146 - Holiday 2

HAPPY HOLIDAYS from Where History Meets Mystery! This week, I will be talking about one of my all-time favorite Christmas tales from the Victorian period, A Christmas Carol written in 1843 by Charles Dickens, and also, how it really played into the politics of what was going on in Victorian England at the time.

 

By 1841, Dickens was enjoying a great deal of literary success in the United States and England with his serial release of The Old Curiosity Shop, and in 1842, he took a much anticipated trip to the U.S. However, he was a bit disappointed with the lack of manners he saw in the American people, and was so offended by slavery, he refused to venture into the Southern part of the country.

 

While in the northern United States, he paid particular attention to working conditions while visiting mills and factories, and he also visited several slums in New York.

 

Upon his return to England, he began writing again—but despite his success in the previous year, Dickens found himself owing money to his publisher. His latest novel, Martin Chuzzlewit, was not selling well. In short, his career was in trouble.

 

In 1843, Dickens and fellow novelist Benjamin Disraeli, who would later become Prime Minister of England, both gave speeches at a benefit for Manchester Athenaeum discussing the plight of the poor of  Victorian England. Following the speech, and disturbed by his concerns with the enormous gap between the rich and poor of England, Dickens took a walk late into the night on the streets of Manchester.

 

While ruminating on the subject of child labor, he came up with the idea for A Christmas Carol. He was so inspired by the idea of a miserly Ebeneezer Scrooge being influenced by his past, present, and what could eventually become his future, he wrote the novel in six weeks, while still writing installments for Martin Chuzzlewit.

 

A Christmas Carol was released right before Christmas and became an immediate national sensation.

British author William Makepeace Thackaray, best known for the novel Vanity Fair, called the work a national benefit to the people of England, and he also referred to it as a “personal kindness.”

 

The story of the plight of the Cratchit family, and Ebeneezer Scrooge’s enlightenment and eventual redemption touched readers deeply, and the Christmas holiday soon became seen as a time for charitable giving and family celebration. And, it also helped to establish Christmas as a major holiday in Britain.

 

Word of this cherished family classic spread, and to this day, A Christmas Carol has never gone out of print.

It is a constant reminder to everyone, in every and any holiday tradition, to be kinder to one another, to help those in need, and to fully embrace the spirit of giving.

 

What a legacy, right?

 

Have you finished your holiday shopping? If not, what a better gift to give than a book—perhaps a riveting murder mystery? Do you have a person in your life who might like to read a mystery featuring Annie Oakley and set during the hey-day of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, or maybe they might enjoy one set in the theater of Broadway show business during the roaring 1920’s, or what about a mystery set in the American Southwest of the 1950’s? The possibilities are endless! If these options sound like good gift ideas to you, you might want to head over to Amazon to check out my Annie Oakley Mystery series, or my 1920’s novel, Grace in the Wings, or my southwestern mystery Bones of the Redeemed. Happy shopping!

 

145 - Holiday

HAPPY HOLIDAYS from Where History Meets Mystery! This week, I will be talking about one of my all-time favorite Christmas tales from the Victorian period, A Christmas Carol written in 1843 by Charles Dickens, and also, how it really played into the politics of what was going on in Victorian England at the time.

 

Of course, many of you know the story of Ebeneezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and yet to come—

 

But, did you know that Dickens wrote the novel as a form of social protest? Well, he wrote many of his novels as a form of social protest. Dickens was deeply disturbed by the economic situation in Victorian, England, and he himself was a victim of poverty as a child. His father, John Dickens, wasn’t terribly good at managing money, and ended up spending time in the Marshalsea debtor’s prison in Southwark, London in 1824.

His mother and younger siblings stayed with John at Marshalsea, but Charles, at 12 years old, was sent to live with a family friend.

 

Dickens was also forced to leave school so that he could work to help pay off the family’s debts. He was employed at a Blacking Warehouse pasting labels on pots of boot blacking. He worked 10 hours a day, making six shillings a week. The harsh working conditions and often strenuous labor made a lasting impression on the young Dickens, and would later influence his fiction and essays.

 

It was a pretty heavy responsibility for a child, don’t you think? Dickens was no stranger to the haves and have-nots of Victorian, England, being a have-not himself. He later used the experience and setting at Marshalsea for his novel Little Dorrit. I have not read that book ,but I did see the PBS television series starring Claire Foy as Little Dorrit, and it was fantastic!

