombre — one tough *male* hombre — in the Old West.”

“Please get yourself a copy. It’s a wonderful read.”

– Jim Beaver


Jim Beaver's Book "Life's that Way"


Buy Jim Beaver’s book Life’s That Way at Amazon.com.