Category Archives: Detective Fiction
M. Ruth Myers
The speed with which the city of Dayton, Ohio, responded to the attack on Pearl Harbor was stunning, especially when contrasted with the slow pace of communications detailed in Part I. The extent to which the city was prepared to step onto a war footing was equally amazing.
Within hours of receiving initial word of the attack, the city’s entire police had been mobilized. All vacations were canceled. Police Chief Rudolph Wurstner activated a plan which he and a few other members of his command had worked on quietly for more than a year. During that time, two members of his detective bureau had been assigned anti-sabotage investigation duties and had been in constant contact with the FBI. Now, almost immediately, police patrolled to protect the city’s numerous manufacturing and research facilities.
I was able to show the outer results of that planning in Maximum Moxie, the latest book in my Maggie Sullivan mystery series, which is set in Dayton. What I couldn’t show was the wealth of activity going on behind the scenes that was unknown to my detective and other characters.
Just outside the city lay Wright Field and Patterson Field, military installations vital to operations of the U.S. Army Air Corps. Wright Field was headquarters of the Materiel Division, the branch of the Air Corps which developed new aircraft, equipment and accessories. Nearby Patterson Field was the center for Air Corps aviation logistics, maintenance and supply. They, too, had been making secret preparations, which now went into effect.
At word from Washington, both airfields put aerial defenses in place and added ground reinforcements to boost security. Armed aircraft were stationed at both bases. All civilian planes were grounded. All military leaves were cancelled until further notice.
A Home Defense Auxiliary already had been established. It now was called into service. This force consisted of 100 members of the American Legion and V.F.W. They were organized under four commanders who held a rank equivalent to those of police sergeants. Other civilian groups organized quickly.
By Dec. 9, less than 48 hours from first word of the attack, the city’s Volunteer Defense Office issued a public appeal for 200 women to train as nurses aides. Both married and single women were welcome. Training classes would be held for six weeks Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9-12 a.m. Volunteer office help also was needed from 7-9 p.m., and would work in the lobby of the Municipal Building.
Also on Dec. 9, the Citizens Protective Committee appealed to all owners of motor vehicles to register, giving name, address and phone number. They could be pressed into service in the event a forced evacuation of the city was needed.
As I sat reading the long-ago newspaper announcements of those initiatives, I found myself wondering over and over: How many cities, faced with a similar catastrophe today, could match that kind of speed and efficiency?
— Book of the Week —
by M. Ruth Myers
Most accounts of the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor that plunged America into World War II focus on actions at the distant naval base itself, or give passing mention to the fact that those on the home front heard the news on their radios on a Sunday afternoon.
The home front part in particular has always struck me as distressingly incomplete.
In Maximum Moxie, the latest book in my Maggie Sullivan mystery series, I wanted to give a more detailed, close-up view of what occurred in one city (Dayton, Ohio) in the hours immediately following initial word of the attack. It was, after all, the Christmas season. Children were stringing popcorn and making paper chains to decorate the tree for Santa’s visit. Women were baking. It was the last ordinary day in what would be a very long time.
To appreciate how news of the Pearl Harbor attack shattered that day, imagine the sudden horror and uncertainty of 9/11 — but without modern communications.
- Teletype was the swiftest way to send information.
- Home radios were becoming more common, but were still a bit of a luxury in middle class homes.
- Only two radio networks broadcast nationally, and only one of those broadcast news on Sundays.
- Images of breaking news in distant places would, if you were lucky, appear in your local paper half a day later.
- Telephoning relatives in another city, let alone another state, required waiting while operators connected one exchange to another (and another, and another) when there was room on the line.
For some, the effect of the first, brief radio bulletin about the attack was immediate and tragic. In Berkeley, California, Sidney Arthur Higgins, who had worked on construction of the Panama Canal and served as an Army captain in World War I, was listening. When he heard the news, he shouted to his wife to come listen. By the time she got there, he was having a heart attack. He died less than a month later on Jan. 2, 1942.
But how people reacted, and the speed and variations in how the news reached them, varied considerably.
At the time, the United States had just two national broadcast networks. One, NBC, split its programming into two feeds but had no Sunday newscasts. The other, CBS, had a regularly scheduled news program, “The World Today”, that was about to begin when news of the attack started arriving on wire service teletype shortly before 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time. CBS was therefore able to shift from scheduled news to that of the attack, and to provide steady coverage as fresh details came in.
Dayton, where the Maggie Sullivan mysteries are set, was like many other cities. It didn’t have a CBS station. It got only a branch of NBC. There a program featuring Sammy Kaye’s orchestra was just ending, and a scholarly discussion, “The Chicago Roundtable” about to begin, when wire-service machines clattered out news of the Pearl Harbor attack. NBC was able to cut the start of the Roundtable program to provide news bulletins – but then it returned to regular programming. Interrupting programs with commercial sponsors required permission from the sponsor executives, so the network was largely limited to providing updates during breaks.
