Skip to main content

Galveston Monthly

Dead Pelican

Sep 02, 2019 05:25PM

 Lexington, Kentucky-based author Lisa Haneberg has a thing for Galveston. Like her first two novels, Ghost Rat and Toxic Octopus, her latest book is set on Galveston Island, where she and her husband once owned a historic home. The fun and fast-paced Dead Pelican is the third in the author’s Spy Shop Mystery series, which revolves around the adventures of private investigator Xena Cali.

  In the book, the murder of a local bird guide shortly before the annual Crane Dance Festival ruffles more than a few feathers. Fellow birder Ned “The Pelican Man” Quinn hires Galveston spy shop owner and private eye Cali and her team to find the killer and save the festival, which is the group’s primary fundraiser for the year.

  Haneberg says the book will likely appeal to fans of Carl Hiaasen, Janet Evanovich, and Tim Dorsey, and “readers who like humorous mysteries, Galveston Island, birding, spy gadgets, and strong but flawed female private investigators.” Several popular Galveston spots such as Galveston’s East End, North and South Deer Islands, Christmas Bay, West Bay, and Jamaica Beach figure prominently in the book.

  Her home in Kentucky affords Haneberg the opportunity to see the majestic creatures that earned Lexington the moniker “the horse capital of the world,” but she remains steadfast in her love for the equally impressive creatures that inhabit Galveston Island, which she visits several times a year.

  “Every time I drive over the causeway to the island, I marvel at the pelicans gliding just above the cars,” says Haneberg, who lived in Houston for five years. “They’re birds of contradictions. Dopy and smart. Bumbling and precise. Beautiful and weird looking. Common and fragile. I decided to write a story about people who love pelicans (and all birds), and what might happen when things go way wrong.” But the author did far more than simply insert her characters into the island setting.

  “I had a blast researching for Dead Pelican. I spent a full day with a local birding expert and several hours with a local marine biologist. In addition, I participated in several birding events offered by the Galveston Island Nature Tourism Council, including FeatherFest and Holiday with the Cranes. I also took the Marine Biology tour offered through the Galveston Historical Foundation,” she says.

  “I watched a few necropsies on You Tube and read about pelicans, birding, bird necropsies, and several other topics. I’d tell you what they were, but then I’d be spoiling some of the surprises in the book.”

  And surprises are a good thing, including her personal transition from HR executive to full-time writer “who still does a wee bit of consulting.” She explains, “I was an organization development human resources professional for over twenty-five years before transitioning to writing full time. My last corporate gig was with Memorial Hermann, where I managed a team of HR Business Partners.”

  Since then, Haneberg has also published more than a dozen nonfiction books, both traditionally and as an independent publisher. Being a full-time writer was something she wanted, and it was something she worked toward. She encourages others to do the same.

  “I believe everyone has at least one great book in them, and I encourage people to share their true or made up stories. Read deeply in your book’s genre, and learn from other authors,” she says.

  “If you want your book to be commercially successful, you’ll want to become part of your local literary community and learn about the publishing industry. The more you know about how books go from rough drafts on your computer to beautiful books in readers’ hands, the better.”

 Author Lisa Haneberg will be signing copies of Dead Pelican on Saturday, September 7, from 2-4pm at Galveston Bookshop (317 23rd Street). The latest in her Spy Shop Mystery series is available in paperback ($13) or e-book ($5.99). For more details visit