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.”

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.

Questions for St. Louie Slow Drag

 

  1. This book is “edgy” as one reader put it, likely because race is always an edgy issue. Virulent racism is on display. (In seven years, the worst race riot in U.S. history takes place across the river in East St. Louis, Illinois.) But, the plot is meant, in part, to trace characters’ evolution from the widespread, more civilized but still enervating, racism of the day. Take for, example, the second narrator, Carl Schroeder. How would you track the changes in Carl regarding race through the story? Can something as simplistic as his reaction to the Stephen Foster lyrics be a significant piece of his change?
     

  2. In fact, music is the vehicle for thinking about people’s viewpoints, both white and black viewpoints. How do individuals and groups in the story view ragtime?
     

  3. In his introduction to readers, the Reverend Meade makes statements that were shocking to me when I first read them: the notion that the black man must be the good right hand of the white man. If you’ve read the historical note, you will see that this sentiment is from the preeminent public African American of the day: Booker T. Washington. Were you shocked to read this? What was your reaction within the context of the story? (Interesting historical note: When Charlie and Tom Turpin build a huge, and successful, music hall a few years in the future, they name it the Booker T. Washington.)
     

  4. On more personal notes, Julia has to make a wrenching decision about the sharpshooting. Do you think it was the right one? How does the shooting “back home” play with you? (A small book containing stories about the characters opens with a short story from Sheriff Nye’s viewpoint. He had a difficult decision to make, as well. See my website, joallisonauthor.com, for access to that story.)
     

  5. Carl and William face subtle changes in their relationship with each other as well as each one’s relationship with Julia. What do you think this bodes for the trio working together in the future?