World War 2, Spies and Bobby Sox Libby Fischer Hellmann

I occasionally (very occasionally, because it’s too nerve-wracking. I seriously hate doing it) review books for Windy City Reads. This gives me a chance to repay some Karma, as they’ve been very kind to my books (so far) and also meet some Chicago writers. Last month I reviewed Libby Hellmann’s, “War, Spies and Bobby Sox, Stories About WW2 at Home.” (You can read the review here.)

Even though it was as far from the battlefields in Europe and the Pacific as you can get, there were important things happening here that impacted the war.

Libby Fischer Hellmann left a career in broadcast news in Washington, DC and moved to Chicago 35 years ago, where she, naturally, began to write gritty crime fiction. Fourteen novels and twenty-five short stories later, she claims they’ll take her out of the Windy City feet first.

She has been nominated for many awards in the mystery and crime writing community and has even won a few. She has been a finalist twice for the Anthony, three times for Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year, the Agatha, the Shamus, the Daphne, and has won the IPPY and the Readers Choice Award multiple times.

Libby Fischer Hellman lives and writes in Chicago

Her most recent release, War, Spies & Bobby Sox: Stories about WW2 At Home was released March 1, 2017. Her novels include the now five-volume Ellie Foreman series, which she describes as a cross between “Desperate Housewives” and “24;” the hard-boiled 4-volume Georgia Davis PI series, and three stand-alone historical thrillers that Libby calls her “Revolution Trilogy.” Her short stories have been published in a dozen anthologies, the Saturday Evening Post, and Ed Gorman’s “25 Criminally Good Short Stories” collection.  In 2005 Libby was the national president of Sisters In Crime, a 3500 member organization dedicated to the advancement of female crime fiction authors. Her website is http://libbyhellmann.com.

Your book is actually an anthology, which is rare in historical fiction. What’s the nutsell version?

WS&B is my 14th crime thriller. (I have published five novels in one series, 4 in other, and 4 stand-alone historical thrillers.) The sub-title is “Stories About World War Two At Home” which is pretty much self-explanatory. WS&B is slightly different than my novels because it’s a collection of two novellas and one short story. But all three are set in and around Chicago during World War Two at home.

The first story, “The Incidental Spy”, is about a woman who worked in the Physics Department at the University of Chicago during the early years of the Manhattan Project (before it was officially called that, of course). “POW” is about two German POWs who were imprisoned in a camp that actually existed in Glenview. And the 3rd story, “The Day Miriam Hirsch Disappeared” was set in Lawndale, which, in the 1930s, was a thriving Jewish community in Chicago.

I liked them all, for different reasons. What was about this time period that intrigued you enough to do three different stories?

I’ve always been an avid reader of WW2 fiction, because I think it’s the last time in recent history where there was such clarity between good and evil. It was a time where some people turned out to be heroes while others became cowards—or worse. So it presents a wonderful opportunity for complex character development. At the same time, though, I was intimidated at the prospect of writing about the war. So many rich, beautiful stories have already been written (NiGHTINGALE, ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, UNBROKEN, SARAH’S KEY, and more) I wondered what I could possibly add. A friend of mine, however, thought differently, and while she didn’t dare me, she did encourage me to write about the era. Eventually I took a deep breath and dived in. My caveat was to choose small pieces of the human “canvas,” since I couldn’t write about battles and military actions.

What’s your favorite scene in the book?

There are several. The scenes in Hyde Park near the U of Chicago were really fun to write, as was the description of the “Pile” (the first nuclear reactor) underneath Stagg Field. I also loved writing about the emotional tug of war in POW between Mary-Catherine and the two German soldiers. Lawndale, another South side setting, was fun to research, as I actually met a couple of “old-timers” who grew up there.

What I liked about your Lawndale story was the clash of cultures and class inside the Jewish community, which a lot of people under a certain age aren’t aware of. Good stuff. Where can we learn more about you and your work?

My Website: http://libbyhellmann.com

Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Libby-Fischer-Hellmann/e/B001HMMDZU/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Facebook: https://facebook.com/authorlibbyfischerhellmann

 

Chicago History and Mystery with Michelle Cox

One of the things I love about living in Chicago is the insane pride people take in the history of this city. Not just the big things; the fire, Capone, blues music, but the growth of the town from lonely fur outpost to whatever it is today (Carnage Central, Hub of the Midwest, the City that Works… pick one.)

