Fly-in Pancake Breakfast

A love­ly June morn­ing, clear and com­fort­ably warm. Sat­ur­day was a per­fect day for our planned out­ing. My hus­band and I drove to Smoke­town Air­port in Penn­syl­va­nia for break­fast. Why? We do it every year when they have the Fly-in, Cruise-in Pan­cake Break­fast. We eat break­fast then stroll around to see the antique auto­mo­biles and air­planes. We vis­it with our friends Jack and Shirley who have helped orga­nize and run the event for years, and any of their chil­dren or grand­chil­dren who might be there. (Three gen­er­a­tions of fly­ers in that bunch.)

This year we didn’t have any of our grand­chil­dren along to take a Young Eagles air­plane ride. That’s part of the event—a free air­plane ride and a Young Eagles cer­tifi­cate for all chil­dren ages eight through sev­en­teen. A band plays while peo­ple wan­der and watch a para­chuter jump from 3,000 feet. (Our friend Jack pilot­ed the plane.)

All the air­planes and antique autos are spiffed up and gleam­ing. We saw a bright yel­low street rod and anoth­er car from 1927. The air­planes includ­ed a cou­ple of ultra-lights, a home-built ir two, and a 1929 Fairchild 71. It’s one of only sev­en still fly­ing, and it sparkled. It has a long body for extra stor­age and wick­er seats for four or five.

Since we saw the news­pa­per pho­tog­ra­ph­er tak­ing pic­tures, I wait­ed until Sun­day to write this up so I could include a link to the air­port fly-in arti­cle.

I know this blog is my mys­tery, his­to­ry, and spook writ­ings, and this is only his­to­ry with a real stretch. But maybe it’s inspi­ra­tion. Hmm. Do I want to write a mys­tery about a dar­ing Nan­cy Drew type with her vin­tage auto solv­ing crimes?

One thing I do want to add is the link to the inter­view I men­tioned in my last blog post. (It’s now bro­ken.) Now, here’s where to find my Cof­fee Chat with Ally Shields.

Radium Girls

Radi­um girls?” What does that mean, you ask. Think “glow in the dark.” Now cast your mind back to the 1920s. Okay, my mind doesn’t go back that far, and I imag­ine, nei­ther does yours.

Let’s start from the begin­ning. I live in Lan­cast­er Coun­ty, Penn­syl­va­nia, home of Hamil­ton Watch and in the past, anoth­er watch com­pa­ny. A local news­pa­per colum­nist, Jack Brubak­er, has been fol­low­ing radi­um girls. He found sev­er­al, one is 102 year-old Cora Bod­key. When she was four­teen, she worked for Hamil­ton Watch paint­ing radi­um num­bers on watch­es. They used pens instead of brush­es and were warned not to put the pens in their mouths. Even then, in 1926, they knew that many women liked to point their brush­es by mouth and some were get­ting sick. Oth­er than that, they had no clue about radi­um, only that it glowed in the dark.

Even­tu­al­ly, watch com­pa­nies switched to using tri­tium and the gov­ern­ment began to strict­ly reg­u­late its use, although it was less radioac­tive. One woman, who used a brush, remem­bers they test­ed her urine every week, and, although it was always high, noth­ing was ever done about it. Few local­ly knew about any­one being sick, but one remem­bered a woman who died of tongue can­cer.

Radi­um girls were at work in oth­er places before World War I. One always thinks of the world becom­ing more dan­ger­ous. But now, in 2014, we think of a per­son of four­teen as a child, and radi­um as def­i­nite­ly noth­ing to han­dle. Come to think of it, every time I read of the dan­gers of mer­cury poi­son­ing, I remem­ber the time, maybe I was four­teen, when one of us broke a ther­mome­ter. We had a lot of fun rolling those lit­tle gray dots around the floor in semi-liq­uid balls, push­ing them with our fin­gers. Yep, mer­cury.

April Showers-And April Memories

The last day of April, and the rain is pour­ing down. I’m try­ing to remem­ber to sing the words to a song that was pop­u­lar years ago — April Show­ers. I’m try­ing to remem­ber that, accord­ing to the song, show­ers bring May flow­ers, but this isn’t show­ers. It’s a pound-through-the-umbrel­la down­pour.

Okay, instead or look­ing for­ward to those flow­ers, I’m look­ing back to Aprils of past years.

