Serial Killer in River Oaks

River Oaks oil heiress writes sensational crime thriller that hits close to home

River Oaks oil heiress writes crime thriller that hits close to home

News, Alison Baumann with book,  Jan. 2016
Native Houstonian Alison Baumann publishes her first novel, a story of murder and suspense in River Oaks, her old neighborhood. Courtesy photo

Growing up in River Oaks as the youngest grandchild of "the king of wildcatters" Hugh Roy Cullen, Alison Baumann saw a lot and remembered a lot. In particular, the mid-1960s murder trial of Candace Mossler, who (along with her nephew/lover Mel Powers) was accused of murdering her husband, Jacques Mossler.

As Baumann noted, the sordid affair "took place around the corner from our house." It was a story that struck the imagination of the young woman who had been writing since the age of 8. And it proved inspiration for her novel Under a Cloud of Rain

The book details the efforts of detective Nick Noelle to solve a series of murders of beautiful young women in River Oaks. Brutal murders are juxtaposed with luxe social settings, characters range from a wealthy lascivious scoundrel (sleeping with his nephew's girlfriend among others) to a fetching salesgirl at Neiman Marcus.

Kinkaid, where Baumann went to school before matriculating to the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, plays a role as well. And you'll never guess "who done it."

The author will be signing copies of her suspense thriller at Becker's Books at a launch party Wednesday (January 13), 5 to 9 pm. Among those attending will be contributors to the crowd-funding effort that made the book possible. While Baumann could easily afford the $15,000 required to get the paperback book in print, publisher Inkshares does not work that way.

"I said to Larry Levitsky (Inkshares co-founder) let me just pay for the damn thing," Baumann recalls. "He said 'No, you have to get readers. That's why you crowd fund.' He was kind of appalled when I said I would pay for the whole thing."

After living in Europe modeling and acting, meeting and marrying Peter Baumann of Tangerine Dream, she began writing seriously at the age of 31. Baumann currently has three other books in various stages of production including Catharine Lee, the story of a jewel thief in New Orleans. 

"I love women and I love to see women overcoming situations," she tells CultureMap. "It's so hard for me to accept when women are put under. My mom, Wilhelmina Cullen Robertson Smith, was a real matriarch and although my father was a great man, my mom held herself very well and conducted the Cullen Foundation for many years. Now my sister Beth (Robertson) is head of that."

Baumann lives with her husband in San Francisco where he heads The Baumann Foundation. They have three children and two grandchildren. She counts her son-in-law as her fourth child. He calls her Mom.