Today’s author, Michelle Cox, writes romance mysteries set in Depression-era Chicago.

So, Michelle, what’s your deal?

Hi, Wayne!  I write the Henrietta and Inspector Clive series, the first installment of which, A Girl Like You, debuted last April.  Book two of the series, A Ring of Truth, is publishing in April.  Besides working on the manuscripts for the series (I’m currently toiling over book four!), I also write a weekly blog about Chicago’s forgotten residents, entitled “Novel Notes of Local Lore,” and another blog that pokes fun at the publishing industry called “How to Get Your Book Published in 7,000 Easy Steps – A Practical Guide,” both of which can be found on my website.  I live in the Chicago suburbs with my Liverpudlian husband and three kids.  Oh, yeah, and I have a BA in literature from Mundelein College in Chicago, if that matters to anyone!

I’ll swap you that for my Associates Degree from BCIT any day. What’s your series about?

A Girl Like You is the start of a historical fiction series, set during the Depression era in Chicago.  It’s a mystery, really, but there’s a pretty strong romance thread running through it, too.

Essentially it’s about a young woman, Henrietta Von Harmon, who has to provide for her mother and siblings when her father kills himself after losing his job due to the Depression.  The book starts off with her working as a 26-girl at the local tavern.  She’s not making enough, though, so she is persuaded by a friend to become a taxi-dancer at one of the big dance halls.

Not long after she starts there, however, the floor matron is murdered, and an investigation led by the aloof Detective Inspector Clive Howard begins.  Impressed by Henrietta’s beauty, Inspector Howard convinces her to go undercover for him as an usherette in a burlesque house, where he suspects the killer is lurking, all the while not realizing that Henrietta is much younger and more innocent than she pretends.

Henrietta quickly gets absorbed into the seediness of the place, meeting all sorts of strange characters, as she attempts to discover the secret behind the “white feather club,” which she believes is connected somehow to the murder and the disappearance of young women.  So that’s the mystery part.

Meanwhile there’s a little bit of comic relief in the character of Stanley Dubowski, the love-struck neighborhood boy who thinks of himself as Henrietta’s protector and continues to follow her around, annoyingly popping up at rather inconvenient moments.  Not only is he worried about Henrietta working at such a dangerous place, but he’s threatened by what he sees as a growing attraction between the Inspector and Henrietta.  And that’s, of course, where the romance part comes in, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

What’s your fascination with that time period in Chicago?

I’ve always been very drawn to the ‘30’s and ‘40’s—the music, the clothes, the cars, the Great Depression, the wars.  People lived through so much in such a short period of time and there’s so much there to write about – drama, intrigue, romance—you’ve got it all!

In the early 1990’s I found myself working at a nursing home on Chicago’s NW side, and I heard literally hundreds of these types of stories from that era.  So when I decided to write a book, I actually picked out one woman’s story, let’s call her Adeline, and used some of the details of her life to create the character of Henrietta.  There are many parts of the book, then, that are actually true:  Henrietta’s extreme beauty, all of the strange jobs she procures, the family history of the Von Harmons, the character of Stanley, and, believe it or not, the lesbian characters that befriend her at the burlesque house.

Of course, I had to fictionalize most of the book, including the murder mystery and all of the other characters, but it gave me a great foundation to start with.  Adeline was quite a character, and she used to follow me around the nursing home, telling me – frequently – that once upon a time, she had had “a man-stopping body and a personality to go with it!”  That’s classic!  So I tried very hard to capture that same spunky spirit and give it to Henrietta.

I know you love all your children equally, but do you have a favorite scene in the book?

There’s so much going on in Chapter 7.  We’ve got a little comedy with Stan roughly being escorted out of an abandoned apartment, the building suspense of the mystery as Henrietta and Clive discuss certain chilling aspects of the case, followed by an unexpected scene of domesticity as Clive sits quietly musing and watching Henrietta sew.  He takes the opportunity to ask her more about her sad story, and they both become a little more vulnerable.  This naturally lends itself then to a sort of sexual/romantic tension as they realize that they’re alone in an empty apartment without a chaperone.  Clive is obviously attracted to her, but it torments him, as he sees himself at thirty-five years of age as being much too old for this young girl of eighteen.  Henrietta, for her part, is also attracted to this older man, whom she possibly sees as a father figure, but doesn’t believe anyone so good as the inspector would ever be interested in “a girl like her.”