Twen­ty-five years ago the Penn­syl­va­nia Super 7 lot­tery was at a then-record high $115,500,000 jack­pot. Even­tu­al­ly, four­teen win­ners each received $317,524 per year for twen­ty-six years. They have one year more to go. (I don’t remem­ber this sto­ry. I wasn’t into bet­ting on the lot­tery.) I do remem­ber the then-pop­u­lar TV shows: “Alf” “Cheers,” McGyver,” and “Gold­en Girls.”

Fifty years ago the Ford Mus­tang made its debut local­ly, priced at $2,368. After six­ty years in busi­ness, when the 91 year old own­er retired, the Smith­son­ian accept­ed the fix­tures of his phar­ma­cy to cre­ate a “Gay ‘90s Apothe­cary” at the muse­um. Movies show­ing local­ly were: “The Hor­ror at Par­ty Beach,” The Curse of the Liv­ing Corpse,” Cleopa­tra,” and “Mus­cle Beach Par­ty,” (at the dri­ve-in with Annette Funi­cel­lo and Frankie Aval­on). I prob­a­bly didn’t see any of those movies. I was busy with a very young fam­i­ly of small chil­dren, and my hus­band was work­ing three jobs.

Sev­en­ty-five years ago the local library got its very first book­mo­bile. Most of the coun­ty adopt­ed Day­light Sav­ing Time-but one town held out for reg­u­lar time, how­ev­er their banks and busi­ness opened an hour ear­li­er to accom­mo­date their cus­tomers. Pop­u­lar radio shows were “Lum and Abn­er,” “Jack Arm­strong” (the all-Amer­i­can boy-I do remem­ber that one), “The Lone Ranger,” and “The Green Hor­net.” These were all before I was mar­ried, so this was not my coun­ty. I def­i­nite­ly remem­ber our book­mo­bile com­ing from Belling­ham, Wash­ing­ton, and stop­ping at the bot­tom of the hill, after a thir­ty-mile trip.

Now, I have no per­son­al mem­o­ry of one hun­dred years ago. I’m old, but not that old. How­ev­er, local­ly in mid-April it was Cleanup Week. Thou­sands of peo­ple includ­ing chil­dren paint­ed, scrubbed, white-washed, and swept while wan­der­ing judges toured and award­ed prizes. Anoth­er week some two hun­dred peo­ple attend­ed an after­noon social hon­or­ing Nation­al Ral­ly Day of the Suf­fragettes. The event began with singing “The Bat­tle Hymn of the Repub­lic.” Also dur­ing April, “The Last Days of Pom­peii,” a silent mov­ing pic­ture was being shown — admis­sion price ten cents.

 

Old News That’s Still New

I’ve been busy which is real­ly not a good excuse. Every­one is busy this time of year—the hol­i­days, vis­its, cook­ing, clean­ing, bad colds—and I’ve had them all. Plus, I’ve been pour­ing over the proof of my new book and dis­cov­er­ing lots of things that need to be changed. But I must take time out to write in my blog. And—I’ve found a good subject—the con­tin­u­ing real­iza­tion that the more things change, the more they stay the same!

Every Mon­day our local news­pa­per has a col­umn of old news tak­en from papers 25, 50, 75, and 100 years ago. Yes, our news­pa­per has been in busi­ness that long! (Well, the paper’s name has under­gone a few name changes. It’s now a com­bi­na­tion of the two pre­vi­ous ones put out by the same com­pa­ny.) Would you believe the local news 25 years ago was sim­i­lar to one a fel­low mys­tery writer based her first mys­tery on, and inci­dent­ly, start­ed my habit of clip­ping these columns? The author is Sta­cy Juba, and her book is Twen­ty-Five Years Ago Today. Her book cen­tered around an unsolved mur­der. My local arti­cle tells of an unsolved dis­ap­pear­ance of a 15-year old girl who left with a man “well known to her.” Foul play and her death were feared and she is still miss­ing. Sta­cy, are you up for anoth­er plot? Or, since Sta­cy has sev­er­al oth­er books com­plete­ly plot­ted and pub­lished, am I?

Not only was the 50-year-ago news of a huge snow storm with ultra-low tem­per­a­tures one that I remem­ber well, those ultra-low tem­per­a­tures were repeat­ed this year. For­tu­nate­ly, the twelve-foot drifts weren’t. Of course, that affect­ed the annu­al Penn­syl­va­nia Farm Show—both times. In fact, that hap­pens so often, the fre­quent bad, cold weath­er for the same week is referred to as Farm Show Weath­er.

