The Good Old Summertime

When the Sheriff of Ste. Genevieve County, Missouri, dies in a wagon accident, Julia Nye is determined to investigate. From her nominal position as a typist in the City of St. Louis Police Department, she is sure of only a few issues surrounding the Sheriff’s death: that lawmen don’t break laws, even those they dislike; that prohibition is a passionate issue but not one worth killing for; and that the investigation itself is certainly not a deadly undertaking. She recruits two male reporter friends and the trio finds out, each person in a different way, that those sureties may not hold.

 

 

St. Louie Slow Drag

In the steamy August of 1910, St. Louis is rocked by murders and arsons in aneighborhood home to Negroes, brothels and ragtime. (The slow drag is a ragtime style.) The tensions threaten the friendships among a trio of quasi-amateur sleuths: Julia Nye, suffragist and typist at police headquarters, and reporters William McConnell and Carl Schroeder. After the trio pulls together to thwart the racists who try to burn the neighborhood, disappointed religious fanatics decide to finish the job, with Julia’s murder to be the spark for riot and destruction.

 

 

Heaven Will Protect the Working Girl

In 1910, Chicago is trying to rid itself of the white slave trade, and the deaths of two factory girls in St. Louis brothels signal that the vice has shifted to St. Louis in the person of a slick factory owner.  Our three sleuthsrespond: suffragist Julia Nye usually types for the St. Louis police, but now agrees to go undercover in the factory; reporters William McConnell and Carl Schroeder head to Chicago to uncover the man’s background. What William and Carl discover convince them to get Julia out of the factory at the same time that Julia overhears her new boss plan to end the men’s investigations by making sure they don’t return to St. Louis.  The threats all around send Julia down the same path as the women she’s trying to avenge.

Judged Best Self-Published Novel by the James River Writers (Virginia) in 2016

 

Writing historical fiction

From presentation to the Lost State Writers Guild, March 1, 2018

  • What it is:  SET at least 30 years ago (1988) by some definitions; more likely 50 years ago (1968)

 

  • How you can use it:  Every plot and setting exists to push a character’s buttons. Never use plot or setting to showcase the history.

 

  • Big History. The stuff you read in history books.

 

  • Prohibition.  My first book,  The Good Old Summertime, uses local option prohibition. That’s what we had before “law of the land” prohibition in 1920. It was worth some digging to find out that half of Missouri’s counties and incorporated towns were dry in 1910. That set up a different dynamic than national prohibition, one I was able to use to create conflict for my main characters.

  • Find the holes in the Big History. The 10 weeks Leon Trotsky spent in New York City and the Zimmerman Telegram are both used in my new spy novel. I looked for where the historians had no explanation for real events. Historians do not understand why the British espionage service let Trotsky leave New York—to go to Russia and involve himself in the ongoing revolution. That is something I used to create conflict for my own spy. Likewise with the Zimmerman telegram—actually the second one. It never came to light during the war. Historians have no explanation. I do, of course. The second Zimmerman telegram is a featured article in the last chapters of my book.

 

  • Little history. What it was like to live in an historical period.

 

  • To give readers a feel of a period, use little history. You need to describe what your characters wore, what they ate, how they got from place to place, how they communicated, what the air . . . the view . . . the neighborhood was like, how they talked. I managed to make good use of the styles of men’s hat—and their proper names—in the new spy novel. Who would have thought a hat could be an item of tension?

 

  • What’s selling: these recommendations are from agent Gina Panettieri of Talcott Notch Literary Agency, as of late January 2018.

  • Early 20th century is hot right now.

  • WW1 and WW2, are hot and will be for sometime, particularly women’s roles, the untold stories;

  • Victorian (late?) is doing well; Tudor, Stuart, and Regency holding;

  • Amish romances;

  • Weak in medieval and ancient;

  • NOT US before the Civil War;

  • Major events from perspective of lesser known real people;

  • Secondary characters from stories now in public domain.

  • Do not market your book as HISTORICAL FICTION. Use the genre. For example, pitch a spy novel set in World War I.

 

  • Find a period you love.

 

  • Resources: Tourist Guides, Goulds City Directories, Sanborn Insurance/MAPS, Newspapers, even www.1910-stlouis-by-jallison.com/ Online Etymology, Librarians, librarians, librarians.

 

  • Keep a journal or some kind of system. Group little history by topic, so you can access it easily.​



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