So as you can see, there’s lots of drama and intrigue and romance going on in this scene, and it’s deliciously fun to see what unfolds, not just in this chapter, but the whole book, if I do say so myself!

Anything you want to say to the giant throng of people reading this?

I hope you’ll check out the next book of the series, A Ring of Truth, due out in April!  It picks up right where the first book ends.  You can read more about it (including the whole first chapter!) on my website:  http://michellecoxauthor.com/

You can also connect with me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/michellecoxwrites/ or Twitter: https://twitter.com/michellecox33

Windy City Reviews likes Acre’s Bastard

It’s hard for an indie book to get reviews aside from the folks who take the time to write on Amazon or Goodreads (and a thousand blessings on your homes and camels.) So when someone you don’t know, share DNA with, or owe money to likes your book, it’s a cause to celebrate.

Windy City Reviews has done a pre-publication review of Acre’s Bastard, and it’s a good one! You can read the whole thing here.

Any review that starts with

The subtitle to Wayne Turmel’s Acre’s Bastard is “Part 1 of the Lucca le Pou stories,” and I am already looking forward to further stories from this author about his engaging main character.

and ends with

… even these supporting characters have none of the cardboard cut-out feel of many adventures. They have the feel of people we might have chanced to meet if we were transported to those hectic times.

Now, I could pick nits… the biggest thing is this is NOT a YA novel that adults can read, it’s an adult novel teen readers can sink their teeth into. Still who am I to complain when people are telling strangers to buy your book?

History, Fantasy, Mystery- why can’t you have it all? Barbara Barnett

As I’ve said before, what qualifies as historical fiction is open to debate. For some writers it’s slavish devotion to the facts. For others it’s a setting that opens up room for the thousand “what ifs?” that make a great story. In the case of Barbara Barnett it’s kind of all of the above. Her newest book, The Apothecary’s Curse checks the “all of the above” box.

Barbara Barnett
Barbara Barnett

So Barbara, is a busy, busy girl….

She is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics Magazine, 
(blogcritics.org) an online magazine of pop culture, politics and more, She has published more than 1,000 in-depth interviews with writers, actors and producers, as well as essays and criticism. Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras: THE Unofficial Guide to House, M.D. is a critically-acclaimed and quintessential guide to the hit show. She is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA’s HalloWEEM convention (author’s note… Cool. Also, showoff!), where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as “The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture,” “The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes,” “The Hidden History of Science Fiction,” and “Our Passion for Disaster (Movies).” This autumn, she will reprise her MENSA appearance with “The Conan Doyle Conundrum.” She is a member of SFWA (the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association), and is current president of the Midwest Writers Association.

So give us the Readers Digest version, what’s the book about?

History meets fantasy meets science meets Arthur Conan Doyle.  The Apothecary’s Curse weaves Celtic mythology, the science of genetics, alchemy, life in early Victorian London, and the world of Arthur Conan Doyle into a historical fantasy-mystery, steeped in an apothecary’s cauldron.

The Apothecary’s Curse moves between early Victorian medical society (and the dregs of London’s worst neighborhoods) and a modern North Shore Chicago community, as a gentleman physician an enigmatic apothecary try to prevent a pharmaceutical company from exploiting an ancient book of healing that made them immortal centuries ago.

There’s a lot going on there, and purists might cringe a bit (screw’em). What inspired the story?

History, fantasy, mystery all merge in The Apothecary's Curse.
History, fantasy, mystery all merge in The Apothecary’s Curse.
I’ve always been fascinated by British history, especially where the lines between legend and reality blur. So many of the supernatural ballads of the British Isles seem to have the grain within them of real history, like the story of  Thomas the Rhymer, a real Scottish Laird and confederate of William Wallace who’d been (according to the legend) abducted by the queen of Elfland to be returned with the gift of prophecy and then some. I explored a few “what ifs” with the myth of the man, connecting him with the Tuatha de Danann—again a real people of the 12th Century, who were said to have magical healing powers, so much so that they became to the Irish, Celtic deities.
I brought into the early Victorian era another period that fascinates me; the story of Thomas’s descendent, a brilliant apothecary and the inheritor of Airmid’s (the Celtic goddess of healing) magnificent book. But use of the book, with its powerful medicine, has rendered my poor apothecary Gaelan Erceldoune with curse of immortality.  It is in Victorian London, in the squalid neighborhood of Smithfield Market that my apothecary meets gentleman physician Dr. Simon Bell (a relation of Joseph Bell, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s medical mentor), It is here that 19th Century British medicine as practiced by gentleman clashes with the practical, earthier medicine of the brilliant Erceldoune.
Without giving the game away, what’s your favorite scene in the book?