Now, 75 years ago the weath­er wasn’t real­ly men­tioned. That news was from 1939, a year still in the depres­sion that start­ed ten years ear­li­er and wasn’t com­plete­ly erased until the arms build-up to win World War II began after Pearl Har­bor Day on Decem­ber 7, 1941. Local­ly, 21 “relief chislers” had defraud­ed the gov­ern­ment for a total of $1,408. One woman thought the gov­ern­ment knew she had a job. Her hus­band was in jail and she had to walk ten miles to and from her job. Per­son­al­ly, I think I’d have let her keep the $100.10 she was over­paid. (There are cer­tain facts in this sto­ry that remind me of today as well. Can you say “hard times for many?”)

For­tu­nate­ly, the 100-years ago today sto­ry doesn’t remind me of cur­rent events. A man who owned the local store and ran the enclosed post office came down with “the dread­ed” dis­ease of small pox. Not only was his busi­ness estab­lish­ment quar­an­tined and closed, but his entire fam­i­ly was quar­an­tined and two near­by schools were closed for two weeks.

Have you heard any old news late­ly that could have been said about yes­ter­day as well? If my com­ments sec­tion is work­ing, I’d love to hear it.

New Reads — Cozy Mystery and More

I love new books. Scan­ning the cov­er, turn­ing the pages, fol­low­ing line after line of… Okay, I also love new e-books. Let me say, I love the plot, the mys­tery, the char­ac­ters, the whole expe­ri­ence of let­ting myself live anoth­er life for a few min­utes, or a few hours. So, when I hear about a new book writ­ten by one of my favorite authors, I’m ready to eaves­drop on a life that I’ve lived before. And, when I open a book by an author new to me, I’m ready to escape into a new real­i­ty. All this is pre­lude to intro­duc­ing a short list of books new­ly pub­lished, or about to be pub­lished next month. Per­haps some of these will intro­duce you to a delight­ful new read.

The first book on my list is an anthol­o­gy of short sto­ries — The Least He Could Do and eleven oth­er sto­ries. When I asked for titles of new books from my Sis­ters in Crime Gup­py chap­ter, I heard about this from the author of the title sto­ry, “The Least He Could Do,” Lynn Mann. Lynn’s sto­ry is sus­pense (and a good one). The oth­ers are a mix of genre’s, all a bit edgy. Avail­able as e-book.  Ama­zon site here.  Smashword’s site here.

The next three books are all cozy mys­ter­ies from authors with series I know and love. The first is Low­coun­try Bomb­shell by Susan Boy­er. Her first book, Low­coun­try Boil, won the Agatha this year for best new mys­tery, so you know this one will be good. Short intro — Liz Tal­bot thinks she’s seen anoth­er ghost when she meets Cal­ista McQueen. She’s the spit­ting image of Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe. Born pre­cise­ly fifty years after the ill-fat­ed star, Calista’s life has eeri­ly mir­rored the late starlet’s–and she fears the loom­ing anniver­sary of Marilyn’s death will also be hers. With the heat index approach­ing triple dig­its, Liz races to uncov­er a dia­bol­i­cal mur­der plot in time to save not only Calista’s life, but also her own.  Ama­zon site here. Pub­lish­er page here.

Lit­tle Black Book of Mur­der by Nan­cy Mar­tin is the newest from The Black­bird Sis­ters series, one of my favorites. It stars Nora Black­bird who may have been to the manor borne, but these days mon­ey is so tight, she can’t afford to lose her job as a soci­ety colum­nist. Short Intro — If any­thing can bring the blue-blood­ed Black­bird sis­ters togeth­er, it’s a mur­der inves­ti­ga­tion involv­ing high-soci­ety events, glam­orous peo­ple, and the dis­ap­pear­ance of a genet­i­cal­ly per­fect pig that may or may not be bask­ing in the sun at Black­bird Farm. They’ll all have to pull togeth­er this time, because if Nora can’t bring home the bacon, she might have to exchange her bucol­ic estate for a cramped walk-up. Avail­able in hard­cov­er, e-book, and audio­book.  Ama­zon page here. Author page here.

Rhys Bowen, the author of Heirs and Graces, writes three series that I adore. This title is the lat­est in the Roy­al Spy­ness mys­ter­ies that take place in 1930s Eng­land. Georgie’s posh edu­ca­tion didn’t land her a job, or a hus­band, but it does con­vince Her Majesty the Queen and the Dowa­ger Duchess to enlist her help. Short intro for this his­toric mys­tery — As thir­ty-fifth in line for the throne, Lady Geor­giana Ran­noch may not be the most sophis­ti­cat­ed young woman, but she knows her table man­ners. It’s forks on the left, knives on the right–not in His Majesty’s back… Avail­able in hard­cov­er, e-book, and audio­book. Ama­zon page here. Author page here.

