Category Archives: Detective Fiction

Pearl Harbor Attack Brings War to an Ohio City – Part II: Immediate Response

by
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.

Police Chief Rudolph Wurstner, Dayton, Ohio

Police Chief Rudolph Wurstner, Dayton, Ohio

Police

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.

Military

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.

Civilian

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 —

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Pearl Harbor Attack Brings War to an Ohio City – Part I: Communications

by M. Ruth Myers

shattered Christmas ornament

 

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.
Pearl Harbor radiogram

From commander in chief of naval operations in the Pacific

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 —

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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.

Mystery Set in Ohio Captures America’s Entry into WW2

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.

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The Story:

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.

3 Women Private Eyes You Don’t Want to Miss

woman sleuth peers over fence

If you’ve run through your supply of mysteries featuring smart, competent women private eyes, here are a few more for you to try. It includes two lawyer-sleuths.

I’ve never really considered such hybrids private eyes since they have another income source, but Private Eye Writers of America accepts them as P.I.’s, so it’s hard to quibble. Plus the plain truth is, I’m a fan of the ones listed here:

Arapaho Lawyer

Vicky Holden, lawyer protagonist of an extensive series by Margaret Coel, is a woman well-versed in two worlds. She’s Arapaho, but has lived for a decade in the outside world before returning to the Wind River reservation and her people. Cases take her across the reservation, through the vast, bleak distances surrounding it, and into Denver. It’s great to be able to truly visualize a setting. I can with this series because from age eight until graduating from college I lived in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and had an Arapaho friend from the reservation who visited me.

Baltimore Attorney

On the other side of the country, Baltimore, Maryland, is the setting for one of my favorite detectives, Sam (Stephanie Ann) McRae, the creation of NY Times best-selling author Debbi Mack. Sam also is a lawyer, a tough, gritty one who can hold her own in rough blue-collar neighborhoods as well as snooty ones. One of the reason I like her is her empathy for others and her understanding of human foibles. There are four books in the series, but a new publisher (WildBlue Press) has begun reissuing them, and not all show on Amazon just yet.

British Private Investigator

Finally, there’s a fine woman private eye who works at that alone. She’s Kate Shackleton, a young World War I widow, and the series featuring her is the creation of British author Frances Brody. Kate’s widowhood allows her a goodly measure independence without making her unbelievable in her time period. She’s intelligent, resourceful and doesn’t scare easily. She owns her own home in a small village, but her cases take her not only through the countryside but into London. She owns and drives a car, and is a skilled photographer. If you like classic British detective novels or American P.I. yarns, I predict you’ll like Kate.

BOOK BARGAIN

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Try the first book in the Maggie Sullivan series FREE.

A .38, a nip of gin and sensational legs get Depression-era private investigator Maggie Sullivan out of most scrapes – until a stranger threatens to bust her nose, she’s hauled in on suspicion of his murder and she finds herself in the cross-hairs of a sadistic crime boss.  Amazon  iBooks Kobo  Nook

Horses, Votes for Women … and Lipstick

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:

flapper

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.

Maggie Sullivan mysteries #3 a 2014 Shamus Award finalistAmazon     Other e-readers

3 Women Shape Pre-WW2 Thought: the Dorothys

In the years just before World War II and through the anxious years until it ended, the writings of three women influenced American politics and social issues, were quoted for their razor-sharp wit, and kept mystery lovers up reading past their bedtime. They were all named Dorothy.

“The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue.”

Dorothy Parker
Best known for her ability to turn a phrase that was simultaneously funny and piercing, Dorothy Parker was widely celebrated as a poet, short story writer and playwright. She was also a literary critic and screenwriter. Parker was a founder of the legendary Algonquin Round Table and a member of the board of editors of The New Yorker when it debuted in 1925.

“Beauty is only skin deep
But ugly goes clean to the bone.”

In the 1930s and 1940s Parker became an ardent advocate for civil rights and civil liberties. Yet even among those who disagreed with her politics, her writing had wide appeal. When America entered World War II, Viking Press published an anthology of her work for servicemen overseas. It contained more than two dozen of her short stories plus numerous poems and in 1944 was published for U.S. readers under the title The Portable Dorothy Parker. After the war, she became one of many writers blacklisted in Hollywood.

