I’m so glad to welcome Susanna to back to the blog! She’s smart, fun, and one heck of a writer. Here’s a bit about the The Fate Of A Flapper:
After nine months as a cigarette girl at the Third Door, one of Chicago’s premier moonshine parlors, Gina Ricci feels like she’s finally getting into the swing of things. The year is 1929, the Chicago Cubs are almost in the World Series, neighborhood gangs are all-powerful, and though Prohibition is the law of the land, the Third Door can’t serve the cocktails fast enough.
Two women in particular are throwing drinks back with abandon while chatting up a couple of bankers, and Gina can’t help but notice the levels of inebriation and the tension at their table. When the group stumbles out in the early morning, she tries to put them out of her head. But once at home that night, Gina’s sleep is interrupted when her cousin Nancy, a police officer, calls—she’s found a body. Gina hurries over to photograph the crime scene, but stops short when she recognizes the body: it’s one of the women from the night before.
Could the Third Door have served the woman bad liquor? Or, Gina wonders, could this be murder? As the gangs and bombings draw ever closer, all of Chicago starts to feel like a warzone, and Gina is determined to find out if this death was an unlucky accident, or a casualty of combat.
Susanna: When I was contemplating the story I wanted to tell in the second book in my Speakeasy Mysteries—the novel that became The Fate of a Flapper–I turned to the Chicago Daily Tribune for inspiration. I knew that I wanted to set my story around the Great Stock Market Crash which occurred in October 1929, but I wanted to understand what else was going on in Chicago during those last heady days before the glittery Roaring Twenties came to a screeching halt.
Three things struck me, as I read through every edition of the paper. First, the Chicago Cubs were once again in contention for the World Series title, and their victory seemed all but assured. (Spoiler alert—they don’t win). Still it was interesting to see how hopeful they were still, in those early fervent days, and how the series came to a shocking end.
Second, there was an unprecedented number of bombings that occurred throughout Chicago that year. The ability to make simple bombs was a skill that servicemen had learned and brought back from the Great War, and somehow became the brute force weapon of choice by the end of the decade. Banks, jewelry stores, ice cream parlors, private residences were all regularly targeted. By October 1929 there had been over 100 bombings in that year alone, bringing about the formation of a special police task force, whose charge was to capture and bring to justice these bombers.
The last thing that fascinated me was how the ongoing war with alcohol was playing out every day in Chicago (and throughout the United States). Hundreds of people were still dying of alcohol-related deaths—mostly being poisoned by ‘bad hooch.’ There was obviously no regulation of alcohol—quite the opposite. The federal government had even changed denatured alcohol in 1927 to make it more poisonous to those who sought to convert it something more palatable. At the same time, pharmacies would sell alcohol for medicinal and cleaning purposes, marketed with a ‘poison’ sign on the label, side by side with emetics that could purge someone of poison. Chicago chemists, who had developed portable chemical kits for individuals to test alcohol before consumption, were targeted by federal agents (the ‘Drys.’)
Readers: What kinds of everyday details do you enjoy learning about in the books you read?
Bio: Susanna Calkins, a historian and educator, writes the award-winning Lucy Campion historical mysteries set in 17th century London and the Speakeasy Murders set in 1920s Chicago. A Philadelphia transplant, she lives in the Chicago area now, with her husband and two sons. The Fate of a Flapper is her sixth mystery. Check out her website at www.susannacalkins.com.