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FDR, James M. Cox both influenced 1940s Dayton, Ohio

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.

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“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.

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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

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Powerful men underestimate the tenacity of a 1939 woman P.I. determined to solve a quarter-century-old murder.

Amazon    Apple    Nook    Kobo 

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

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?

Myers Locke twitter ad

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.

Early Women Detectives & Policewomen

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.

 

Policewomen in Dayton, OH, circa 1918. Lulu Sollers is on the left.

Policewomen in Dayton, OH, circa 1918. Lulu Sollers is on the left.

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.

Policewoman's badge, also known as a 'shield', from Dayton, OH.

Policewoman’s badge, also known as a ‘shield’, from Dayton, OH.

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.magic-amazon

A dazzling sleight-of-hand artist is recruited by the State Department to pit her skills – and wits – against a master terrorist.

Crossing Gender Lines to Create a Woman Investigator

Grant McKenzie leads a double life, as a thriller writer under his own name and as author of the Dixie Flynn mysteries under the name M.C. Grant. The latter series features a young investigative journalist for an online news site who’s as tough as she is rumpled. Beauty With a Bomb, the third book in the series, was a finalist for this year’s Shamus Award for best paperback original P.I. novel — and is it a page-turner!

This year’s Shamus Awards Dinner gave me an opportunity to become acquainted with Grant and his wife, Karen. He generously agreed to be interviewed for this blog.

Angel With A Bullet

Ruth: You already were well established as a thriller writer when you started the Dixie Flynn series. What made you decide to tackle something a good bit different?

Grant: The Grant McKenzie novels are real edge-of-your-seat thrillers written in third-person, but I have always been a fan of crime noir that tends to be written in first-person. The Dixie Flynn series allows me to explore a genre that I adore, and write it from a different perspective. (I also write them in present tense, which is different from the Grant McKenzie novels, too).

Creating a series also allowed me to introduce quirky characters that can grow with each book, so that a minor character in one book could take on a larger role in the next book, while another character sits on the sidelines. Plus, as becomes very clear in the Dixie books, the ramifications of each book plays a toll on Dixie, shaping her in dark and dangerous ways. That’s why I always suggest that readers start the series at Angel With A Bullet before moving on to Devil With A Gun and Beauty With A Bomb.

Ruth: Why a female protagonist?

Grant: Dixie is such a fun character to write. She’s feisty, hard-headed and doesn’t pull her punches – either verbally or physically. I decided to make Dixie female in order to give her a vulnerability that can be difficult to create in a male character. Noir readers don’t necessarily like to see weakness in their male characters, but it is those moments of fear, doubt and despair that can really show character. Despite her toughness, I really wanted Dixie to have those moments when she got in too far over her head and the reader could really fear for her life. I also wanted to bring in her troubled love life in a humorous manner, and writing that from a woman’s perspective was just plain fun. There is a scene in Angel With A Bullet where Dixie describes two police officers by the seat of their pants that always gets a giggle from readers.

Ruth: It seems to me that women writers are more likely to cross gender lines and write a series with a male protagonist than men are to base a series around a woman. Of course there are exceptions, like J.A. Konrath, Alexander McCall Smith and the late Robert Parker, but in general, do you think that’s true?

Grant: I do. I think a lot of female writers believe that their work will be taken more seriously by the publishing industry if it features a male protagonist — and that may have been true at one point, though, fortunately, not anymore. While male writers choose to write in a female voice as both a challenge and for the sheer fun of it. There are likely male writers who wouldn’t be comfortable ever writing in a female voice, and the same trepidation is likely true of some female writers, too.

Ruth: Is the Dixie character based on anyone?

Grant: The character isn’t based on anyone, but the name is. When I first emigrated to Canada as a teenager, I met a girl named Dixie Dash who was the roller-skating queen of the high school I attended. As a Glasgow Scot, roller skating was as foreign to me as Canada was, and Dixie was kind enough not to mock my absolute uselessness at the sport. At the same time, I was reading S.E. Hinton and Gregory Macdonald, and just beginning on my journey to Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Mickey Spillane, etc. I always thought Dixie Dash was such a cool name and it stuck with me. Unfortunately, my publisher Midnight Ink, felt that Dixie Dash sounded too corny, so the name was changed to Dixie Flynn. In my heart, however, she is Dixie Dash.

Ruth: Both you and your wife are former journalists, correct? Did that influence your decision to let Dixie be an investigative journalist rather than a regular P.I.?

