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
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.
Here’s a recent picture of the now-deserted Arcade which usually is the locale of at least one scene in most of the Maggie Sullivan mysteries. You’ll enjoy the brief account of its history.
Small wonder the spot turns up in my series, what with the detective division of the Dayton police just across the street in one direction and the newspaper building where Maggie’s friend Jenkins works across the street in another. And where else could you get the equivalent of fast food in the late 1930s?
Do click the image in the link to see the dome . The round things that look like satellite dishes are…uh… turkeys.
The Arcade was still a thriving place when I was a young reporter working across the street. Of course the food stalls weren’t as numerous or the offerings as picturesque as in Maggie’s day.
Now a small commercial: Tough Cookie, second book in the Maggie Sullivan mysteries, is discounted to 99c on Amazon & other sites now through Aug. 8.