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

 

Bread and Roses

In the spring of 1911, Julia Nye wants very much to investigate the death of her friend and labor activist, society ally Geneva Whitten. But it won’t be easy. The new Chief of Detectives isn’t having any female help despite Julia’s record of unconventional aid to the St. Louis Police Department in 1910.  On top of that, the other union activists seem to have a secret plot afoot and Julia’s new husband no longer wants to hear about her investigative trials.  Combining her detective career and marriage may not work out as Julia had planned. The infamous Triangle factory fire of March 1911 becomes a sobering reminder of the stakes involved in the affair.

 

 

 

 

The book titles all reflect music of the period.  The first is a shortened version of the popular 3/4 time ballad, “In the Good Old Summertime.”  The second title is a combination of Scott Joplin and Scott Hayden’s “Sunflower Slow Drag” and Tom Turpin’s “St. Louis Rag.”  Turpin, a ragtime virtuoso in St. Louis in the day, becomes a major character in St. Louie Slow Drag.  Scott Joplin makes a cameo appearance in the early chapters. “Heaven Will Protect the Working Girl” is a popular vaudeville number of the day.  “Bread and Roses” is a labor song particularly identified with the Women’s Trade Union League, an entity involved in the plot of the fourth novel. The song contains the famous phrase, “give us bread but give us roses.”

BREAD AND ROSES

In the spring of 1911, Julia Nye wants very much to investigate the death of her friend and labor activist, society ally Geneva Whitten. But it won’t be easy. The new Chief of Detectives isn’t having any female help despite Julia’s record of unconventional aid to the St. Louis Police Department in 1910.  On top of that, the other union activists seem to have a secret plot afoot and Julia’s new husband no longer wants to hear about her investigative trials.  Combining her detective career and marriage may not work out as Julia had planned. The infamous Triangle factory fire of March 1911 becomes a sobering reminder of the stakes involved in the affair.

Questions for Bread and Roses discussions

 

  1. This story bristles with issues still debated a hundred years later. What do you see that you recognize?
     

  2. A recurring question about whether a character is a good guy or a bad guy: in this case, the guy is a gal, Katie Skalsky. What do you think of her motives and her actions? What makes you like her? What makes you dislike her?
     

  3. Julia and William each face dilemmas regarding detecting in this book. Julia is embarrassed that she cares so much about domesticity at the same time that she loves her detecting work. Can it be legitimate that a woman is chagrined about liking the home life? Will, meanwhile, chooses not to detect with her, seeing that as threatening a reporter’s impartiality. Do you agree with William’s stance?
     

  4. Emmett Smyth has an interesting take on detecting. “Solve the mystery,” he says; “honor the memory of the person who’s dead.” Julia, in the Epilogue, spins it: “Solving the mystery honors us all.” Does it work that way? Do you think this motivates real detectives?
     

  5. The tragic fire at the Triangle Waist Factory changes the direction of the story. It might be worthwhile to note major characters’ reactions. Can such a tragedy make a change for the better? Is that ever the case? What twenty-first century tragedies can you think of as examples or counterexamples?