WRITING TO THE SOUND OF JAZZ

Writing is a solitary and sometimes lonely profession. Every writer, of course, works differently and it’s up to each to find the way that will lead to the most productivity. Some may be perfectly content to have family around, kids playing and even pets running back and forth. Others prefer, or need isolation, distancing themselves from even the smallest of distractions.

I’ve worked in a variety of situations over the years – including the aforementioned kids and pets – to the point where I could concentrate without the need for silence and isolation. Yet being a lifelong night owl, I was always awake hours after everyone had turned in, giving me that quiet time as well. And whenever I had an absolute deadline, even having to write a book in a week several times, I got it done. There was one thing, however, that was always close to me while I worked and continues to be, in fact more so now than ever. And that is music, namely jazz.

I won’t mince words. I appreciate other forms of music from classical to country/western, and early rock ‘n roll. But to me, jazz is special, America’s only original art form and the most emotionally wrenching and challenging music ever created. A good jazz musician can play other forms of music, but even the most technically trained musician in other genres won’t be able to grasp the improvisational nuances of jazz. My opinion, of course. With that said, let me try to explain what jazz has meant to me.

For openers, I love all genres of the music – Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet from the earliest days, right through the Big Band Era where Ellington, Basie and Artie Shaw are my favorites, and then to Bebop where so many more great musicians made their marks. Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Clifford Brown, Davis, Coltrane, Sonny Rollins. How can I omit Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, and Earl “Fatha” Hines. Heck, there are just too many to name here. Then there are the singers. The big three of Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald all bring me to another place, especially when singing the Great American songbook. As does Louis with his vocals. And then we come to Sinatra. Not purely a jazz singer. But then again, he’s Sinatra. Enough said.

What does all this have to do with writing? For one thing, having jazz playing while I work not only relaxes me, but also encourages me. It’s a constant reminder of the artistry and creativity in the world and in this music. A great painting, great novel, or great sculpture takes time to create. All can be physically and mentally exhausting for the artist in one way or another. But a jazz musician can take his horn, keyboard or voice and create a masterpiece of a solo in a matter of minutes, one that cannot be duplicated. There’s an immediacy about jazz that is found nowhere else. And hearing it gives me an impetus to create, minute by minute, as the music plays.

Music has helped to teach me something else. One of the cornerstones of jazz is rhythm and timing. I learned a long time ago that’s there’s also rhythm to writing – every sentence, every paragraph, every chapter. And that’s what I strive for, to find that rhythm when I write. Am I always successful? Probably not. But there are certainly times when I’ll reread something I have written and feel that it works – except for one thing. The proper rhythm isn’t there. Then, I’ll edit and rework until I feel I’ve got it right. For me, in a sense, writing is a kind of music, and being that I’m creating – especially with fiction – it’s my form of jazz.

All things being equal, would I have preferred to be a jazz musician? Undoubtedly. I had an uncle who played the piano like Teddy Wilson and once turned down an opportunity to play in the Charlie Barnet Orchestra. Instead, he opted for a career in the military. I don’t think, given his talent, that I would have made the same choice. My father had an operatic-quality singing voice which he never fully developed. Unfortunately, though giving it a try with the clarinet and saxophone I just didn’t have the natural talent to perform at a high level. Alas, those aforementioned musical genes weren’t passed down to me. My love of literature led me to writing and it has been a long career, spanning four decades. I’m still at it after all these years and will continue as long as I can.

Even today, I listen to as much of the music I love as I possibly can. Though it serves as background while I work, I sometimes find my head and body moving to the rhythm. Other times, I’ll find myself typing to the beat of the music, as if my keyboard is a piano. And on occasion, without even thinking, I’ll suddenly stop and just listen as something special catches my ear, something so original and moving that it makes the hairs of my arms stand up. Then I’ll resume working, usually with a smile on my face and even a flutter in my heart.

That’s how great jazz affects me and, hopefully, it has helped make me a better writer.

You can contact Bill Gutman at: Bill@mikefargo.com.

TAKING A VACATION TO THE PAST

Ever think about a radically different kind of vacation? Don’t get me wrong. There’s no crime taking the kids to Disney World, visiting the Grand Canyon, or lolling about on the beaches of Hawaii. If you can afford it, by all means go. But sometimes it’s also pragmatic to plan a vacation of a different sort, this one controlled entirely by the mind. I’m talking about a visit to the past, a place where you can connect for awhile, learn, and hopefully give your life a somewhat different perspective.