 

Somehow knowing Dickens’ relationship with Marshalsea made the watching of Little Dorrit all the more fascinating.

 

Come back tomorrow, to hear more about Charles Dickens and his further inspiration for A Christmas Carol.

 

Have you finished your holiday shopping? If not, what a better gift to give than a book—perhaps a riveting murder mystery? Do you have a person in your life who might like to read a mystery featuring Annie Oakley and set during the hey-day of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, or maybe they might enjoy one set in the theater of Broadway show business during the roaring 1920’s, or what about a mystery set in the American Southwest of the 1950’s? The possibilities are endless! If these options sound like good gift ideas to you, you might want to head over to Amazon to check out my Annie Oakley Mystery series, or my 1920’s novel, Grace in the Wings, or my southwestern mystery Bones of the Redeemed. Happy shopping!

 

144 - Grace 5

Welcome back to Where History Meets Mystery. This week, I’ve been reading excerpts from my 1920’s murder mystery Grace in the Wings. When we last left off, Sophia, Grace’s sister has made a drunken toast revealing some scandalous news—that she and her boss, the very married Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. had had an affair.

 

Grace sucked in a breath and gasps echoed through the room. What had she just said? He’d been like a father, to both of them, not a paramour.

Grace looked over at Flo, who flinched, then composed himself in an instant. He raised his cigar to his lips, took a long drag, and then exhaled, expelling the smoke in a steady, linear stream. The guests’ uncomfortable murmurs buzzed around them.

Sophia was drunk. That’s why she’d said it, Grace thought. She’d just wanted to get back at Flo, angry that he had refused to give his blessing for her marriage. It couldn’t be true.

When Sophia opened her mouth to say more, Jack removed the champagne glass from her hand.

“Now, darling.” He slipped an arm around her waist, his voice rasping with exasperation. “You’ve had a bit too much champagne.”

Sophia pressed her hands against his chest, pushed him away, and pointed her finger at Flo. “He betrayed me, broke all his promises, ruined me, and now he’s turned Gracie against me.”

Jack grabbed Sophia’s hands and held them close to his torso, his jaw flexing. Sophia turned her tear-stained face to Grace.

“You’ll see, Gracie,” Sophia’s voice dripped with sadness. “You’ll regret turning against me. He’ll use you, too.”

Grace rushed to her sister, wrenched Sophia out of Jack’s embrace, and shook her shoulders. “Stop it, Sophia! Don’t say such things! How could you?”

Stars burst bright in Grace’s eyes and her cheek was burning. Sophia had slapped her—hard.

A frantic tug on Grace’s arm refocused her attention. Fanny Brice, Flo’s most famous comedienne, slipped a firm arm around Grace’s waist, and urged her toward the door. “C’mon, sweetheart. Let’s get out of here. Sophia isn’t herself. The only way to end this is to bring the curtain down.”

Grace felt glued to the floor and watched as Sophia sank into Jack’s arms and burrowed her head into his chest, sobbing. Despite Sophia’s unimaginable accusations, Grace wanted to hold her, to comfort her, but the tug on her arm persisted.

“Come along, honey,” Fanny urged.

Grace finally surrendered and left the room, guided by Fanny’s common sense

 

 

So, what do you think will happen next? Who ends up dead? Who will solve the crime? If you are just dying to know the answers to these questions, I have some happy news for you, Grace in the Wings is currently on sale on Amazon for just .99, so head on over there and check it out!

 

143 - Grace 4

Welcome back to Where History Meets Mystery. This week, I will be reading excerpts from my 1920’s murder mystery Grace in the Wings. When we last left off, Sophia, Grace’s sister, was about to make a toast to reveal some scandalous news.

 

      Grace drew in a deep breath, hoping Sophia’s speech wouldn’t last long. She didn’t like the sallowness of Sophia’s skin or the way she teetered unsteadily between Jack and the bar.

“And secondly, I would like to propose a toast to my beautiful sister.”

All eyes turned to Grace. Fire crawled up her neck, but she held her head high, determined to conquer the anxiety welling in her chest.

