By M. Ruth Myers
Although the Maggie Sullivan mysteries are set in the 1940s, two powerful men often mentioned in them — FDR and newspaperman James M. Cox — had been close acquaintances for more than twenty years. Indeed, they formed the Democratic presidential ticket in 1920.
“Governor Cox” as he was referred to in Dayton, owned the Dayton Daily News where Maggie’s pal Matt Jenkins works. Even Heebs, the rag-tag boy who lives on the street and gets by on money he earns selling papers, uses that name for a man he’s probably never met.
A self-made man, Cox bought a struggling afternoon paper and christened it the Dayton Daily News. By 1900 he had turned it into a success which outperformed all competitors. From 1908 onward it operated out of an imposing three-story building with columns across the front on the corner of Fourth and Ludlow. Because a bank had denied him a loan to acquire his first paper, Cox instructed the architect who designed it to make it look like a bank.
In 1909 Cox was elected to the US House of Representatives, where he served until 1913. He resigned to serve as governor of Ohio from 1915-1917. That would be followed by another two terms as governor from 1917-1921.
When he ran for President in 1920, Cox chose as his running made young Franklin D. Roosevelt, then assistant-secretary of the Navy. Cox supported women’s suffrage and the Volstead Act which enforced Prohibition.
Although Cox failed in his quest for the highest office in the land, his media empire had been growing. By 1940 he owned newspapers from northern Ohio to Atlanta, Georgia. He also owned radio stations stretching as far south as Miami, Florida.
His running mate from the 1920 election didn’t fare too badly either. FDR went on to become America’s only three-term President.
— Here’s the Deal —
99c thru 11/13
Powerful men underestimate the tenacity of a 1939 woman P.I. determined to solve a quarter-century-old murder.
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.
Occasionally – perhaps once in 150 reviews – a reader expresses doubt that a woman PI like Maggie Sullivan could have existed in the late 1930s or 40s. Admittedly they were a rare breed, but women private detectives and policewomen were around in that era and well before.
The best known among them is without doubt Kate Warne. She is widely listed as the first woman private eye, having been hired by the famous Pinkerton agency in 1856. Described in their records as slender and of medium height, she presented herself as a widow, age 23, when she applied to work there. She went on to become one of Pinkerton’s most valued agents. Among her accomplishments was helping to foil an assassination attempt on the newly elected president, Abraham Lincoln, in 1861.
Read more about Kate Warne on the Library of Congress blog.
Cora M. Strayer operated her own private detective agency on the South Side of Chicago in the early 20th century. She first ran an ad for her services in 1902 and used her four-room apartment over a tavern as her office. (The tavern downstairs was home to illegal gambling and bookmaking operations.) In 1905 she ran an ad for her agency in Chicago’s city directory. It included her photo – and what a nice Victorian lady she appears. With some ups and downs and colorful detours, she continued to advertise her services as a private detective until 1930.
See what Cora looked like, as well as her ads, in a rollicking 2012 blog post by Paul Reda.
Dayton, Ohio, where my Maggie Sullivan series is set, established its “women’s police force,” in 1914. Officially titled the Bureau of Policewomen, it reported directly to the Director of Public Safety. Previously the city had employed jail matrons to interact with female prisoners. When policewomen came on the scene, they were another breed entirely. They handled probation cases, conducted some forms of surveillance and gave talks to community organizations. With time their duties expanded to checking dance halls, investigating juvenile crime and more. They wore badges like their male counterparts, except that the women’s badges were two-thirds the size.
In 1914 Annie R. McCully, who already was working as a matron, became Dayton’s first full-fledged policewoman. She was put in charge of organizing the new Bureau. That same year, Lulu Sollers pinned on her badge as well. Four years later she became supervisor of the Policewomen’s Bureau, a position she held until 1944. In 1929 the city hired its first African American policewoman, Dora Burton Rice.
Photos are courtesy of the Dayton Police History Foundation.
Down the road in Vinton County, Ohio, voters in 1926 elected the state’s first female sheriff. Her name was Maude Collins, and she was elected “in a landslide”. She filled the vacancy left when her husband, Sheriff Fletcher Collins, was shot and killed at close range. A mother of five, she carried a gun and had impressive detective skills. Her solving of a double homicide got her a write-up in the national Master Detective magazine.
See a photo of this attractive young sheriff and read a fuller account of her accomplishments at the Vinton County Convention &Visitors’ Bureau website.
Good historical fiction often is inspired by real-life women such as these, women who though few in number actually existed. One thoroughly fun example is the new Laurel Private Eye series just launched by Shannon D. Wells about a woman Pinkerton detective in Texas in the 1930s. It came into being because a several-generations-removed relative of the author was — you guessed it — a woman Pinkerton in Texas in the 1930s.
— HERE’S THE DEAL —
Now through Dec. 6 A Touch of Magic is discounted to 99c on Amazon, B&N, iTunes and Kobo. It’s not a Maggie Sullivan mystery, but it’s a fast-paced thriller of romantic-suspense originally published by Dell.
A dazzling sleight-of-hand artist is recruited by the State Department to pit her skills – and wits – against a master terrorist.