Too many people today tend to ignore the past. Sure, we take history courses in school, ace a few tests, but then often let it go. The fast-paced, demanding world of the 21st century is more than enough for many of us to handle. There are some, however, who will find themselves longing to return to a simpler time, maybe living a bucolic existence in a small, picturesque turn-of-the-century (the 19th to the 20th) town before technology took over so much of our lives. But then again, the past wasn’t necessarily “simpler.” So we must pick and choose our vacation destinations, often based on our own personal interests.

History has intrigued me ever since I was very young. There was an old graveyard alongside our elementary school and I’d look at the names and dates on the tombstones. They were mostly from the 19th century and I’d try to imagine what those interred there were like, trying to picture their physical appearance and wondering about their personalities. I also began thinking about the passage of time and how the connection to the past could seem closer than it actually was. For example, I was born in 1942, a time when a handful of Civil War veterans were still alive. My grandfather was born in 1886, just twenty-one years after that awful war ended and only five years after the infamous Gunfight at the OK Corral. How far was I really removed from both those events?

Taking it a bit further, I was born just thirteen years after Wyatt Earp – the most legendary figure from that old west gunfight – died. His wife, Josie, was still alive when I entered the world. She died in 1944. It’s not that I’m fixated on the Earps, but I find those dates easy to use as a frame of reference. I can honestly say I’ve always felt a kind of connection to both the Civil War and the Wild West. Loving history and studying it only made the connection seem more real. Then, when reading about the period, watching movies, or just thinking of what it would have been like to live then, I began taking vacations in my mind. I feel the same way today as I did back in my childhood years of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. That connection is still with me

When I decided to put my detective, Mike Fargo, in 1920’s New York City, it was due to one of these “vacations.” I’ve always loved the period. Prohibition and the bootlegging of illegal booze gave the decade a kind of feel of the wild west. The growth of sports, tabloid journalism, music, Broadway Shows, movies that talked and other cultural changes like the new, modern woman – aka the flapper – also piqued my interest to learn more. Add to the mix larger than life characters such as Babe Ruth, Mae West, Texas Guinan, Mayor Jimmy Walker and so many others, and you find people you would want to meet, talk with and observe. Then there were the multitude of interesting venues, including the great theaters, bright lights of Broadway, the many restaurants and speakeasies, the Cotton Club and Savoy Ballroom, and a money-flowing Wall Street. The New York City of the 1920’s was full of life. You’ve got to admit that going there would be one helluva vacation.

Obviously, it isn’t real. But if the New York City of the 1920’s intrigues you, take a crack at traveling there. Because I’ve written about it in three books so far, I’m there quite often and with increasing intimacy. The period, the city, and my characters are real to me. But it’s not the only place I’ve gone. Because I love music, especially jazz, I’ve often returned to the Big Band Era of the late 1930’s, and taken “vacations” on the road with one of the major bands of the day. But that’s me. The destination for this kind of vacation is up to the individual. It’s a trip that can take you away from life’s everyday stresses, allowing you to escape, dream, and fantasize about another kind of life in another time. And, if you do it right, you can learn, broaden your horizons, and become a more complete person.

Try it. I think you’ll like it.

 

You can contact Bill Gutman at: Bill@mikefargo.com

WHAT’S IN A NAME? A CHARACTER THAT LIVES

At the beginning of a short story, novella or novel, one of the first things a writer does is create characters. Every author goes about it differently. Some may model certain characters on a friend or relative, or someone else they have met or learned about along the way – even a public figure like an actor or politician. Many make themselves the primary source of a character’s traits and actions. Others create their characters purely from their minds and imaginations, thinking about what they want each person to be. And, in some way, most of us create from a composite of our own experience – who we are, what we have learned, and from people we have known. Since every story has multiple characters, they are undoubtedly created in a variety of ways, and from a frame of reference spanning the author’s entire being.

But no matter how you create characters, they will only resonate with the reader once you, as the author, bring them to life. First they must become totally real to you, living and breathing beings functioning within the world in which you have placed them. As Gustave Flaubert famously said, so many years ago, Madame Bovary, c’est moi.

