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The Whip Paperback – January 1, 2012

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 302 pages
  • Publisher: Hansen Publishing Group, LLC; First Edition edition (January 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1601823029
  • ISBN-13: 978-1601823021
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (403 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,408 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Awesome read, excellent narrative, perfect blend of fact and fiction, and though Charley faces an incredibly sad amount of misery and misfortune, the book managed to make me laugh at times as well as shake my head in sympathy....numerous things throughout the book made me chuckle and overall, the book has made a huge impact on me. It's also about a very strong woman, probably one of the strongest women I have ever read about. Life kept beating her down and she kept getting back up, minus one eye or minus a man and a baby, but never without her determination. --Book Babe, August 30, 2011

Charley Parkhurst (1812-79) was one of the finest stage coach drivers Wells Fargo had during the dangerous gold rush days. But there's one thing Wells Fargo never knew about Charley: Charlotte was a woman. In her fiction debut, actress Kondazian (The Actor's Encyclopedia of Casting Directors) dares to imagine the life such a dedicated disguise artist might have lived. Mistreated in an orphanage and sent to live in the stables, where she learned all there was to know about horses, fictional Charley grows up to be a servant in a boardinghouse. When she falls in love with an African American blacksmith, she is ostracized. And when her husband is lynched and her only daughter killed, Charley dresses as a man to apply for work with a stage coach company, aces the hands-on audition, and is sent west. She learns to swear, gamble, and smoke, and her life as a "whip" rewards her well. Yet underneath all the swagger and staunchness, Charley is a broken soul in many ways. VERDICT This quick-paced, wily tale is a fascinating blend of both fact and fiction that is sure to engage Western and historical fiction fans and readers who enjoyed Gerald Kolpan's Etta. --Keddy Ann Outlaw, LIBRARY JOURNAL, November 2011

One thing I really like about this job is that I get to discover promising new talent far outside of the world of agents, New York publishers, academics, and establishment book reviewers. Karen Kondazian's debut novel, The Whip, is in that category. Her well-written work, based on a true story, displays all the confidence of a seasoned novelist. I didn't detect one false note. ...I have often been accused of never meeting a book I didn't like. But try THE WHIP on, nevertheless, despite me. I think you will get as caught up in it as I was. This is classic Americana. --Fred Beauford, NEW WORLD REVIEW, vol. 4, no. 27

You won't know what The Whip means until you read this fascinating book. It's a piece of the Old West, a part of America's past, told with amazing authenticity. --Thomas Fleming, New York Times best-selling author of Conquerors of the Sky

Karen Kondazian has gathered what exists [about Charley Parkhurst] and allowed her imagination to weave Charley's life into an intriguing pattern. She's done so in a fast-moving tale that quite possibly could be true. The Whip provides an interesting speculative life history for one of the more enigmatic characters of the Old West. Readers familiar with the setting--or who would like to be--will enjoy this tale. --John Manhold, Historical Novel Society

Kondazian leaves the complexities of Charley Parkhurst’s life of adventure and secrecy to the reader’s imagination. There is an openness about her writing that encourages the reader to expand on these complexities, rather than diminishing them with answers. Kondazian’s deft hand and sophisticated touch invites these complexities to live in the imagination…. While the setting of “The Whip” takes place over a century ago, the questions raised about the choices we make and their consequences on our lives remain pressing and relevant today….Kondazian weaves fiction and fact together seamlessly into a poignant and profound read. -- Story Circle Book Reviews, Review by Dawn Wink.

Charley Parkhurst makes for a compelling main character. The Whip is very well researched (I loved all the historical tid-bits about piano legs, cat-hauling, and the stagecoach business itself), and Kondazian’s novel unfolds cinematically; you can almost feel the sun’s rays and smell the horse sweat. A truly fascinating novel of one woman’s determination and grit in the heart of the Old West. -- Reader’s Favorite, Review by Kayti Nika Raet.

