The story-line of a woman living as a man in the 19th century Old West, an era when both Victorian and American social conventions made it unacceptable for women to even wear men’s clothes, is intrinsically dramatic. That drama is heightened when based on actual history. The Whip (2012), by Karen Kondazian, is based on the true story of Charlotte “Charley” Parkhurst (1812-1879), a woman born in the Eastern US who took on the adult identity of a man and became a famous stagecoach driver – or “whip” – in California. Kondazian is an accomplished actor, writer, and producer who is a member of both the Actors Studio and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
It would not be until Parkhurst’s death in California that the doctor attending to the body revealed Parkhurst’s biological truth and that “Charley” had once given birth. Historians have also found a Charles Parkhurst listed on the California voting rolls for the 1868 federal election – if Parkhurst voted that could have made her the first biological woman to vote in that state. Kondazian has stated in interviews her belief that Parkhurst did vote in that presidential election and did so for Ulysses Grant.
At 280 pages, The Whip is a substantial novel and has received a number of awards since its publication. Those honors include the 2012 USA Best Book Awards (Best Historical Fiction) and the 2013 National Indie Excellence Awards (Best Western). An audio book format of the novel is also available, with narration by Robin Weigert, who starred as Calamity Jane in the acclaimed HBO Western series, Deadwood (2004-2006).
Further information about the book and author can be found at The Whip.
(Copyright – Chad Beharriell)