“Constant use will not wear ragged the fabric of friendship.”

Dorothy Thompson
If Parker was the wit, Dorothy Thompson was the brilliant, brainy journalist whose words were followed by more than 10 million readers across the country and respected by those in power. In 1939 Time magazine named her the second most influential woman in America. (The top spot went to first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.)

Dorothy Thompson

journalist Dorothy Thompson

Thompson wrote a newspaper column as well as a monthly column in Ladies Home Journal. She had a weekly radio program on NBC, making her one of the few women broadcast news commentators of that era. As Berlin bureau chief for The New York Post, she had witnessed first-hand the rise of the Nazi party. She interviewed Adolph Hitler, and her resulting book led to her be the first journalist kicked out of Germany. In September of 1939 Thompson testified before a Senate committee, urging them to sell arms to Great Britain and France.

“It is not the fact of liberty but the way in which liberty is exercised that ultimately determines whether liberty itself survives.”

Dorothy B. Hughes
One of the most noted, and popular, mystery novelists of the 1940s was Dorothy B. Hughes. Her stories were filled with clandestine operatives and strong women characters. They are classics of the noir and hardboiled styles, and broke new ground in crime fiction with their deep explorations of character and motivation. Several were made into movies.

Hughes’ first novel, The So Blue Marble, was published in 1940. Others followed, one or two a year, until 1947, after which they became more widely spaced. Hughes also was a respected book critic. In 1951 the Mystery Writers of America awarded her an Edgar for Outstanding Mystery Criticism. In 1978 she received the MWA’s Grand Master award.

“She carried her head like a lady and her body like a snake.”

If you’re not acquainted with the writing of these three ladies, you’re in for a treat.

HERE’S THE DEAL:

Tough Cookie, second book in the Maggie Sullivan mysteries, is just 99c through 2/28.  As the 1930s end, private eye Maggie Sullivan is hired to find the man behind a deadly swindle that made fools — and enemies — of some of the city’s top businessmen.  On Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and Kobo.

Tough Cookie a Maggie Sullivan mystery

What Do a Victorian Lady and a 1940s Gal Gumshoe Have in Common? — Part 2

When M. Louisa Locke and I discovered we’d be promoting books in our respective historical mystery series at the same time, we had an idea: Wouldn’t it be fun to ask our two women detectives — one a proper lady in Victorian San Francisco, the other a gritty young private eye in 1940s Dayton, Ohio — the same set of questions about their work and how they manage it as women?

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Maggie Sullivan mystery #1 shows woman private eyeOn the surface, at least, they seemed very different. Maggie Sullivan, my sleuth, lives in an all-women rooming house, gets her meals at the dime store lunch counter, and would rather take her chances with thugs than with domesticity.  Mrs. Annie Fuller, sleuth of Locke’s popular Victorian San Francisco mystery series, is a young widow who owns and runs a nicely appointed boarding house where she manages a domestic staff.

Being a proper lady, Annie would never indulge in any sort of Unseasy-MLalcoholic beverage.  Maggie is cordially disposed toward most of them, but favors gin and tonic or a glass of dark stout.  Annie’s closest friends are people at her boarding house, both “upstairs” and “down”.  Maggie’s are a photographer and his wife, a businesswoman with a bad reputation and a former hit man.

Yet resilience and a refusal to judge based on social class are only two of the things these two women have in common.  As some of their answers suggest, they’re often on the same wavelength.

Read Part 1 of our interview with them on M. Louisa Locke’s blog.

Here’s Part 2:

5: In a tight spot, how do you hold your own against a man who’s bigger, heavier, stronger?

MAGGIE: My first line of defense is awareness of my surroundings – people on the street, whether I’ve seen a car behind me before — and using my wits. Sometimes just confronting someone is enough to make them back off. I don’t like scars on my face any more than the next girl, so if I get backed into a corner I throw a mean punch. Making a man drop his trousers around his ankles takes a lot of the tough out and keeps him from moving unexpectedly.  Of course that generally requires persuasion from my .38 Smith & Wesson.  When necessary I use it for more than persuasion.