Every character you create can only be real if you give them life. They can’t be wooden figures, rubber stamp caricatures who are simply good or evil, weak or strong, and this goes for both the major and supporting players in your story. All must be multidimensional. Whether it’s the way they talk or walk, the way they dress, the habits they have, their motivations and actions, you must believe in them, believe they exist if only in your mind, and in that way they’ll come to life on the page. Part of making this happen is your ability as a writer, to describe your characters briefly, succinctly but accurately, giving them their physical characteristics and then showing them in action, with both a voice and a role that will enhance your story.

When I began writing Murder on Murderer’s Row, the first book in the Mike Fargo Mystery Series, I gave my detective the name Mike Fiscus. There was no rational explanation for it; the name just popped into my head and seemed to fit the character I wanted to create. Then there was a gap of several years between the first five chapters and my completion of the book. Throughout the entire process my detective was still Mike Fiscus. It was only when I decided to self-publish (see my prior blog: Why Indie. . .Why Now) that I decided the name was wrong. It didn’t have the right ring for a series, for what we now call – and I still dislike the term – branding. Thus Mike Fiscus would have to become Mike Fargo.

A name change might sound simple enough . . . until I found that it wasn’t. Why not? All I had to do was hit the find and replace button and every Fiscus in the manuscript would quickly become Fargo. The problem was that that Mike Fiscus had become real to me. It was as if I knew him. He already had a biography – born in 1887 on Staten Island and he loved the New York City of the 1920’s. At the same time he hated crime and especially murder. He was tough and uncompromising, had a girlfriend who was a nightclub singer and wanted to make it big on Broadway. He liked to crack wise, love to eat his favorite foods, have a cold beer and smoke Lucky Strikes, and had a sardonic sense of humor. In my mind Mike Fiscus had a life and, in this book, he was living and breathing in 1927. He was real, at least to me. And now I had to change his name.

Obviously, I did. Surely, it wasn’t the end of the world, or the series. My character became Mike Fargo, and Mike Fargo he’s remained through two subsequent novellas and next a second novel. Because I’ve written additional books he remains fully alive and fully real. Mike Fiscus is now, in some ways, a distant memory. Obviously, the two are one in the same. The character hasn’t changed. Only the name. But a name becomes attached to your character and is part of what makes him real. So you choose carefully, look for what fits. Once the name is set your character begins to have an identity, first to you and then to your readers. And if you, as the writer, believe your character is real you just may, as I did, find changing his name almost as difficult as changing your own. 

ANATOMY OF A SERIES

With the recent publication of MURDER ON BROADWAY, the third book featuring Mike Fargo as a New York City detective working in the 1920’s, I knew that I now had an ongoing series. One novel, two novellas published since November of 2012 and more to come. I’m self-publishing them on Amazon, a departure from my previous four decades as a writer, a decision I fully explained in my last blog, Why Indie. . .Why Now?

As for the series, it had a rather innocuous beginning. A number of years ago I was returning from a meeting with an editor in New York City, riding the train back to Dutchess County and thinking fiction, when an idea suddenly popped into my head. Why or where it came from I don’t know to this day. A ‘what if’ in one line. I quickly took out a note pad and jotted it down.

What if there was a murder at Yankee Stadium in 1927 and Babe Ruth became the prime suspect?

So here I was, thinking about what could happen if the most well-known and mythical baseball player of all-time had been a suspect in a murder – in the very same year he had hit his epic 60 home runs. As with many ideas, this one went on the back burner for awhile because I had other projects under contract. But the idea never fully went away and, gradually, I began outlining what would eventually become the novel, MURDER ON MURDERER’S ROW. I created a detective, Mike Fargo – originally called Mike Fiscus – and continued to flesh out the plot and characters. Once I had enough on paper and some free time, I began to write, eventually completing five chapters before contract work again took me away.

I spent nearly two years ghostwriting a family memoir, for which I had to conduct extensive interviews with a family of seven. After that, I had a time-consuming sports project called Yankees by the Numbers. Once that was done I decided to dig in and try to finish the novel. As I wrote I began enjoying it more and more. I had always loved the Roaring Twenties and my research only made me love it more. In addition to that, I quickly found that I enjoyed allowing my fictional characters to interact with real people. The Babe, of course, was innocent of the murder, but he became a major character in the story as did, to a lesser extent, Mayor Jimmy Walker and the actress Mae West. I also put my characters in real venues of the day, such as Yankee Stadium, the Cotton Club in Harlem and the famed Waldorf-Astoria hotel. All in all, it was a fun experience and, for reasons explained in my previous blog, I decided to publish it myself.