The desire for vengeance knows no gender. The Whip is an old western novel inspired by the story of Charlotte 'Charley' Parkhurst, a woman living as man in the old west. Drawn out of her serene life in Rhode Island by the slaughter of her family, she chose to travel west and track the killer, dressing as a man and living as a man. Karen Kondazian brings forth a narrative flare to the story, making for a fun read that should prove all too difficult to put down, making The Whip a choice and much recommended read. --Midwest Book Review

Take it from someone who's had firsthand experience with great art exploring the human spirit in a Western setting: Karen Kondazian's The Whip is just that. This is a story that cries out through its adventurous surroundings a call from deep in the human heart, a call for understanding, for love, for identity and it does so through the skill of a magnificent writer. (It also cries out to be a movie. It's that rich, visual, and dramatic.) -- Jim Beaver, star of HBO s Deadwood and author of Life s That Way

[Kondazian] has written a novel about the old West that feels authentic in almost every sweaty detail. -- Kirkus, June 6, 2014 (online)

"The Whip" is a beautifully written story of the Old West that moves between the exploits of Charley and the heartbreak of his/her secret. Why did she choose to live as a man? It was a hard life as a “whip” as the early drivers were known. They were held in high regard. This is a very entertaining and emotionally moving reading. -- By Alan Caruba of Bookviews (member of National Book Critics Circle)


A skillful blend of fact and fiction...Kondazian's fascinating portrayal of this admirable historical figure delves into the complex character of a tough woman combating old-school tradition and unhealthy stereotypes. --Julia Ann Charpentier, Foreword Reviews, April 23, 2014

More About the Author

Karen Kondazian's career as an actor, writer and producer is as diverse as it is long. She was born in Boston, Massachusetts. At the age of eight Karen 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 CIA spy and focus on acting.

She completed her schooling at San Francisco State College, The University of Vienna and The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA), after which she began her career in New York. Her first professional work was in the award winning production of Michael Cacoyannis' The Trojan Women at the Circle in the Square Theatre.

Her theater career has included starring opposite Ed Harris in Sweet Bird of Youth, Richard Chamberlain in Richard II (dir. Jonathan Miller), Stacy Keach in Hamlet, (dir. Gordon Davidson), Ray Stricklyn in Vieux Carre (West Coast Premiere-Beverly Hills Playhouse, dir. Clyde Ventura, which she also produced). She also starred in Eduardo Machado's off-Broadway play, Broken Eggs (World Premiere, dir. James Hammerstein).

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.

Other awards and nominations include Ovation, Drama Critics Circle, LA Weekly and Garlands for: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (Berkeley Rep.), Orpheus Descending (Fountain Theatre, dir. Simon Levy), Night of the Iguana (Old Globe, dir. Jack O'Brien), Lady House Blues, Freedomland (South Coast Rep, dir. David Emmes), The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore (Fountain Theatre, dir. Simon Levy), Master Class (Fountain Theatre, Odyssey Theatre, Lobero Theater, dir. Simon Levy).

She has appeared as series regular lead in CBS's Shannon and guest starred in over 50 television shows and films including, TNT's James Dean with James Franco (dir. Mark Rydell), NYPD Blue, Frasier, Steal Big Steal Little with Alan Arkin, Yes Giorgio with Luciano Pavarotti, and played Kate Holliday in Showdown at OK-Corral (David Wolper's award-winning series).

Karen is a lifetime member of the Actors Studio and a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. She is also a member of Women in Film.

Kondazian is a multi-award winning novelist. Her debut novel, The Whip, won the USA News Award for Best Historical Fiction and also the National Indie Excellence Award for Best Western. It was featured on the cover of Publishers Weekly. She is also the author of the best-selling book The Actors Encyclopedia of Casting Directors, with a foreword by Richard Dreyfuss. Her long running weekly column, "Sculpting Your Own Career" appeared in L.A. STAGE, BackStage, and DramaLogue.

She currently resides in Los Angeles, California.

Customer Reviews

It was an easy book to read and very interesting.
bk club reader
I know it is fiction but it was based on a true story.
Vickie Joseph
Very well written story about a colorful character.
Judith L. Garcia

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Charlotte M. Liebel on February 11, 2012
Format: Paperback

Brilliant and memorable are the lasting impressions you have after reading the final chapter of the debut novel, "THE WHIP" by Karen Kondazian. It is a novel commemorating a true legend of the Gold Rush Era in the person of a woman who survives the struggles of joblessness by reinventing herself.

