Edith here, battling a nasty respiratory thing and finally on top of it (I think). And I’m excited to welcome Liz Milliron back to the blog with a debut mystery in a new historical series. In the late fall, she asked me if I would blurb it, and it was easy to offer an enthusiastic endorsement. Here’s the meat of it: “The story is riveting, Betty’s courage and persistence are a delight, and her sidekicks provide perfect support and caution. The Homefront Mysteries promise to keep you on the edge of your seat…and smiling as you read.”
First let’s hear about The Enemy We Don’t Know (and be sure to read down for a giveaway!):
November, 1942. Betty Ahern is doing her part for the war, working at Bell Aircraft while her older brother and fiancée are fighting overseas, but she really wants to be a private detective like her movie idol Sam Spade. When sabotage comes to the plant, and a suspected co-worker hires her to clear her name, Betty sees it as her big chance.
As her questions take her into Buffalo’s German neighborhood, Kaisertown, Betty finds herself digging into a group that is trying to resurrect the German-American Bund, a pro-Nazi organization. Have they elevated their activities past pamphlets and party-crashing? When the investigation leads Betty and her two friends into a tangle of counterfeiting and murder, as well as the Bund, the trio must crack the case–before one or more of them ends up in the Buffalo River…wearing concrete overshoes.
But I Don’t Write Historical
First, thanks to all the Wickeds for hosting me today and helping me celebrate the launch of my new book/series. “But I don’t write historical,” was me in the spring of 2016. I was participating in a short story challenge and Malice Domestic had just announced the theme of their anthology to be released in 2017 – Mystery Most Historical.
I’d never written historical. I wrote contemporary. There were too many details for historical, too much research, too much possibility of getting it wrong. And all of the story ideas I’d ever had were contemporary. The historical field was populated with such big names: Rhys Bowen, Edith Maxwell, Sujata Massey…what did I have to add to the canon? This was one I’d be skipping.
A character started bugging me. A young lady who worked at Bell Aircraft during WWII, a girl very loosely based on my paternal grandmother. What if she was a movie buff who dearly wanted to be a private detective? What if she showed up to work one day and found her shift supervisor killed? What if she decided to solve the crime? What if…?
And a story was born.
It was intended to be one story. When I finished it, I swapped stories with friend Keenan Powell for critique and she said, “There needs to be more Betty stories.” But I was done with this character. Time to get back to modern times. After all, I didn’t write historical.
Or so I thought.
I still hadn’t sold the Laurel Highlands series. The question was, “Should I write a third in that series or do something different?” How much time did I want to spend on a series that might not go anywhere?
Betty piped up. “I’ve got one for ya,” she said.
Of course, I resisted. I still labored under the delusion that I was in charge, or at least sort of in charge. Silly me. Betty kept nagging me. I hadn’t involved her good friend Liam “Lee” Tillotson in the last story. He’d be mad. And she had a humdinger of a tale to tell. I told her, no. After all, I didn’t write historical.
Needless to say, Betty wore me down. And her story was pretty intriguing. Soon I found myself immersed in the history of the P-39, the events of WWII in November, 1942, Bureau of Labor Statistics wage tables, and what Buffalo, New York looked like in 1942 (my history-buff father was a great help with that). I looked at maps, and old pictures. I read books set in that time period and watched movies to get a feel for dialogue. I looked up pictures of fashion and work attire. I had to admit, I was having fun.
When I finished, I didn’t know what to do with the book. I put it aside and shortly thereafter, I sold the Laurel Highlands series. Betty seemed destined to wait in the wings. Then in 2019, my publisher announced they were starting a historical imprint, aptly named “Historia,” and were looking for manuscripts. I put up my hand. “I have a historical if you’d like to look at it.”
The rest, as they say, is history. I guess I write historicals after all.
Readers: What is something you always said you didn’t do only to find out you did it after all? I’ll send an ebook or print copy to one commenter (US/Canada only).
Liz Milliron is the author of The Laurel Highlands Mysteries series, set in the scenic Laurel Highlands and The Homefront Mysteries, set in Buffalo, NY during the early years of World War II. Heaven Has No Rage, the second in the Laurel Highlands Mysteries, was released in August 2019. The first book of the Homefront Mysteries, The Enemy We Don’t Know, was released in February 2020. Soon to be an empty-nester, Liz lives outside Pittsburgh with her husband, two children, and a retired-racer greyhound.