But what next? Like most new Indie authors I began reading about ways to market and learning which self-published genres worked best. Series fiction seemed to have as good a chance to succeed as anything. I had also read that even conventional publishers were asking some of their mystery writers to pen novellas in between their novels, which might come out just once a year. The purpose was to keep reader interest in their main character. And when a good friend, one who knows the business well, suggested I think about a novella or two, I took his advice. With the novella, a lost art now making a comeback, I could put a book up at a lower price and get Mike Fargo back in action much more quickly than with a second novel. I described the process involved in another previous blog, Novel to Novella.

So that’s what I did. First came DEATH OF A FLAPPER, which I set in 1922, and then MURDER ON BROADWAY, which takes place in 1925. Mike Fargo is now surfing the 1920’s and has appeared three times – a series. What comes next? Hopefully, a larger audience, those who enjoy reading about America’s past and about an old school detective who doesn’t call on CSIs and DNA testing to solve his cases. And he sure can’t make a quick call on a cellphone. Now I’ll probably go back to the long form, the novel, and work on a plot that I had begun before switching to the novella. But who knows, maybe the idea for another novella will also pop up. Either way, The Mike Fargo Mysteries is now a series, one I hope will continue to grow. And to think, it all started with a single one-liner that came to me on a train.

What if there was a murder at Yankee Stadium in 1927 and Babe Ruth became the prime subject?

 

-Bill Gutman

WHY INDIE . . . WHY NOW?

In November of 2012, my novel, Murder on Murderer’s Row, was published. Or should I say, I published it myself on Amazon as a Kindle ebook. What’s the big deal? Aren’t Indie authors popping up all over the place, publishing their own books by the score instead of going the traditional route? They sure are, but in my case it was a radical departure. I’ve been a full time freelance writer for more than 40 years and have had more than 200 books published conventionally, by both major and smaller publishers. I’ve written for children and adults, both fiction and non-fiction, have worked with a number of different agents and have experienced all the ups and downs that most freelancers face.

You name it and I’ve basically done it. I’ve written books at the first and second grade level on up, have done biographies of such diverse personalities as Lance Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and former President Andrew Jackson, have written sports histories and interviewed a variety of athletes from the earlier days of baseball and basketball, as well as from the world of extreme, high risk sports. I’ve worked with well known people on their books and have ghosted a complex family memoir. It has been quite a long ride.

But don’t get me wrong. This isn’t meant to claim any kind of bragging rights. I’m just a working writer who started as a newspaper guy before deciding to write books. Having never written a bestseller I’m certainly not rich, and for most of my writing life have had to go from book to book as quickly as I could. As with so many other professions, freelancing was often a real hustle down through the years, but one I loved. With all those books behind me and an intimate knowledge of the publishing business, why go Indie and why do it now?

Let’s talk a bit about publishing. When I began in the early 1970s it was a far different business than it is today. You worked closely with individual editors. If one wanted to give you a contract after you voiced an idea, it just took just a single phone call. No elaborate proposals, no committees to convince, no P & L sheets to be generated. If you were owed advance money and happened to be meeting with your editor, he or she would call down to accounting and they would cut a check on the spot. You could even call royalty departments to learn if you were due money, then get it a few weeks early if you asked. Imagine trying that one today.

Editors today no longer have the same kind of decision making power. Many of them seem to be running scared, afraid for their jobs if they make a costly mistake on a book. Whereas in the past, editors and publishers bet on authors and allowed them to develop, today they bet only on what they think are sure things, mostly backed by some kind of celebrity promotion to sell their product. Several years ago I did a proposal with a young Spanish nutritionist for a diet and health book. We had a top agent send it out and an editor at Putnam-Penguin wanted to do the book very badly. She told me she felt it was cutting edge material that would make a great book. Surprise. She couldn’t get it past her “committee.” The powers that be chose to ignore the merits of the book because the author didn’t have a “platform,” such as a cooking show on TV to give her exposure. Despite the editor’s best efforts, she could not get us a contract. She seemed almost embarrassed about it. We ran into the same brick wall of a “platform” with several other publishers and the book never sold. This despite the fact that the author was very photogenic, spoke extremely well, and could have been a great promoter for the book. Even our agent suggested she go out and build a platform. Because of this way of thinking, many books that would have sold easily 15 or 20 years ago just don’t sell now.