It takes place in Bedlam in 1842. Simon is seeking insight into his own mortality when he learns of a prisoner in the infamous asylum who, like him, seems to be indestructible (at least physically). Arranging to see this prisoner, who has for five years been tortured and has been the subject of medical experimentation by a proto-Mengele figure—a “mad” doctor, Simon discovers that it is Gaelan, who had supposedly been executed five years earlier at Newgate Prison for murder.

The reunion, fraught with tension and bad feelings is a pivotal moment in the novel. (I can’t say more than that without spoilers 🙂 )

Fair enough. Now that we’ve baited the hook, where can people find your work?

The Apothecary’s Curse will be available October 11 at most online and brick and Mortar bookstores. Here are the pre-order and information links. City Lit Books in Logan Square is hosting a launch party of the book on October 20. If readers are interested in receiving an invitation, they can email me at barbara.barnett@barbarabarnett.com

Website: barbarabarnett.com

Goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29236424-the-apothecary-s-curse

Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Apothecarys-Curse-Barbara-Barnett/dp/1633882330/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1457895155&sr=8-1&keywords=apothecary%27s+curse

Twitter: Twitter.com/B_Barnett

Facebook: Facebook.com/BarbaraBarnettAuthor

Young Adult Western History- Danielle Grandinetti

So I mentioned that there are a lot of Chicago area writers who love historical fiction, but that takes all forms. One of the genres that makes me a bit crazy is “YA” (there’s probably a whole rant here that you don’t care about) but anything that gets kids to read is okay in the great scheme of things. To that end, I’d like to introduce Danielle Grandinetti, author of “The Vanishing Kidnapper.”

The Vanishing Kidnapper by Danielle Grandinetti
The Vanishing Kidnapper by Danielle Grandinetti

Since 2008, Danielle has worked as a freelance editor and writing instructor, helping teens and adults become better writers. While mystery is her favorite genre to both read and write, she also enjoys historical topics, classic literature, and a good adventure. Her short stories and articles have appeared in several publications; her novel, The Vanishing Kidnapper was released in December; and her republished novelette, Choices Amid the Trees was released as an e-book in August. Though a Chicagoland native, Danielle now lives in Wisconsin with her husband. She also enjoys a good cup of tea.

So  what is The Vanishing Kidnapper all about?

Teenagers John and Kaitlyn Rivers have a simple life in their 1870s outpost, running their family’s general store for the surrounding communities and operating the stagecoach stop. But one stormy night, the stage’s visit is anything but ordinary. Kidnappings, attacks, and shady characters change a usually boring existence into a fight for life.

Confronted with their past, John and Kaitlyn begin to unravel a mystery that left them survivors of not one, but two kidnapping attempts. Their questions uncover facts different than the truth they had always believed. Now they have to decide whom to trust – and the lives of those they care about depend on it.

There’s been a real resurgence in local history writing lately, especially in the Midwest. What is it about this time period that you find so interesting?

The period after the Civil War is labeled the Reconstruction Era, in which it was hoped that deep scars would be healed and relationships rebuilt. Historians debate how well this happened and what impact those events have on the present. The tumult of this time is especially true of the Old West, or Wild West. That’s why I thought it served as the perfect backdrop to explore John and Kaitlyn’s discovery that people are not always what they appear to be.

Without giving away the goodies, what’s your favorite scene in the book?

My favorite scene in the book contains the biggest spoiler. It is wrapped around a character who fleshes out the main theme of the story. We as humans often put others into categories. The question is whether the definition of those categories really fit the people we’ve placed in them or whether people are bigger than the labels we give them.

How can people learn more about you and your books?

Danielle Grandinetti
Danielle Grandinetti

The Vanishing Kidnapper is available in paperback and as an e-book. For ordering information, please visit: danielleswritingspot.com/The-Vanishing-Kidnapper/ for links.

