Wednesday, December 9, 2015



A beautiful journalism student is abducted by a man with unusual and frightening expectations. While searching for her missing student, Red Solaris must contend with a university committee quarreling over the rights of the victims and those accused in sexual assault cases. And, in the midst of all this, a journalism professor brings a gun to school and shoots a colleague. Will Red’s ambition to become dean be destroyed by scandal around her? Will she and Detective Joe Morgan ever acknowledge their true feelings for each other?


American Universities and sexual assault

This past year, I’ve been doing research on the subject of campus sexual assault because it has been such a hot topic in the media, especially the academic press where I get many of my ideas for the Red Queen series of mysteries.
One thing is abundantly clear: no one institution has come up with the perfect policy although many have made valiant efforts. The main problem seems to be one of how to be fair and just to both parties. The survivor needs understanding and comfort, and in the view of many, guaranteed privacy. The accused needs a fair hearing that often conflicts with the survivor’s need for privacy.
In my latest academic mystery novel, The Rise of the Red Queen, I try to illustrate the the kind of debates academics are having about this problem. My protagonist Dr. Red Solaris, is an active participant  at her fictional western university and she and the other female members of the committee have a tough time with some of the male committee members who seem to think that sexual assault is just a college fraternity version of rough sex. The women see it as violence.

One argument comes from a male faculty member whose brother was falsely accused and sent to jail. Another view comes from a woman who counsels victims.

Of course, the lawyers on all sides of the issue have a field day and a few unexpected parents show up just to make everything even more complicated than it was before.  While, I’ve endeavored to make the debate lively and dramatic, I also hope to illuminate some dark corners on this subject.

When I was an executive in the New York advertising business in the 1960s, harassment was truly troublesome, but I never expected to see matters reach the stage I read about now in The Chronicle of Higher Education and the general media.

When I was a college professor, harassment seemed to be a major worry among my women colleagues and students. Now, binge drinking has helped bring a whole new set of problems to campuses. And sexual assault is a topic we read about in every other newspaper. Even the federal Government is engaged in telling universities what to do.

Not a cozy topic you might say, but relevant to all of us who have daughters and granddaughters who are in college or plan to go.

I hasten to add, it’s not the only issue I like to write about. I’m still addicted to murder and betrayals of various sorts. I still want my heroines to go through hell to get where they want to be. And, I still have a handsome detective on the scene to provide my Red Queen with some occasional romance.

In ‘The Rise of the Red Queen,” I also included a mystery surrounding the disappearance of a beautiful student and the disturbing man who kidnaps her and presents her with a grim agenda. Red has to balance her tie between arguing with the campus committee and going on a dangerous search for the missing girl.

Writing fiction is my third career and I am having a terrific time inventing my fictional university in northern Nevada and populating it with the vicious, the merely scurrilous and the brave and noble, plus a beautiful Golden Retriever to comfort the occasional lonely lady and generally keep the good guys safe.


After Bennington College, Bourne worked at McCall’s Magazine and then went to Ogilvy&Mather, New York during the Mad Men  era. David Ogilvy and his colleagues treated her wonderfully, promoted her several times and then sent her west to become head of their agency in Los Angeles. She had a splendid run in advertising.
In 1983, she joined the University of Nevada Reno as a full professor in Journalism where she taught until 2009. She learned about campus politics when she served as chair of the faculty senate. She retired to write mysteries in 2009 after a wonderful teaching career.

Bourne lives with her husband of 34 years in a ranch house with a view of tall trees and mountains. They have four children and eight grandchildren. Life is good.

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