Which brings me back to Murder on Murderer’s Row. I started the novel several years ago before being sidetracked to write the aforementioned family memoir. The memoir was brokered by a high-profile agent in New York. While I was working on it, I decided to send her five finished chapters of the novel. She told me she thought it had promise, but that I had to finish it, something I already knew. Once the memoir was done, I returned to the novel and completed it. I then sent it back to the same agent with high hopes. She emailed me within minutes informing me she was no longer shopping mysteries. Just like that. Didn’t even read it. Right away, the little here-we-go-again bell went off in my head.

I then sent the manuscript to several other agents I knew, and who knew my work. You could almost predict what you were going to here. It’s very good and you did a great job recreating the 1920s, but I’m afraid as a period piece the audience will be limited. It’s a good story, but first time adult fiction is a very difficult sell today. Editors are just not buying. If they don’t think it can be an immediate bestseller, they don’t want to shop it. While I certainly had the credentials to send it out myself, I came to yet another realization. If I sold the novel to a small, or even a medium sized publisher, I’d get a very small to modest advance, they wouldn’t spend a dime to promote, and the book would die on the vine. Then, when I suggested a sequel, I’d be told that because the first one didn’t sell well, they couldn’t take a chance with a second. Game over.

That’s when I decided I would not go the conventional publishing route any longer, at least not with Mike Fargo, my 1920s New York City detective. I wanted to create a series, write about a time that always fascinated me and, for better or worse, control my own destiny and write as many Fargo novels and novellas as I could. And that’s what I’m doing.

Had I continued to pursue selling conventionally and finally found a buyer, the novel would not yet be out, probably not until fall. Then it would take another year before the publisher decided whether or not to pay for a sequel. This way, the novel is out and has already been joined by a novella, Death of a Flapper. Soon there will be a second novella and then maybe a third, giving me a real product line. At that point, I can begin a second full novel. At least that’s the game plan right now.

Will it be successful? That, I cannot predict. As most of you who follow the Indie route know, it takes time to build a following and an audience, especially if you are essentially doing it yourself. I’m still learning about that. But I feel good about going Indie and that’s the important thing. Sure, if I’m contacted by a publisher with a book deal, I’d most likely still do it. That has happened several times in the past couple of years. But I’m probably having more fun developing Mike Fargo with my mind living in New York City of the 1920s than I’ve had at any other point in my writing career.

Retire? Never. The work is just too fulfilling and has become a total part of me. Five years ago I probably would have been agonizing right now about trying to sell my novel. But to be able to write it my way, then go Indie and publish it myself. Priceless.

NOVEL TO NOVELLA

After completing Murder on Murderer’s Row, the first novel in The Mike Fargo Mysteries series, like any author my first thought was what’s next? The logical answer was another novel. Then another idea struck me. What about a novella? Long a stepsister as a literary form, I had read a while back that some of the major publishers were asking their authors of series with continuing characters to write  novellas in between novels so that the character remains fresh with the audience. In other words, instead of waiting perhaps a  year or more to see a second novel, readers would get a shortened version in between and could continue following a character they liked.

Because I wanted new readers to know that Mike Fargo would be a continuing character I decided to go the novella route with Death of a Flapper. That way, I could publish it just a couple of months after my initial Fargo offering. Having never attempted the shortened novella form before I knew it would be on ongoing process and, with it, a bit of the unknown. Yet it actually went rather smoothly because I realized early on what I could and couldn’t do.

Mike Fargo operates in 1920’s New York City and part of creating a historical novel is to give the reader an accurate and almost visual feel for the period. You also have to weave real characters in an out of the story and have them interact with your fictional creations. In Murder on Murderer’s Row Babe Ruth was a major character, while other members of the 1927 Yankees had cameos. New York City’s colorful mayor, Jimmy Walker, also played a part in the story, as did  Governor, Al Smith. Venues included the Cotton Club, the ticker tape parade for “Lucky” Lindy (who made it across the Atlantic that year), Yankee Stadium, Wall Street, Broadway and the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Even the legendary Mae West made a brief appearance. Hopefully, I’ve succeeded in bringing those people and places to life.

Early on in the process of creating Death of a Flapper I realized that much of the descriptiveness that I had taken pains to include in the novel had to give way to the plot, in this case the pursuit of a killer. With the novella it really had to be plot, plot, plot. I wrote to a length that was roughly a third as long as the novel and completed the story in ten short chapters. Character development had to be subtle, with more left to the imagination of the reader and, of course, there were fewer secondary characters.