ANNIE: One of the things I have learned the hard way is not to go alone into potentially dangerous situations. For a woman, there is safety in numbers…even if the other people are other women. It is amazing what two or three determined women can do against a single man. You just have to be clever about these things, think ahead. However, since my father taught me to shoot when I was a girl growing up on our ranch outside of Los Angeles, I have been tempted to buy a small derringer.

6. What’s the biggest misconception men have about women in your era?

ANNIE: That we are too unintelligent to take care of ourselves. I hate to be so blunt. But as someone who had to sit by and watch my first husband squander away my fortune rather than take my advice, forcing me into five wretched years of financial dependence on my in-laws, I am a bit bitter. Then the whole reason I became Madam Sibyl, the clairvoyant, is that men would rather believe that my business advice comes from my ability to read the lines on their palms than from my excellent training and the solid research I do. Very frustrating. Thank goodness, a few men in my life, like the lawyer Nate Dawson, have been willing to recognize that I am their equal intellectually and that I can take care of myself.

MAGGIE: That we’re less competent than they are just because of our gender. That we’re smart enough to put on lipstick, but not to do as well at any job we choose as a man. Hand-in-hand with that is the notion that when we do work, it’s just to mark time until we meet the right fellow, because what we really want, even if we’re too silly to know it, is to settle down and have a family.

7. Of the people in your life, whom do you trust most?

MAGGIE: Seamus Hanlon, a cop who’s nearing retirement age. He was one of my Dad’s closest friends, and has been a part of my life as far back as I remember. I’ve never asked him to do me a favor, or to risk life and limb for me, but I know he would. At some point in the series, he’s going to, in fact. What I cherish him most for is that he never judges me or tells me what to do. He’s just there. A rock. Always.

ANNIE: It may be difficult for many people of my social class to understand, but the people in my life I trust the most are domestic servants. Beatrice O’Rourke, my cook and housekeeper, and Kathleen Hennessey, my personal maid, have always been there for me, helping me run the boarding house, even helping me solve crimes. And then there is the Chinese manservant, Mr. Wong, who I met on my first case. I swear I have never met a man of such kindness and integrity. Unlike many of the men and women of my class who seem to spend all their time pretending to be something they are not, these hard working but often despised individuals don’t waste time with artifice…and I would (and have had to) trust them with my life.

8. What gadget would you like to see invented to help you as a detective?

ANNIE: Only two years ago, a new-fangled invention called the telephone was introduced in San Francisco. This gadget magically permits you to speak to someone over some distance. They are expensive to install, so only a few wealthy families have them, and as far as I can tell they mostly use them to order meat from the butcher or call a doctor in an emergency. But I can tell you it would certainly make my job easier if these telephones were available everywhere. No depending on some errand boy to run across town to deliver a message, or waiting a day for a letter to arrive, or trying to say all you need in a few words for a telegraph message.

MAGGIE: I wish someone would come up with a telephone that worked in my car. When I’m out of my office and need to ask a vital question or warn a client, it would save so much time if I didn’t have to find a pay phone and dig out change. They’re already starting to put radios in cars. How hard could a phone be?

No Game for a Dame, first book in the Maggie Sullivan mystery series by M. Ruth Myers, is free for Kindle, Nook, Apple and Kobo through Jan. 26.  Uneasy Spirits, second book in the Victorian San Francisco mystery series by M. Louisa Locke, is free for Kindle through Jan. 22.

One Busy Woman P.I.

This week is a busy one for 1940s private eye Maggie Sullivan.  First, read her answers in Part I of an interview today on M. Louisa Locke’s blog where we jointly interview our two characters.  Part II will appear here tomorrow (Jan. 21).

One carries a parasol One carries a .38Two women sleuthsTwo novelsFREE1-20-22 (1)

 

Then learn more about Maggie Sullivan and the series in this video interview author Debbi Mack did with me on CrimeCafe.  Click the video button in the CrimeCafe graphic of the skyline & moon immediately BELOW Debbi’s introductory comments.

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