That’s how it was for the rest of the day. Distant horror, with occasional details trickling in.
Only the following day, when Dayton papers carried photographs of the attack, could residents picture the scope of what had befallen them. Only through maps printed there did many readers begin to understand where the distant U.S. base that had been the target of the attack was located.
In contrast to the era’s slow communication, however, Dayton’s emergency preparedness, even by today’s standards, was amazing. Activation of a plan to move the city to a wartime footing began within hours of receiving news about the attack.
(Next week – Part II: Immediate Response)
— Here’s the Deal —
It’s practically a return to the dime novels of the 1940s! This new Crime Cafe box set gets you nine full-length mystery and crime novels by nine different for just 99c. (Okay, technically that’s 11 cents each, but consider inflation.) Authors include Austin Camacho, Donna Fletcher Crow and others, including yours truly. Editor is New York Times best-selling novelist Debbi Mack, host of Crime Cafe.
by M. Ruth Myers
Maximum Moxie, shiny new addition to the mystery series featuring the 1940s detective with great legs, Maggie Sullivan, has just landed in digital bookstores. This fifth book in the series opens when the private eye takes on a new case days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, and provides an unusual portrait of a mainland city left dazed but resolute.
Days before the Pearl Harbor attack plunges the U.S. into World War II, private eye Maggie Sullivan is hired to find a missing engineer in Dayton, Ohio. Has Gil Tremain been kidnaped, or has he turned traitor — to his employer and maybe his country?
As Maggie pieces together his last movements, she finds there are secrets the man’s ex-wife and his employers don’t want uncovered. Maggie herself is attacked and an innocent witness is murdered. The ruthlessness of her opponent — or opponents — becomes even clearer when there’s an attempt to abduct Tremain’s young daughter. Still more chilling, Maggie’s investigation suddenly attracts the attention of a local crime kingpin.
The attack on Pearl Harbor presses every cop in the city into service protecting manufacturing and research facilities. Stunned by the knowledge their nation will soon be at war, even fearful the mainland itself will be bombed, people cling to family and friends. Schedules and routines shatter. Amid the disruption, alone and aware she can’t count on help from the police, Maggie races to save a man who has now become a liability to his captors.
Maximum Moxie, fifth book in the author’s popular Maggie Sullivan mysteries series, gives readers fast-paced twists and turns along with a rare and vividly painted closeup view of a watershed event in 20th century American history.
When the pace of change, especially in technology, makes you dizzy, consider changes American women went through from the eve of World War I to the eve of World War II. A few of those changes become “accidental characters” in the mystery Don’t Dare a Dame, when a private eye in Ohio is hired to learn the fate of a man who vanished before she was born.
The detective is Maggie Sullivan, and she’s hired for this particular case in the fall of 1939. The disappearance — and suspected murder — she investigates took place during the chaos of the great 1913 flood. In the interval between, these changes occurred:
Transportation – In the spring of 1913 apart from a few motorcycles, the Dayton police department owned a single motorized vehicle, a “utilitarian wagon”. By the fall of 1939, the department had a fleet of patrol cars and two ambulances. Most transportation, for civilians and law enforcement alike, depended on horses.
In the flood’s aftermath, a young patrolman named Rudolph F. Wurstner was put in charge of moving some 1,400 horse carcases out of the city for disposal. Left unattended, they could spread cholera and typhoid fever. By 1922, Rudy Wurstner had become the city’s chief of police, a position he would hold until 1949.
Communication – In 1913, America had no radio stations. When telephone lines went down, terrified Dayton residents had no way to communicate with each other. When the Gamewell system of police call boxes succumbed as well, face-to-face communication was all that remained, and rumors spread.
The country’s first commercial station would air in 1920, and Dayton’s first station in 1921. By 1937 national radio networks had been established, allowing Americans to hear President FDR’s first fireside chat in 1933, and his announcement of the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7, 1941.
Votes for Women – In 1913 these were still a dream for America’s women. In 1920 they became a reality. In 1922 one woman was serving in the U.S. Senate. By 1923, four were serving in the Ohio House of Representatives.
Lipstick – In 1913 the use of “lip rouge” by respectable women was still frowned on by many. If it was used, it had to be applied with a brush or fingertip. It came in small pots or paper tubes — no pushing it up and down. The range of colors was limited, mostly red, redder and dark red. In 1915, lipstick in a metal tube came to market. The stick of color inside was raised by raising a nub of metal in the side of the tube. During the 1920s, swivel tubes appeared, and in the 1930s manufacturers began to create a variety of shades of lipstick.
Of all these advantages enjoyed by women, lipstick was the one which would suffer the most negative impact from World War II.
HERE’S THE DEAL:
99c thru 4/3/16
Private eye Maggie Sullivan risks her detective license, and life, to solve a quarter-century old murder.