I also made it something of a prequel since Murder on Murderer’s Row was set in 1927 and Death of a Flapper in 1922. My thinking now, as I prepare to write a second full Fargo novel, is to set the next one in 1928, thereby having the option of continuing with characters introduced in the first or, in essence, the year before. Hopefully, that will bring a sense of continuity to the series.

Will I write another novella? Though you never know what the future will bring, I can say I thoroughly enjoyed doing it and, if the The Mike Fargo Mysteries series is successful, I could obviously alternate novel and novella, thereby increasing the product line. It also doesn’t hurt that as a self-published e-book on Amazon, the novella price of 99 cents is also a bargain for the reader.

And, perhaps most important of all, writing it was fun.

THE 1920’S AND TODAY

 The 1920’s and Today

Why write about the 1920’s? Look at all the hot fiction topics today and you find the paranormal, horror, ghosts, vampires, zombies, aliens and fantasy among the standard fare, and even among the bestsellers. I’ve even been told that I’m limiting my potential audience by writing about the New York City of ninety years ago. But, hell, as a writer, you often do what intrigues you and go to a place where you feel comfortable. Because I’ve always loved history there is much from the past that I find extremely interesting and educational. But the twenties has always been kind of special because it marked the beginnings of a number of my current and continuing interests – jazz, the movies, Broadway shows and the Great American Songbook. It was also called the Golden Age of Sports, another of my longtime interests. And then, of course, there was Prohibition and a proliferation of organized crime. That’s plenty to keep a hard-boiled, veteran detective busy. Thus I created Mike Fargo.

It’s also fun combining real and fictional characters, touching on events and places of the time, and working your story into this backdrop. Thus in my first Mike Fargo novel, Murder on Murderer’s Row, I have scenes set at such diverse places as the Cotton Club and original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. To do this accurately, it takes careful research, but if you are fascinated by the period that becomes a pleasurable part of the process. Among the real characters, the legendary Babe Ruth plays a major role. To portray him accurately, you have to know more about him than the home runs he hit. The same with dapper Mayor Jimmy Walker and the actress, Mae West.

In addition, the language of the time was very different. Something that was good was “jake.” Women were dames, gals, dolls, dishes and tomatoes. A rich person was a “swell.” Money could be cabbage, clams, jack, a fin, a sawbuck, among other slang terms. Bootleg liquor was “rotgut,” and a heavily built man was a “grand piano.” And that’s just scratching the surface. You also want to avoid the dreaded anachronism. When I put Mike Fargo into a squad car, a Model T Ford, known then as a “Tin Lizzie,” I wondered if the police cars of the day had two-way radios. Research showed they weren’t equipped with radios until 1932. You also have to know the popular songs of the day, as well as the top actors and actresses. The great Duke Ellington got a huge career boost by beginning a long run at the Cotton Club in 1927. My characters went there during the summer. Research showed that Ellington didn’t begin his run until November. Thus he couldn’t be there with Fargo and Lola. Wouldn’t be accurate.

Mike Fargo was also a big fan of heavyweight champ Jack Dempsey. When Dempsey tried to regain his title from Gene Tunney in September of 1927, the famous “Long Count” fight, I had Fargo listening on the radio. Research showed the sportscaster was one of the early greats, Graham McNamee. That’s who Fargo listened to that night. So as a writer of period fiction you try to be painstakingly accurate from start to finish. You check prices, products, inventions, clothing, events . . . everything.

You also have to be sure that those reading your book and who are unfamiliar with the period, will still enjoy the story as a story. If someone doesn’t know there really was a Mayor named Jimmy Walker, who once wrote a hit song, Will You Love Me In December As You Do In May, and who loved baseball and celebrities, and ran around with a showgirl named Betty Compton, they can still enjoy the character thinking he’s fictional. It’s just a bit more fun if you have some knowledge of the period, the people and the events that appear in the story.

Am I limiting my audience by writing about the 1920’s? Only time will tell. Murder on Murderer’s Row will soon be joined by a Mike Fargo novella, Death of a Flapper, and will continue from there. Hopefully, I can bring this very lively period back to life for a whole generation of readers. People shouldn’t become so caught up in the present and in projecting the future that they forget the past. There’s an awful lot that can be learned by looking back, and a whole lot to enjoy, as well.

Bill Gutman