 

“As some of you know, Grace and I were orphaned at a young age.”

 

Grace trained her eyes to the floor and tried to swallow the lump rising in her throat.

 

“Losing our parents in a train crash was horrible, of course, but Grace and I have always been there for one another. For a while, we lived in the streets, had nothing, and sometimes went hungry for days. Then Flo—the wonderful, magnetic, generous Flo Ziegfeld Jr.—found Gracie and me.” Sophia lifted the champagne glass again, and this time it slipped from her fingers and shattered against the floor. A waiter swooped over, gathered the glass shards in his gloved hands, and hurriedly disappeared. Sophia reached for another full glass from the bar and gulped some down without missing a beat.

 

“As I was saying . . . Flo, the Great Ziegfeld, the most famous showman on Earth, discovered my sister and me on the streets and took us in by promising many things: I’d become his newest sensation, become his star.” Sophia held her arms aloft. “I would be adored, he said. Provided for. My baby sister would be cared for.” She glowered at Flo. “And we were, we were . . . but all that generosity came at a price.”

 

Grace’s mouth felt suddenly dry. Sophia, please, please, please don’t insult Flo, she thought. Not here, not now.

“I . . . I adored him, loved him, worshiped him.” Sophia’s voice faltered, and Jack pulled his bride closer and whispered something in her ear. When he looked up at the crowd again, his smile twitched in an odd, disconnected way.

 

“Flo said he would leave his wife for me,” Sophia blurted.

 

Come back tomorrow to hear what happens next!

 

In the meantime if I’ve sufficiently enticed you to read the book, I have some happy news for you! The e-book version of Grace in the Wings is currently on sale on Amazon for just 99 cents, so head on over there and check it out.

 

 

142 - Grace 3

Welcome back to Where History Meets Mystery. This week, I will be reading excerpts from my 1920’s murder mystery Grace in the Wings. When we last left off, Grace was at the celebration of her sister’s marriage to Jack Pickford on Mary Pickford’s yacht, and Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr., her employer, was none too happy about the occasion.

 

Flo strongly objected to Sophia’s marriage to Jack, but Grace surmised he couldn’t resist attending the event. All his stars—past, present, and future—were there. With the magnetic showman in the room, no one would ever suspect that the bridegroom’s famous movie star sister had paid for everything. Grace knew that Flo could—and would—take credit for “the social event of the year.”

 

Grace cautiously approached him.

 

“Darling.” Flo’s eyes danced when he saw her. “You look divine.”

 

“Thank you, Flo. I’m glad you’re here.”

 

“Well, much to my disappointment, I couldn’t change Sophia’s mind.” He took a drag from his cigar and let the smoke linger in his mouth before releasing it. “She was set on marrying the scoundrel. He’s filled her mind with false promises of a film career, you know, and taking her off to California.”

 

Grace and Sophia had not spoken much in the last few weeks. Like Flo, Grace found it hard to understand why Sophia would surrender her position as star of the Ziegfeld Follies and follow Jack clear across the country to an uncertain future.

 

“Might as well part on good terms, then, right?” Flo added.

 

Grace stood on her tiptoes and delicately kissed his cheek.

 

A tinkling sound filled the room, and all eyes turned to Sophia, who stood tapping a thin metal swizzle stick against her champagne glass.

“Attention, everyone,” she said, standing unsteadily beside the bar. Her tiny frame swayed against her groom. “I’d like to make an announcement, please.”

 

“First, I’d like to propose a toast to my wonderful husband.” She raised her champagne flute and pressed it against Jack’s face. He pushed the glass down a notch and planted a sloppy kiss on her cheek.

 

An approving murmur rippled through the crowd.

 

“Thank you for marrying me,” she said, raising her glass again. “Thank you for saving me.”

Grace drew in a deep breath, hoping Sophia’s speech wouldn’t last long. She didn’t like the sallowness of Sophia’s skin or the way she teetered unsteadily between Jack and the bar.

“And secondly, I would like to propose a toast …

 

Come back tomorrow to hear what scandalous news Sophia imparts in her second toast!

 

In the meantime if I’ve sufficiently enticed you to read the book, I have some happy news for you! The e-book version of Grace in the Wings is currently on sale on Amazon for just 99 cents, so head on over there and check it out.