#63 “If you learn to read, you can do anything”

                “Just because you grow up in a small town like Kinsley, doesn’t mean you can’t follow your dreams.  Kinsley gave me good preparation for what I wanted to do in life.”  

            This is what Dr. David Kastner said during a recent phone conversation.  He was born and grew up in Kinsley and graduated from KHS in 1971.  He went on to become a medical doctor and the author of nine fiction books.

David Kastner donates his six books to the Kinsley Library.

            “As a kid, I checked out my first books at the Kinsley Library,” he continued.  “There were cards in the back of the book which you signed to check the book out.  I liked science fiction and remember the science fiction spine labels on library books by favorite authors like Ray Bradbury and Asimov.”

            Asimov is a classic science fiction writer, so when I looked on our shelf today, I found we still had books which were checked out when David was a patron.  Some of those date due stamps probably represent times he borrowed them.

            When Dr. Kastner attended the All-School Reunion last September, he came by the library and donated copies of his eight books to the collection.  He describes his book as “mystery-suspense, written clean with no bad language. They promote Christian beliefs and values.”

            He wrote his first book, The Palace Connection in 2004.  He followed the writing rule to “write what you know about” when he chose Kinsley for the inspiration for the book’s setting and some of its characters. 

            I enjoyed reading this fictional story about Rick, a high school junior boy, who went from “loser” to the winning quarterback and an all-A student through the powers of an Indian amulet he dug up in a field outside of Kinsley.  The amulet connected with its powers when he wore it into the Palace Theater, which in this book had been built on the location of a sacred Indian burial ground.

            “I helped out at the Palace Theater when my Uncle John Wire was running it in about 1968 or 1969,” Dr. Kastner explained. Uncle John gave the character Rick a job and plays a prominent role in the novel.

            The book portrays a snapshot of teen life in 1970 in Kinsley with mentions to cruising town, Spudnuts, parties at the river, black and white sundaes at Hamm and Pool drugstore, game bonfires, shooting pool at Young’s, and all the songs of the era played on the radio of Rick’s 1962 candy apple red Chevy Impala.         

            Some characters have the names of real people, like history teacher Mr. Ross, Coach Martin, Mr. Kingry and his “Marching 100”, and others.  People who grew up in this era can judge how well Dr. Kastner captured KHS student life.

David Kastner, 1971 Kinsley High School graduation picture.

            Kastner went on to write The Amulet and The Return of the Amulet as two more parts of this trilogy set in Kinsley. 

            David Kastner is the son of Hermann and Rita Kastner.  Herman was the County Executive Director for the ASCS (Agricultural Stabilization Conservation Service, now the FSA).  They lived in town on 120 Wichita Street but also farmed north of Kinsley.  David worked on the farm in high school and while attending college at Fort Hays Kansas State College where he earned a degree in biology in 1975. 

120 Wichita St. is the house David Kastner grew up in and chose for the home of Rick, the main character in “The Palace Connection.” 

            Kastner then attended the Hutchinson School of Medical Technology and worked 15 years as a medical technician before receiving his medical degree from Ross University in California.  He then worked as a family physician in Ellinwood from 2000-2003 and finished his career working for the Veterans Administration for fifteen years before retiring in 2019.

            Living in Ellinwood gave him the setting for his second trilogy:  Changing Seasons, The Amber Wave Project and The Deadwood Diary.  The last involves a hidden diary which is uncovered in the long- forgotten tunnels beneath the fictitious town of Deadwood, patterned after underground Ellinwood.

            The other three books that Dr. Kastner has written are collections of short stories which explore life decisions and the spiritual, often with a nod to the Twilight Zone.

             “I always loved reading,” concluded Dr. Kastner.  “I started out as a kid reading books from the Kinsley Library.  Now I have books that I have written on the shelf in the library.