Guest Carol Pouliot

Edith/Maddie here, so happy to have Carol Pouliot back on the blog with a new book and a giveaway! I love what she says about her research.

21st-century journalist Olivia Watson thinks traveling back in time to 1934 to attend a Halloween party with her friend Detective Steven Blackwell will be a lot of fun. And it is…until she witnesses the head of the Shipley Five-and-Dime empire murdered, and fears the killer saw her face.

The smart move is to return to the safety of the present, but Olivia possesses a secret and is about to defy the unwritten rules of time-travel. She convinces Steven to let her stay in his time and help unravel the motives behind the murder, even if it means risking her own life to save another.

When Steven delves into the investigation, he discovers how a bitter relationship, a chance encounter, and a fateful decision converged to set the stage for murder. In a maze full of unreliable clues and misdirection, dark secrets refuse to stay buried and forgotten ghosts won’t fade away. Steven is reminded that old sins cast long shadows. Can Steven catch the killer before time runs out for Olivia?

Having Fun with Research

Fun? Yes!

When I began writing The Blackwell and Watson Time-Travel Mysteries, I focused on the murder investigations, time-travel elements, and relationship between Depression-era cop Steven Blackwell and 21st-century journalist Olivia Watson. Then I reminded myself that my books are also historical mysteries because they take place in 1934.

As a kid, the mere mention of history got me yawning. Years later, I made the connection between history and the people who actually lived it. That changed everything.

I began traveling in Europe, visiting beautiful old buildings, drinking in cafés that had been the haunts of famous people, walking the streets where my favorite writers and artists had strolled. I was hooked.

The couch where Agatha Christie always sat in the tearoom at Brown’s Hotel, London. Brown’s was the model for Bertram’s in At Bertram’s Hotel.

I love doing research and my book research has been tons of fun. I work mostly with primary sources: photographs, movies, ephemera (menus, ads), artifacts (clothing, cars), and books, newspapers and magazines published at the time. This is where, like an archeologist, I dig for the details that pull readers in and make them feel like they’re living in 1934.

I began with the 1927 edition of The Sears Roebuck Catalogue to furnish Steven’s house, fill his closet, and provide Olivia with a wardrobe for her visits to 1934.

Steven’s kitchen cupboard from The Sears Roebuck Catalogue

Archived copies of Good Housekeeping, The Delineator, and Ladies Home Journal show me what beauty products and household items were available to the women in my fictional town Knightsbridge. Studying ads and reading articles, including letters to the editor, provide an insight into how women thought and felt during the Depression.

Olivia wrote an article for the November 1934 issue of The American Girl magazine

I read local newspapers and The New York Times from the week when each book takes place, pouring over grocery store ads, weather reports, and radio programs. I was thrilled to discover that during the last week of February 1934, the Feds were chasing John Dillinger and his gang. What a perfect subject for my cops to be talking about in Threshold of Deceit!

Automobiles are a big part of my books. In addition to the police vehicles and mortuary van, some of my male characters identify with their cars. Steven loves his 1929 jungle green Chevy sedan, while dapper police photographer Gray Wilson got a brand new 1934 cobalt blue Packard Super 8 Roadster (a gift from his wealthy grandfather) in Death Rang the Bell, and Doc Elliott, the elderly, heavy smoking  medical examiner, coughs and sputters in harmony with his old, rundown Model-T Ford.

1930 Packard 745 Roadster aka “The Deluxe Eight” with 4-speed transmission and adjustable driver’s seat and steering wheel

Every summer, the Syracuse Nationals brings thousands of classic cars to town. When I explain that I’m researching my 1934 mystery novels, owners let me sit in the cars, honk the horns, and take pictures. Some have turned on the engine so I can hear how loud the cars were.

I inherited several items from my grandparents, including pieces of Art Deco Depression glass, an aluminum percolator, and, most valuable to me, my grandmother’s photo album. I can see how average people looked and dressed, what their houses and cars were like, and the things they did for fun. Most of all, I treasure what I learned from my Dad, who was 11 in 1934. He gave me priceless insights into his life as a child during the Depression, allowing me to enrich my characters.

I hope you’ll enjoy the 1930s world I’ve created in my books.

Readers: How do you connect with the past? I’ll give away one uncorrected (print) ARC of Death Rang the Bell (US only) to one commenter~

A Francophile at age 11, Carol Pouliot dreamed of going to Paris. After a Master’s at Stony Brook University, she headed to France for her first teaching job. She taught French and Spanish for over 30 years in Upstate New York, and founded an agency that provided translations in over 24 languages. Carol is the author of The Blackwell and Watson Time-Travel Mysteries, including the latest Death Rang the Bell. When not writing, Carol can be found reaching for her passport and packing a suitcase for her next adventure. Sign up for Carol’s newsletter and learn more at http://www.carolpouliot.com

55 Thoughts

  1. I am so excited to learn about you and your series! More books for the TBR pile. I’m glad you enjoyed the research so much.

