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.”
It's April of 1911, and Julia Nye McConnell has enjoyed a delayed honeymoon with her husband, William, who is reporting on the rebuilding of San Francisco five years after the Great Earthquake. As they prepare for the return trip to St. Louis, William receives a death threat. The pair searches their pasts and William’s immediate reporting for possible enemies. Back in St. Louis, their friend Carl Schroeder begins his own investigation amidst complicating circumstances.
Then a man high on Julia’s suspect list appears onboard the Santa Fe limited as it travels through Arizona. Julia refrains from shooting him on sight as he insists he has come to help.
Deciding whether to trust him is a challenge. But the most formidable challenge is to Julia and William’s relationship, stressed by her desire to protect her husband at any cost.
This book uses characters and events from several of the previous four books in the series.
Questions for Train Song discussions
William and Julia McConnell have very different responses to the crisis. What does this say about basic differences in their personalities? Do you have a prognosis for their marriage?
Is Terence Kelley a good guy or a bad guy? Is your answer based on what he does or what he says about himself?
And the same question might be asked of Resi Friedrich! If you were asked to describe her nature, what would you say?
We see Carl Schroeder be passionate in his defense of his friends. We also see him struggling with his own identity. He is in the early stages of an affair with Fran Collier. As time goes on—past the end of Train Song—the affair continues but they do not marry despite Fran’s wishes. That was more scandalous in the 1910s than today. Carl’s rational is that Fran started the affair without any commitment on his part. He is quite fond of her but knows it is not the kind of love Will and Julia have, not a “marriageable love” in his mind. Some readers have no patience for this “going along” behavior on Carl’s part; others point out that Fran could break it off any time. What are your thoughts? Are you considering that sexual standards—for either men or women—have changed?
This book is part of a murder mystery series and, yet, there is no murder recorded in its pages. (It is also subtitled “A Novel of Suspense.”) The other books in the series do indeed involve murders. What does all this say about the labeling of genres? Can this be a satisfying entry in the characters’ development without an immediate crime?