You can follow me on my blog (danielleswritingspot.com), Twitter (@dgrandinetti), or my facebook page 

Illinois History Mystery with Pat Camalliere

As a member of the Chicago Writer’s Association (http://www.chicagowrites.org/), I’m thrilled to meet local writers who share a passion for Historical Fiction, even if they’re not always in genres or styles I normally delve into. In the next couple of posts you’ll meet a couple of these folks. First up is Pat Camalliere, author of the new historical mystery, The Mystery at Black Partridge Woods. It’s part of the Cora Tozzi Mystery Series.

You live just down the road from me… what should my readers know about you?

Pat Camalliere is the author of the Cora Tozzi mystery series.
Pat Camalliere is the author of the Cora Tozzi mystery series.

I became a mystery addict one summer when I was twelve and found a box of about sixty Perry Mason mysteries in my parent’s attic. I read them all by the end of the summer, exhausted the library’s supply, and then moved on to Rex Stout and Agatha Christie. (My first preteen crush was on Archie Goodwin.)  Wayne’s note: me too! My grandmother left us boxes of books by Erle Stanley Gardner and Zane Grey and I worked through them all. In high school I wrote mystery stories for the school’s literary publications, then after college I set writing aside for a “practical” career in medical group administration. Administration is all about writing: memos, reports, letters, website content, procedures, etc. I was told I had a real knack for the written word.

My passion for local history came later, and increased after I moved to Lemont in 1998 and discovered the fascinating and quirky anecdotes and geography of the area. When I retired in 2007 I was ready to see if I truly had talent as an author. I had wasted too many years, and had no time to waste more. I bypassed the traditional route of soliciting literary publications to print smaller works; my first serious manuscript became my first novel, The Mystery at Sag Bridge. It was received enthusiastically and my fans demanded more, so I began work on my next novel right away.

So this is your second novel. What’s the tale about?

It was important to me to tell stories that would delight local residents with little-known facts about the place they lived and introduce nonresidents to a unique part of the Midwest. Of course, my stories had to be historical mysteries, and they had to be entertaining, with perhaps a bit of humor, whimsy, and a touch of the supernatural. Both books begin in present day and reveal a mystery that relates to another mystery from the past. The books then step into history and uncover the circumstances that led to the murder from the viewpoint character in that time period, and then return to the present and the amateur sleuth deals with both mysteries. I call them sandwich mysteries, the meat in the middle.

In my first book, The Mystery at Sag Bridge, the main character is being haunted by the ghost of a young Irish woman who was killed in an unsolved triple homicide in 1898. The protagonist must solve the murder to allow the spirit to rest, but in the process becomes emotionally involved and shows reluctance to have the ghost depart. My readers loved the characters, so I decided to write the next book as #2 in a historical mystery series. In my new release, The Mystery at Black Partridge Woods, the present-day characters are writing a book based on the memoirs of an American Indian woman whose only son was accused of killing a white man in 1817. To save her son the woman must find the real killer and bring him in, in an Illinois frontier with little more than vigilante justice. The writers soon receive a threatening letter and then are attacked: someone wants to prevent publication of their book. This is a book-within-a-book, in which the Indian woman tells her story in her own words.

So what brought you to the story and this particular time period?

I had always had little oddball events happen to me that I couldn’t explain: drawers that opened on their own, things that disappeared and then were found back in place. Little things like that. I asked myself: what if there was a real presence out there, instead of just coincidence? What might that look like? The Mystery of Sag Bridge came into being as I followed answers to such questions. Oddly, the ghost began in my mind as a Guardian Angel. It was only as I was conducting paranormal and religious research that I realized the behavior patterns I wanted the character to have fit a ghost better than an “Angel gone awry.” I put some of my own experiences into the story, as I had vivid memories of my own Irish grandmother that could be used to bring some color to the part of the story that was told in first person by the woman who later became the ghost.

The Mystery at Black Partridge Woods was actually the first story I wanted to

Mystery at Black Partridge Woods is the second book in the series.
Mystery at Black Partridge Woods is the second book in the series.

write, but I had absolutely no experience that related to the historic culture or time period, so I knew the research would be extensive. When I started writing I wanted to test my writing prowess more quickly, so this became my second book instead of the first. The idea developed from my interest in telling a story from the fur trade period, which again is part of the history of my town. I wanted to feature an American Indian woman. There were few stories that dealt with American Indian women as protagonists, especially the amateur sleuth sort, especially in the early 1800s. It took two years to research the time period to pick a date and assemble enough information to imbue the work with the history needed to make it come alive. But I knew from the beginning it would be set close to home, in the forests, bluffs, and swamps in the Des Plaines River Valley southwest of Chicago. I loved this time and place so much I wrote a six-page historical afterword for the novel.

