When Dr. Kenneth Toppell graduated UNC-Chapel Hill in 1963, he began an education and career in pulmonology. In his retirement, Toppell is exploring his passion for writing which brought the September release of his book, “Second Cousin Once Removed.”
“The last time I wrote was for The Daily Tar Heel in 1961,” Toppell said. “When I had time, I started writing again; but this time, fiction.”
“Second Cousin Once Removed” is the first in what Toppell hopes to be a series of chilling, sarcastic murder mysteries. The main character Henry Atkinson, a divorcee and semi-retired attorney, embarks on a mission for justice when his family tree research leads him to discover the antics of his serial killer second cousin once removed, Shelley.
“They have their own life experiences, which are polar opposites of each other, and yet they find a way to work together,” Toppell said.
Toppell’s inspiration for this book came from figuring out his own family tree about six years ago in honor of his youngest granddaughter.
“In doing so, things stick in your mind,” Toppell said. “One of those things was just the phrase ‘second cousin once removed.’”
Aside from this title and plot inspiration, Toppell loves murder mysteries and has always wanted to write. However, his background includes degrees in history and political science and 48 years of writing in medicine.
“I was a physician for most of my life, and I was pretty good at it,” Toppell said. “But writing fiction is a completely different world.”
Like any writer, Toppell’s process is unique to his own style.