Warsaw Author Hits The Big Time With Novel Series

Judy Kramer
County Reporter
Richard Houston, local creator of a series of mysteries that are solved by a Golden Retriever, has reached a comfortable level of success during the five years he has been publishing his books.  His first mystery, “A View to Die For,” came out in 2012. His fourth book “Letters to Die For” was purchased by 7,000 readers in one day and was recognized as one of USA Today’s Best Sellers in September of 2016 and 2017. It received recognition from Amazon, and Goodreads.com, and was recently in the Barnes and Noble Top 100 Nook Books list, beating out “The Girl on the Train,” written by Paula Hawkins. He also made it to the top on Apple’s iBooks.
Houston’s books in the “To Die For” series are “A View to Die For,” 2012; “A Book to Die For,” 2014; “A Treasure to Die For,” 2015; “Letters to Die For,” 2016;  and “A Relic to Die For,”  2017. His sixth book, “A Secret to Die For,” is being released this month.  
According to an October 7, 2016 article in the Sedalia Democrat about Houston, all of these books feature Jake Martin, a handyman who is a burned-out software engineer. He is accompanied everywhere by his Golden Retriever, Fred. The main character is a reflection of Houston’s life, and Fred was his pet of the same name and breed, who died in 2013. The article also quoted Houston when he stated “These are sort of what they call a cozy mystery, in that Jake is not a private eye, he’s not a cop or a detective, but for some reason, like Jessica Fletcher (‘Murder She Wrote’), he always ends up being involved in a murder. Fred tags along of course.”
Houston’s past life included working as a carpenter for 20 years while he attended college. He majored in Math and minored in English.
“Those who study English usually want to write and I worked on a book for 30 years, editing it as I went along, and that didn’t work out,” said Houston. “I found that I do better writing by the seat of my pants, instead of outlining and editing as I go.”
After graduating from college, Houston went to work for NASA, working with the Air Force on the Space Shuttle in California. Then he worked at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, overseeing the CAD system (computer graphics). After 25 years as a successful software engineer, Houston moved to a home on Truman Lake where he has lived for about 15 years.
“Since I had always dreamed of writing a novel, I took every creative writing class that I could, and most of my stories had a dog as a major character,” said Houston. “After I had bypass surgery in 2011, and a priest administered the last rites, I decided that if I was going to write a book, I had to get started. I was watching the view of the lake from my deck and also saw an episode on the History Channel about Jesse James and his gang called Knights of the Golden Circle. The gang had money buried in parts of Kansas, and I figured that some of that money could even be buried in the cave on my property. These things gave me the vision for my first book, which took place in the Truman Lake area. The book cover has a backdrop of the view of the lake from my deck.”
Houston said that he had written 300 to 400 pages on his first book when he decided to go back and take out a lot of words. He didn’t use an editor for his first two books and that backfired on him a little bit. When he wrote his third novel, he acquired an editor and now has another great editor to check everything, making his books better.
Several other mysteries Houston has written take place in Colorado, but because he heard readers in the local area like the references to Truman Lake, his fifth book takes place around Warsaw.
Houston said e-books sell better than printed ones, but people in the local area seem to prefer print. The Boonslick Regional Library in Warsaw carries Houston’s first four books in the “To Die For” series, and has “A Relic to Die For” on Kindle. The latest book, “A Secret to Die For” is also expected to be available on Kindle.
Houston lives with his wife, Cherie, and great-granddaughter, Samantha Blake, on the Osage arm of Truman Lake. Their household includes two dachshunds and a rescue dog that is mostly Golden Retreiver. His facebook page can be found at www.facebook.com/richard.houston.