    I am fortunate in that I somehow have become the keeper of the family pictures. I think because at 71, I’m the youngest! No one else seems interested. I just received a large envelope full of more pictures from a cousin I haven’t seen in 20 years. I love looking through them, making sure they are marked with name, place and date wherever possible. This sometimes takes a bit of research on my own. But it helps me understand the family stories I grew up with.

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    1. Thanks, Ginny. I hope you enjoy the books. I wrote all of them so a reader could pick up any one and enjoy it but starting at the beginning will give you a lot more. I’m the family caretaker, too. It’s wonderful having all those old photos.

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    2. Thanks, Ginny. I hope you enjoy the books. I’ve loved writing them. I’m the family caretaker, too. It’s wonderful having all those old photos.

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  2. I was born in the late 50’s and I remember my mom was a huge fan of Elvis and we watched American Bandstand every Saturday and she would dance around the living room. And the way she dressed I thought was so cool. She would play her 45’s when dad was at work and dance. Mom loved to dance. She made music fun for me and now I have her collection. I watch Elvis movies and think of mom. Congrats on your new book. pgenest57 at aol dot com

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  3. What great ways to do research for your mysteries! Your new story sounds great, and I can’t wait to follow Olivia and Steven to that Halloween party circa 1934.

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  4. Okay, how in the hell have I missed out on this series until now? A time traveling mystery series? How awesome sounding can you get?

    I so want to start reading this series now!

    How do I connect with the past? I’m not sure that I really do “connect” with the past other than when I read mystery books that are set in that time frame (mostly during World War II). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not doomed to repeat history because of of a failure to know it. I just mean that I know the facts and figures (nuts and bolts) of various historical events but I don’t make a habit out of digging deeper. That may sound lazy on my part but since I have enough to focus on in the present to make sure I continue having a future, some things just have to take a back seat to every day life.

    That said, I do enjoy visits to the past via the mystery novels that I read. And I know that if I was able to travel to a Halloween party in 1934, if I didn’t take along my best friend Ann (a true Halloween nerd!) I would never hear the end of it.

    This post today really has me jazzed up to read the series!

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    1. WOW, Jay, thanks!! I’m psyched that you’re interested in reading the books. I hope you enjoy them. I like reading mysteries set in the time frame of WWII, too. And I’m constantly rereading Agatha Christie’s books that were written in the 30s and 40s. I’m really drawn to that time.

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  5. Wowza, that’s a lotta research! And an interesting era for time travel – would be neat to really experience the time my parents and grandparents lived in.

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    1. I’m with you, Kathy. I’d like to see what my parents and grandparents lived through during the 30s and 40s. Although it must have been extraordinarily difficult, it’s a fascinating time.

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  6. Great to see you with the Wickeds today! I loved hearing about your travel and research, especially about the wide range of primary sources. Those tactile experiences bring the past to life for readers! …and another Amazing book cover, Carol!!

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    1. Hi Kate! Thanks. I have really loved getting lost in that time. All the little details that I put in help the reader to experience it, too. Thanks re: the cover I love it!!!!

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  7. “Death Rang the Bell” sounds absolutely fabulous! To combine mystery with time travel is right up my alley. I’ve always said that I wished I could travel back to the very later 1800’s to the depression era in the 1900’s right up to the time I was born in 52 to see first hand the events and times that I’ve heard so many stories about from my parents and grandparents. To see first hand how things were done without all the modern conveniences would be eye opening experience as well freeing of all their entrapments too. Being a time traveler would be fun because you could soak it all in and then return to this time. Because as much as I’d love to see it, I don’t think I’m ready to give up all of the here and now for it.

    Because of my love for that era, I’ve done some research into our family history. One of the most fascinating things I found was a newspaper article concerning my great grandmother’s funeral. We were downsizing in preparation for our move to our dream destination and hopefully our last move. Going through things to see what to keep and what to dispose of, I found the article and stopped to read it. A fact that I didn’t know or was so buried in my mind that it was like a new fact, showed that she was buried in the county that we were moving to in northern AR. Her age would have been the same of the homesteader of our new property making one wonder if maybe they had known each other. It made the move even more joyous as I felt like I was moving back to my roots.