Grant: Yes. I spent over 30 years in the newspaper business, and have very fond memories of all the characters that I worked beside over the years. The business has changed a lot in recent years and Dixie mourns those early days when gutter-rumpled creatures could shuffle into work on a cloud of stale beer fumes and write incredible journalistic poetry. I like to close my eyes to those later paycheck years in journalism and try to remember when I was young, naive and wanted to change the world. Dixie is jaded, but she still has those dreams and ideals in her heart.

Ruth: What’s the most difficult part of the writing process for you?

Grant: Finding the time. Working full-time for a homeless shelter and trying to write books is a difficult task. I dream of having a break-out book that puts enough money in the bank that I can actually make writing my full-time occupation. There are stories I haven’t told simply because I couldn’t find time.

Ruth: What’s your current project? Thriller? Dixie?

Grant: I’m busy writing a new Grant McKenzie thriller that I’m very excited about. Polis Books is publishing three of my novels in 2016: The Fear In Her Eyes in April, K.A.R.M.A. in July, and the one I’m currently writing, tentatively titled The Butcher’s Apron, in September. It’s going to be an exciting year as I believe these three are some of the best thrillers I have ever written.

Ruth: If you were going to choose a line of work other than novelist, what would it be?

Grant: I’ve always fancied running an Exotic Cat Farm in Belize – the furry pet kind not a Nevada bordello – but I don’t think there would be much money in that. Apart from that, anything creative, really. Anyone hiring Dreamers?

 

COMING NEXT: Early women P.I.’s and police women

HERE’S THE DEAL:

Try the first of four books in the Maggie Sullivan series FREE.

Try the first book in the Maggie Sullivan series FREE.

Private Eye Writers & Shamus Awards Dinner

The Shamus Awards dinner, hosted by Private Eye Writers of America, is my favorite part of the annual Bouchercon world mystery convention. All those authors of P.I. fiction, from the big names to a sprinkling of newbies, crowded into one room. They’re not quite as seedy as their print creations, but they do have a certain swagger that sets them apart.

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This year’s bash was at Big Ed’s City Market in Raleigh, NC. No shots were fired.

Grant-Karen

Henry and I enjoyed the chance to become acquainted with Canadian thriller writer Grant McKenzie and his wife Karen, both former journalists. Grant’s novel Beauty with a Bomb, part of the Dixie Flynn series which he writes under the name M.C. Grant, was a finalist in the Best Paperback Original category. I had trouble putting it down, and am now a firm fan of this series featuring a kick-ass young investigative journalist for a news website.

award

It was my pleasure to present the Shamus Award for Best Indie P.I. Novel of 2014 to Trace Conger for his novel The Shadow Broker. He’s shown here receiving the award, and in the audience with his wife Beth.

Trace-wife

Here are this year’s finalists and winners in the various categories. *=winner

BEST HARDCOVER P.I. NOVEL
The Hollow Girl by Reed Farrel Coleman
The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
Toyko Kill by Barry Lancet
*  Hounded by David Rosenfelt
Peter Pan Must Die by John Verdon

BEST FIRST P.I. NOVEL
*  Invisible City by Julia Dahl
Bad Country by C.B. McKenzie
Last of the Independents by Sam Wiebe
Wink of an Eye by Lynn Chandler Willis
City of Brick and Shadow by Tim Wirkus

BEST ORIGINAL PAPERBACK P.I. NOVEL
The Detective and the Pipe Girl by Michael Craven
Beauty With A Bomb by M.C.Grant
Critical Damage by Robert K. Lewis
Street Justice by Kris Nelscott
*  Moonlight Weeps by Vincent Zandri

BEST P.I. SHORT STORY
*  “Clear Recent History” by Gon Ben Ari in Tel Aviv Noir
“The Ehrengraf Fandango ” by Lawrence Block in Defender of the Innocent
“Fear Is The Best Keeper of Secrets ” by Vali Khalili in Tehran Noir
“Mei Kwei, I Love You” by Suchen Christine Lim in Singapore Noir
“Busting Red Heads” by Richard Helms in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine

BEST INDIE P.I. NOVEL
*  The Shadow Broker by Trace Conger
Nobody’s Child by Libby Fischer Hellmann
Played To Death by BV Lawson
The Kids Are All Right by Steve Liskow
Get Busy Dying by Ben Rehder

A Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Parnell Hall.

M. Ruth Myers writes the Maggie Sullivan mystery series.

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