Where can people learn more?

They can find my website and local history blog at www.Patcamallierebooks.com

My Amazon Author Page is here

And you can find me on Facebook at PatCamallierebooks

Fantasy Based on 1920s History- Kelsey Lee Connors’ Surge

The definition of “historical fiction” is blurry at best, and never more so than when people introduce a fantasy element to a specific time and place (see the interview I did with Lavinia Collins for an Arthurian example.) Heck, even Star Trek did an episode with Al Capone.

And why wouldn’t they? 1920s Chicago was an amazing period. In fact, it serves as part of the backdrop for my own book, The Count of the Sahara. Why tart it up? Because it’s fun. Kelsey Lee Connors has written a dystopian fantasy for young adults that is set in a time recognizable as Chicago in the ’20s, but with a twist.

Kelsey Lee Connors, author of Surge
Kelsey Lee Connors, author of Surge

First, give us the Kelsey Lee Connors story…

I was born in Chicago, Illinois, and I’ve been writing since I was 14 years old. At University I studied Classical Studies, with a minor in Anthropology, and after two years work experience I decided to move to Rome, Italy to pursue my career in Roman history and an MA in Arts Management. Now I’m 25, teaching English as a foreign language while I finish my masters’ at The American University in Rome, and excited to finish the second novel in my series. Some fun facts about me: I’m an artist, a crazy cat lady, I love fantasy of all sorts, and I cosplay Ygritte from Game of Thrones every year at C2E2, Chicago’s Comic Con.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention that you and I share a publisher, “The Book Folks” out of London. Between you, me, and Lou Holly, Erik must be tempted to open a Chicago office.

 In a nutshell, what’s the book about?

The book is about Chicago in the 1920’s, which is ruled by a faceless, high-tech Corporation slowly sucking the life from its citizens. The story is told through the perspective of 16-year-old Evelyn O’Donnell, whose father dies of a sudden car-accident near their home. Or so they think. After his death, the now dry Pub he worked day and night to keep running for their neighborhood, is about to go under. Evelyn teams up with her brother’s mysterious new friend (Dante Malachi), despite completely despising him, in order to get the funds to save it. The unlikely pair take to the speakeasies to gamble it back by playing Black Jack.

But Chicago is changing, and so is Evelyn. Each day a strange power she can’t seem to control sends sparks of electricity flying from her fingertips. News of her father’s life before his death grows darker with each turn around the grapevine. And there are rumors of the Corporation’s electrical plants turning the alive…into the undead.

When you’re writing fantasy based on history….. where do you decide how much of each….. how much does real history impact that balance? I mean, the mob was tough but they weren’t creating electricity out of bodies!

I tried to incorporate as much historical accuracy as I could when I wrote SURGE. I like to think of The Corporation as a tick on the skin- Chicago is more or less in the same historical period as it was in the true version of history, but it has a sort of infestation of technology feeding off it.

I was woefully ignorant about the 20’s as a period before I started research, which is why I went in this direction. I think most people have an idea very different from what it actually was like. Interestingly, the biggest delusions about the era are pertaining to women, crime and, of course, fashion. I could go on for hours about the actual length of a flapper’s dress (much longer than we see in modern costumes) or the modern fad of wearing suspenders (back then were considered undergarments, not for show). But, at the end of the day, I hugely enjoyed the research aspect of writing!

What is it about that time period or character that intrigued you and motivated you to write about it?

Back in college, I did an internship in the Collections Department at the Hellenic Museum in Chicago where I was handling a huge amount of artifacts from Greek immigrants in the Prohibition era. I’ve always loved the period, but this really planted the seed of inspiration. I really wanted to write another book about electric control, and one particularly cold and rainy day I was coming up from

Surge is a fantasy set in 1920s Chicago...
Surge is a fantasy set in 1920s Chicago…

the L train off UIC/Halsted to the museum and the ideas collided.

Of course, Evelyn came along because I imagined what it would be like to be in the shoes of those immigrants. She and her brother are second generation Irish immigrants, a salute to my own heritage. In Paris, there was a similar, one would argue better, period of art and exploration and that’s in part what inspired Dante’s origins. I like to think of him wandering Parisian streets heckling Fitzgerald and Hemingway, scotch glass in hand.