    Another research I found very interesting was some years back when we found out there was a small circus cemetery not far from us across the state line into OK. The town was one the circus’ winter homes. To make a long story short, we discovered our love of clowns and circus after the sudden death of our only child. We even eventually became very good friends with Emmett Kelly Jr. and did some clowning ourselves. So we decided to take a day trip and go explore it. Not only was the tombstones wonderful and packed full of history, but it sparked me to dig further into their lives. I took each tombstone and wrote a little article about each circus performer and how they ended up in Hugo. Each search led to another and then another to where what I wrote has been shared with many of the present circus folks as well as the deceased decedents. It was both educational and fun.

    Thank you for the fabulous opportunity to read an ARC of “Death Rang the Bell”. Shared and hoping to be the fortunate one selected. I would love to read and review.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

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    1. Wow, Kay! I got chills when I read your story about your great-grandmother. Sometimes I really do wonder how things are all connected just behind that thin curtain that we don’t know (yet) how to penetrate. I love imagining how Steven and Olivia (my characters) have been able to visit the other person’s time. Thanks to Einstein, I was able to use a fantastic premise as the basis for my books. Good luck in the drawing!

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  8. Great post, love the visuals. Like you, I find them important when crafting scenes. Good luck with the book!

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    1. Thanks, Judy!! Glad you enjoyed the post. I was thrilled beyond words when our waiter at Brown’s seated us next to “Agatha’s table.”

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    1. Thanks, J.C.!! I love them, too. Because I think it’s only a matter of time (pun intended) that we learn how to get a glimpse of another time.

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  9. I’m intrigued. I’ve got to check out these books.

    I connect mainly through historical mysteries these days. Which can be dangerous depending on how accurate the author is with their research.

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    1. Thanks, Mark. I hope you enjoy them. I know what you mean about accuracy. I work super hard and double-check everything. I also have a go-to cop who is an expert on police procedure and the county police historian.

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  10. I have a copy of a picture taken in 1913 with my grandmother’s side of the family and my uncle told us who was who. Also my great aunt traced my Dad’s side of the family and had it printed and gave every one in the family a copy.

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  11. I connect to the past pretty easily thanks to my husband who is into genealogy pretty heavily. He has found so many stories in his research that he actually wrote a book. It isn’t published but he printed and bound several copies for family members and it is so very interesting. He did such a professional job and I am so very proud of him.

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  12. I also had no interest in history as a teen, too many dates to remember. Then I realized I love learning how people lived, all the things you use for research would keep me interested for hours. Genealogy is very interesting also.
    Your books sound so good.

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    1. Thanks, Kathy. I hope you get a chance to read it. As you said, I can get so lost in researching something that I have to remind myself to write!!

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  13. I talk to my Mom and Dad. I go through pictures as well as cards that have been kept through the years. I have some family who have worked on the family trees. Thank you for sharing. I remember looking at the Sears and JCPenny Christmas catalogs.

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    1. Talking with my Mom and Dad and learning about their experiences in the past was pure joy, Debbie. I treasure all those memories they shared with me.

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  14. Everything old is our passion I guess. We collect antique telephones, medical instruments, movie memorabilia of silent stars, fiesta ware and depression glass, oak furniture, lamps, clocks, vases and figurines, kitchen items, bottles, smoking memorabilia, antique advertising, Waring and Oster blenders along with other appliances of the time, just to name a few I have so many things from my parents and grandparents and they are way better than stuff from today.. Oh and I almost forgot our 1937 Ford Roadster with a rumble seat. I can’t wait to read these… Wish I could afford everything that I want from back then.

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    1. Wow, Madeleine!! Your collections sound amazing. I hope you’ll have a chance to get lost in my stories. I put a lot of fun period details into them. I also post pictures from the books on my FB author page. You might enjoy seeing those.

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  15. I connect through scrapbooks and photographs. I will be a first time grandma this month and I have also been enjoying finding my son’s children’s books and clothes!

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    1. Congratulations, Linda!! It must be so exciting to dig out your son’s things. Children’s books never go out of style. Just think of the fun you’ll have reading stories to your new grandchild. All the best to your family.

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  16. This sounds like a series I would enjoy. I like to read historical mysteries and read several authors who write about the 1920’s including Verity Bright. Interestingly, I just finished transcribing my own grandmother’s diary that she wrote from 1907 until 1913. She stopped writing after her third of twelve children. I suspect she was really too busy to write more. She did include every child’s whole name and birthday. 😉 Happy Writing!

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    1. Thanks, Judy! Your grandmother’s diary must have been fascinating. I hope you get a chance to read my series and that you enjoy it. I’ll be working on book 4 soon.

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    1. I’m running late, too, Liz. Health issues kept me away from the computer all week. Family photos from decades past are a real treasure. It’s a shame much of that tradition may be lost now that people only keep pictures on the devices.

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    1. I’m with you, Barbara. I was so happy that I remembered my grandparents’ stories when I was writing the books. Tucking in “real” details makes all the difference in helping a reader get lost in the time period.

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