Airwaves of Austin: Former KAUS DJ writes novel, influenced by his short time in a community he came to love
Published 6:22 am Saturday, November 3, 2018
With a deep, resonating voice, Kelly Neff exemplifies a man who had a career in radio.
For a very short time amounting to months in 1968, Neff was a DJ for Austin’s own KAUS, but despite the brief stop-over, the town of Austin had a profound effect on Kelly.
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So much so that he has written a book, “A Perfect Match,” that is based in Austin and features many of the landmarks people living here will recognize today.
“It was my first job on air,” Kelly said, sitting alongside his wife Mary, who he co-wrote the book with. “It was exciting and fun. Being on the air in this town was perfect for me. It was just a fun town. It impressed me over the years.”
The novel, a murder-mystery, revolves around the book’s protagonist, 18-year-old Kevin Knapp, who leaves his home in Iowa to begin a broadcasting career in Austin. Along the way he meets his future wife, Maggie McGovern, and climbs the corporate ladder of the local station. McGovern will eventually graduate and walks down a career path of the local newspaper.
Ultimately, both their paths will cross a crime investigation that grips the town alongside a severe snowstorm.
The novel’s storyline in many ways mirrors Kelly’s track to Austin, minus of course the intrigue and lifelong settlement in Austin.
“It originally started as semi-biographical,” Kelly said. “Looking through we thought that might not be interesting to some so we ended up putting in a murder.”
The move to actually place the novel in Austin seemed natural to the couple when looking for a location.
“When we started thinking about a book, Austin kept coming back,” Mary said. “His time here was relatively short, but he had very fond memories of this town.”
So much so that the town of Austin seemingly becomes a character in and of itself, as the story takes place at several real places in town. St. Augustines Catholic Church is a major plot point within the book and the character of Maggie McGovern goes to work for the Austin Daily Herald.
Name dropping these places came from several trips to Austin to research. Kenny’s Oak Grill, called the Oak Grill in the book, is another site where a major plot point takes place.
“We put all that stuff in so people would know,” Mary said.
Like many books, “A Perfect Match” had a rough first couple months. Kelly wrote the first draft and put it in the hands of Mary. The draft left plenty of room to grow.
“At first it wasn’t really good,” Mary admitted. “Then, about a year ago, I looked at another draft and thought, ‘this is a readable piece of literature.’”
The couple dove headfirst from there, actively working to polish the novel into it’s current piece that featured as much Austin as they could fit.
“We tried to put as much local in as possible,” Kelly said.
And of course, there is KAUS, where Kelly’s own path started as an 18-year-old moving up from Iowa, though his path through radio didn’t start at 18, but had its roots instead 10 years earlier at the seasoned age of 8 years old.
“When I was eight I would go down in the basement with a newspaper, records and record player and pretend to be a DJ,” Kelly said with a broad smile.
This pretending would get so serious that he would require his mother to play the part of producer and making sure he got the correct and exact time so he could bring his “listeners” up to speed on the daily happenings.
During his career in radio, Kelly would dip his feet into most everything the career offered, but the initial push came from one simple fact: “It was just a love of music,” he said.
His time on the airwaves also followed him during his time in the United States Navy for American Forces Radio, sering in a number of locations including Alaska and Africa.
The couple is hopeful that book, being printed through Christian Faith Publishing, will hit the presses and online publishing sometime later this year. There is even a chance it gets developed into a low budget movie, according to the publishers.
“This was a wonderful project for us,” Mary said. “We’ve been working on this for three years in one form or another.”