Without giving away spoilers, what’s your favorite scene or event in the book?

Without a doubt, when Evelyn enters a speakeasy for the first time. I had imagined the scene so many times in my head that when I came to write it down, I got the worst writer’s block of my life. It ended up being the last scene I wrote!

It’s an actual real, historical place called the Green Mill in Chicago, which I’ve visited many times. It’s famous for being Al Capone’s (or Capuzzi, in SURGE) hangout and there are still the original tunnels below it that they used for importing liquor and escaping from the fuzz!
Living in Chicago, I know the Green Mill well. It’s easy to get sucked into the past there. Where can people learn more about you and your work?

Website: https://kelseylconnors.wordpress.com/

SURGE on Facebook: www.facebook.com/kelseyleeconnors

Amazon Author: http://www.amazon.com/Kelsey-Connors/e/B01FWPE2MY

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/kelseyleeconnors

Also, you can reach me on my Instagram to see what life in Rome is like, and to see special instagram only book updates! https://www.instagram.com/kelseyleeconnors/

Lou Holly Sr- Southside Chicago in the 80s

If the death of Prince (blessings upon him) doesn’t have you nostalgic for the 1980s, I’ve got something that will. My friend Lou Holly Sr. has written a tight, fast-moving crime thriller set on the Southside of Chicago.

You can nearly smell the char dogs and stale Old Style… not to mention those horrible fake leather Bulls jackets…. and if a story set in the 80s doesn’t seem very historical… try telling your kids about them some time. Besides, it’s my blog……

Lou Holly Sr, on what must be his wedding day to Liz, otherwise it's his prom
Lou Holly Sr, on what must be his wedding day to Liz, otherwise it’s his prom

Okay for those of you who don’t know, what’s the Lou Holly story?

I’m 65 years old, married, retired and live in Naperville, IL. I was brought up on the southside of Chicago in a blue-collar neighborhood. I’ve been a self-employed entrepreneur most of my adult life. Past businesses I’ve owned include a band booking agency and limousine business. In the 1990s, I worked as a private driver and bodyguard for a Chicago actress. My wife and I published a 1950s & 60s nostalgia/rock & roll magazine from 2009 to 2013 titled Keep Rockin’. I started writing novels five years ago. Basically, I’m a self-taught writer with no formal training.

I was lucky enough to help workshop your book with the Naperville Writers Group, but for those who didn’t watch your baby grow up, what’s the plot?

SOUTHSIDE HUSTLE is about a 31-year-old man called Trick (short for Patrick), who gets out of prison after serving close to three years for a drug bust. He owes a ruthless drug dealer $60,000 from a previous debt. He is having a hard time adjusting to life on the outside and is under pressure to come up with the money he owes. Trick’s life turns around when he sees a black bag thrown from a speeding car being chased by the police. The bag contains three kilos of cocaine and $285,000. He pays off his debt to the drug dealer by giving him the kilos. He thinks he is on easy street with all that cash, until the guys that the bag belongs to somehow catch up to him. That’s when Trick finds himself in a trick bag.

What was it about that time period that’s so interesting? 

The 1980s was a fascinating period in America. There was a lot of drug money

Southside Hustle, published by The Book Folks
Southside Hustle, published by The Book Folks

being thrown around and a lot of debts incurred. Some people got rich, some went broke, some went to prison and others ended up dead, all as a result of the cocaine trade. I remember the 1980s as a time of beautiful women, fancy cars, expensive clothes, jewelry, and discos.

What’s your favorite scene in the book?

One of my favorite scenes occurs when Trick is being processed into Cook County Jail. Trick is in a line with a large group of men, all stripped naked. They are instructed not to move. When the man to Trick’s left absentmindedly folds his arms, a guard hits him on the head with a billy-club and knocks him out. What results next puts Trick in a serious predicament. It’s a true story that I personally lived through.

Yeah, the reality really burns through in that scene. Southside Hustle is published by The Book Folks, same people who did my novel, The Count of the Sahara. Where can people learn more about you and your work? 

They can find me on Facebook 

Twitter  https://twitter.com/louholly_sr

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4458920.Lou_Holly

 

louandliz
Lou, his wife Liz and yours truly celebrating the launch of Southside Hustle. He seems to have greyed since his promo picture….. but then haven’t we all.