Time, time, time, see what’s become…

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I thought one of the wonderful things about starting a  series in the 1940s was that there would be so much time to move forward in.

And yet the second book, set only a few months after the first, is rooted more-or-less in the 1920s. A ghost becomes a sort of secondary client for the detective as his attempt to determine a house is not haunted does the reverse. His heart goes out to a murdered flapper and he seeks out a murderer on this very cold case in the hopes that getting justice will help her find peace. During the Prohibition Era, gangsters were often treated like celebrities and the elite might be found rubbing elbows with them. What kind of chaos happened when a teenager house-sat for his family at a manor too close to the Canadian border to be dry?

For Rafael, there’s a bit of nostalgia in re-visiting the 20s. For me, there’s a lot of research! And a little bit of irony.

Sneak Peek Sunday: The Prologue

Note: The novel itself is written first person, from Rafael’s perspective. However, I’ve written a short scene set shortly before the novel, to awaken curiosity and do some foreshadowing. Also, here’s an idea of what Clara Thomas looks like.

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Prologue

     Clara Thomas was almost finished packing when the phone rang. “Good morning,” she said.

     “So glad I caught you, Clara. You’re being sent to America on a case, aren’t you?”

     “Sir Lynn! Do you need any errands taken care of while I’m there.”

     There was a chuckle on the other end of the phone. “No need to be so formal. I’m your brother, after all, or married to your sister, which amounts to the same thing. Lynn will do just fine. I just called to give you a little advice. I know Interpol needs to recruit more people. Trying to rebuild such an organization is a major task. Well… they’ll have given you some files of people they’d like you to interview as possible options. Somewhere on that list there will be a Major Rafael Jones. Near the middle if they’ve just done it alphabetically, but near the top if they’ve had the sense to prioritize them. I think you should read his file first thing. I think he could be a serious asset.”

     “To Interpol?”

     “To them, yes. Maybe in other ways, too. He has a great deal of potential. I know one of his godmothers.”

     “Is that all you’re going to tell me?”

     “All I can right now. I’d have to meet him for myself to have a better idea. But as far as Interpol goes, he’s very fluent in two languages, passable in four more. He has a reputation for getting along with very nearly everyone– he makes friends easily, and given that Interpol is all about local cooperation, you could use that. Law enforcement has been his career and he has already worked with an international team. He’s ideal for Interpol’s needs.”

     “But you’re also interested in him.”

     “On hunch, my dear, but my hunches are usually reliable.”

     “I’m intrigued. Major Jones, you said.”

     “Rafael, if there’s more than one.”

     “Shall I call you after I’ve made contact?”

     “That’s an excellent idea. I’d like to get your impression of him.”

     “Until then. Give Susan my love.”

     “I certainly will, and all of mine, too. Safe travels.”

     With the call over, Clara went to the window and took a moment to look over the city she was in. Just a few years ago, it seemed like war was everywhere and nothing was safe. Now she could turn her head and look toward England, her homeland, and know that ships were plying across the waters once more. She was soon boarding an aeroplane for America, one laden with passengers, not combatants or weapons. The world was at peace, but her own heart… she didn’t think she’d ever be as lucky as Susan, to find someone who was as real and kind as Sir Lynn Fox. He might be more than a decade older than his wife, but what was that when people were perfect for each other, as they were?

   Work was better than love, if you didn’t have the right one. It gave you stability, purpose, and things to be interested in. Right now, she was interested in getting the file on Rafael Jones to find out what made him important enough for Lynn to take an interest in.

Writing in a different time period

research

The internet makes doing basic research so much easier for many things.

I was going to use the phrase “coloring inside the lines” and then had to ask myself– would a guy in his 30’s in the 40’s use that phrase? When were coloring books invented? They seem like something that’s just been around forever. Well, it only took about a minute to do the research to find out they’d been around about 100 years by then, so yes, it was fine to use.

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Likewise, I needed to see if a fire-axe back then fit my mental image of one… even though I don’t describe it in detail, there was a possibility I would use it on the cover. Another question I had was if a passport problem would legitimately be used to delay someone leaving the country.

Back before the internet, I’d have needed to look for very, very specific history books for images of fire axes, an encyclopedia for the coloring book history, and as for the passport issue, I’d probably need to look into procedural handbooks from the New York-New Jersey Port Authority from 1948. Finding those sources would all have been difficult.

There’s something wonderful about having so much information at our fingertips.

The Journey Begins

Introducing our protagonist: Rafael Jones thought he was going to be a musician growing up, but his first year of college was the same year the stock market crashed and the Great Depression begun. His father had some hardware and dry goods stores, and the business was in danger. Rafael knew he needed to support himself so that his parents had one less thing to worry about. Police work looked like a steady job and would be more exciting for him than helping out in the stores.
After a few years, he moved from Buffalo, N.Y. to New York City itself. The more diverse environment allowed him to fit in better. Nevertheless, when the war started, he wanted to do his part and quit his job in order to enlist.
In the military, he found himself doing police work again: rounding up AWOL soldiers, escorting VIPs, and other such routine MP duties. When a shipment of tanks and artillery went astray, Rafael cracked the case and got them back. That earned him respect, a promotion and a spot in CID.
While his service in the war was different than he’d expected, his most important contribution came after the war. Every trial needs an investigation to bring forth the most compelling evidence, and Rafael had the experience and people skills to train, organize, and handle the investigation team for the war crimes trials.

Our story take up after his discharge. He’s decided not to ask for his old job back, but to go into business for himself as a private detective.

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