Charlotte (Charley) Parkhurst was left in a basket at the door of an orphanage in Massachusetts on a cold day of March 1812. It is the baby's good fortune that the lonely boy Lee Colton, a four-year-old, enters her dark room and rocks the baby to sleep. For four years, the children are inseparable.

Management changes at the orphanage result in harsh disciplines that affect the personalities of the two children over the years. Charley is removed from the sewing-room, beaten, and escorted to the barn to break her spirit. Her mentor and surrogate father, the black stable-hand named Jonas, guides Charley. Her greatest success is caring for the strong-willed horse Beelzebub who challenges her with fiery eyes. She leaves the orphanage at age 16.

Mysterious events lead to a relationship and the birth of a beloved infant. Her joy is short-lived when Vigilantes murder her black partner and baby. Charley recognized one of the men fleeing and vowed to kill him.

Charley disguises as a man and applies for a job as stagecoach driver for Wells Fargo. Extremely skilled at the whip and handling the team of horses, Charley wins a competition and trip to San Francisco to even the score with that nameless vigilante.

The historical novel `The Whip' by Karen Kondazian is a page-turner with drama that is unpredictable. The language and situations are focused and thought provoking. The book and ebook are available at all booksellers at an attractive price. Amazon: [...] The Whip
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Rachelsma on May 9, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Charley Parkhurst was a well known stagecoach driver in California for 30 years; only Charley wasn't a man, but a woman. This is her story. Abandoned on the doorstep of an orphanage when she was a few days old, Charlotte was looked after and protected by her one true friend, young Lee Colten who she came to think of as a brother. Determined to separate the two, the cruel head mistress sent Charlotte to live and work in the stables. There she was befriended by the stable hand, an elderly black man named Jonas Parkhurst, who she grew to love as a father. Jonas taught Charlotte all about horses and about life, and she thrived. Separated from Charlotte, Lee became hostile and fell into trouble with the law.
When she came of age Charlotte was forced to leave the orphanage. She worked as a domestic, fell in love, married, and became a mother. The tragic death of her husband and daughter set her on a course out West with a new identity as a man named Charley Parkhurst.
The rest is a poignant tale filled with joy, sadness, and acceptance. It is an amazing tale that I highly recommend. You won't be disappointed.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Catherine Fiore on April 11, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
i enjoyed this book because it was a true story and it held my interest. we are reading this for out book club. glad someone requested that we read it.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Jeanne Robinson on July 11, 2012
Format: Paperback
This is a fictionalized account of Charley Parkhurst, a real California woman who lived most of her life as a man. She was a stagecoach driver, a "whip," and became quite famous for her skill. The author's language and story-telling is wonderful.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Sue on March 16, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Whip was the read for our March book club discussion. We have a group of 17 and many were not overly receptive of its choice being different from the books we normally read. However, we all loved it! The story is adventurous, romantic, tragic, happy, and sad. And, it was so easy to get caught up in the history, experiences, and characters as described from the Old West. How could you not love Charlotte Parkhurst and her quest to find happiness the only way she figured she could, by disguising herself as a man. At heart, Charley was lost and broken and yet she made it her mission in life to find and destroy the killer of her husband and daughter. Along the way her tenacity helped her find new skills, strength and purpose to carry on, extreme success, and lifetime friendships. Charley had guts for a woman of her era and her day to day living, although heart-breaking at times, was very inspiring to the women in our group. When will the movie be coming out? Can’t wait!!!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Pamela W. Leighton on April 22, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
From the first chapter to the last, this story is a page turner. The subject matter is riveting . I would recommend The Whip to any book club. Three cheers for Charlotte who was such a brave soul and endured more than any person I can imagine.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Kiddles on April 10, 2014
Format: Paperback
I give Karen Kondazian's Whip a five plus. From the moment I started Whip I could not put it down. Karen really got the life of Charley Parkhurst from the image of her horses. her character and the life at that time for a woman working as a stage coach driver. I could see Karen's depth of research that she put into the development of her character. Karen's knowledge of horses is amazing. Truly a magnificent novel. I look forward to seeing the Whip as a film. Judi Hochman
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By ANN L. WELLS on April 22, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was an excellent book whose words made you feel like part of the old West. The historical references to the culture of the times was enlightening. The author drew me right into the story of a woman's struggle to belong, be productive and find true love.
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