by M. Ruth Myers
While working on my current Maggie Sullivan mystery, I wanted to make sure when World War II blackouts went into effect in the United States, especially in Dayton, Ohio, where the series takes place. After all, private eyes wouldn’t be private eyes if they didn’t do a great deal of creeping around at night!
What will be book #6 in the series takes place in the spring of 1942. Despite nationwide fear of air attacks, however, local historian Curt Dalton writes in his book Home Sweet Home Front: Dayton During World War II, that the city’s first total blackout wouldn’t take place until a year later, on May 27, 1943.
Ah, but here’s where researching historical fiction yields countless collateral dabs of information that can enrich a story — and make the creative process just plain fun!
Although buildings and streetlights weren’t blacked out until 1943, vehicles were. I’m not talking about extinguishing headlights and taillights. I’m talking about creating what a whimsical turn of mind could view as the 1940s version of stealth technology. Applied to cars.
Just a few weeks before the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, production of new 1942-model cars had begun. It screeched to a halt as the US government almost immediately classified chromium as a strategic material since it was needed in the manufacture of stainless steel and necessary to the war effort. The nation’s auto manufacturers were ordered to eliminate “brightwork”, the chrome and stainless trim on cars, within one month. They would have to end production of passenger cars altogether in two months in order to switch to production of military trucks and ambulances, tanks, and aircraft engines.
The few thousand new cars produced in the weeks between when the supply of shiny parts ran out and early February of 1942 when US passenger car production ended entirely are known as “blackout specials”. Normally shiny parts were painted black, gray, olive drab or similar dark color. In some cases the trim was a color that looked attractive with the car’s background color, a decidedly unflamboyant relative to today’s pin stripes and detailing. Surviving cars, and even photographs, are rare.
The same flat, non-reflective painted trim was used on military vehicles as well.
What color do you think Eli and Calvin at Wheeler’s garage paint the trim on Maggie’s DeSoto?
— HERE’S THE DEAL —
A .38, a nip of gin and sensational legs get 1940s 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
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
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.
“A Concrete Garter Belt”, a new Maggie Sullivan short story, has joined the four novels and one other short story currently in the mystery series. It was previously published in the Private Eye Writers of America anthology Fifty Shades of Grey Fedora, but is now available as a stand-alone.
The private eye’s search for a missing girl takes her into a secretarial service, a common resource used by countless small businesses before the advent of answering machines, Spellcheck and Office 365. It also provides a window into an era when being pawed by the boss was the price young women often paid for keeping their job.
Maggie doesn’t take well to pawing. And she carries a Smith & Wesson.
From now through Aug. 10, you can win one of four signed copies of TOUGH COOKIE on this Goodreads giveaway.
Don’t mistake this for a culinary cozy. Maggie Sullivan, the 1930s gal P.I. hired to unravel a high-stakes swindle, will use her Smith & Wesson or break a thug’s fingers to get the information she needs.
If you haven’t met Maggie yet, get acquainted before the fourth book in the series comes out at summer’s end.
M. Ruth Myers writes the Maggie Sullivan mystery series set in Dayton, OH, 1938-47.
To kick things off, I’m offering three free downloads of the audiobook — two in the US, one in the UK — with the hope recipients will post a review of it on Audible. It’s first come, first served, so if you’re interested, please leave a comment saying so and indicating whether you’re in the US or UK. Include a way to contact you, as I’ll need to email the download coupon code.
The fourth book in the series is due out late summer.
M. Ruth Myers writes the Maggie Sullivan mystery series featuring a female PI in the 1930s-40s.