I also have two mys­ter­ies from authors who are new to me. I’m look­ing for­ward to enjoy­ing their new series. Auld Lang Syne is by Judith Ivie. Short intro — This is num­ber six in The Kate Lawrence Mys­ter­ies. It’s almost New Year’s Eve, and Kate finds her­self at her 35th high school reunion, where she is con­front­ed by The Mean Girls, cir­ca 1978. Worse yet, she’s put on a lit­tle weight, and her high school steady is expect­ed to show. Should auld acquain­tance be for­got? If only that were pos­si­ble. Avail­able in paper­back and e-book. Ama­zon site here. Pub­lish­er page here.

The sec­ond of the new-to-me mys­ter­ies is Armed  by Elaine Macko From the cov­er pho­to of a young woman’s arm, I sus­pect this Alex Har­ris series is ‘armed’ with more humor than gun play. Short intro — When Alex Har­ris, own­er of the Always Pre­pared staffing agency, stum­bles over the body of Mrs. Scott, noth­ing will ever be the same. Along with her sis­ter and part­ner, Saman­tha Daniels, and their assis­tant, Mil­lie Chap­man, the Win­ston Churchill-quot­ing, M&M pop­ping Alex probes and plods through clue after clue try­ing to unrav­el secrets before the mur­der­er strikes again and real­ly ruins Christ­mas. Avail­able in paper­back and e-book. Ama­zon site here. Author page here.

What are your favorite cozy mys­tery series? Leave a com­ment and tell me. I’d love to hear about new ones.

Look for my new YA mys­tery soon — pub­li­ca­tion date ten­ta­tive­ly sched­uled for Octo­ber 2013. In the mean­time, the links to my two mys­ter­ies and one true adven­ture non-fic­tion are on my Books page here.

The Irish Cop Connection

I like to make con­nec­tions. Some­times the con­nec­tion is between a news­pa­per arti­cle and a sto­ry I’ve read. Some­times it’s between a whis­pered con­fi­dence and a past event. Some­times, such as this time, the con­nec­tion is between two mys­tery series by two dif­fer­ent authors.

Besides the Irish cop con­nec­tion, these series are cozy, his­toric, and by authors I’ve actu­al­ly met! Both series are set in New York at the turn of the century—that’s the ear­ly 1900s, Both have a young woman who helps an Irish cop solve mur­ders. Both include a good bit of accu­rate his­toric detail.

I met Vic­to­ria Thomp­son a few years ago at a con­fer­ence where I bought one of her Gaslight Mys­tery books. I’ve been buy­ing, and read­ing them ever since. How­ev­er, I began read­ing the Mol­ly Mur­phy Mys­ter­ies before I met Rhys Bowen. Okay, I must admit, it was a brief encounter. We rode the same ele­va­tor at the Mal­ice Domes­tic Con­fer­ence this May. I did tell her how much I enjoyed her mys­ter­ies.

Now that I’ve men­tioned the sim­i­lar­i­ties between the two series, let me tell you the dif­fer­ences.

Sarah Brandt, star of the Gaslight Mys­ter­ies, was born to wealth then turned against that lifestyle by becom­ing a mid­wife. She mar­ried and was a young wid­ow when the series begins. Among the real his­toric issues involved in the mys­ter­ies are med­ical prob­lems, includ­ing those of the Irish cop’s deaf son as well as social issues and the pover­ty of so many of New York’s cit­i­zens of the time. One among the con­tin­u­ing char­ac­ters is Sarah’s neigh­bor, an extreme­ly super­sti­tions woman who sees signs of dan­ger if a crow flies by, or almost any­thing else. Sarah has the advan­tage of know­ing the wealthy peo­ple, old friends from her for­mer life, and espe­cial­ly her moth­er to help in learn­ing things that might be clues. The Irish cop, Frank Mal­loy, wel­comes any help Sarah can pro­vide. The two are attract­ed to each oth­er, but so far, have too many oth­er things going on to do much about it.

Mol­ly Mur­phy, the hero­ine of the Mol­ly Mur­phy Mys­ter­ies, arrived in New York from Ire­land, one step ahead of the law that would arrest her for pro­tect­ing her­self. She takes a job at a detec­tive agency. When the detec­tive is killed, she takes over the role of detec­tive. Through­out the series, Mol­ly meets his­toric peo­ple such as Har­ry Hou­di­ni and Nel­lie Bly. Her neigh­bors are two flam­boy­ant women who intro­duce Mol­ly to their well-known friends, so many his­toric events con­tribute to the mys­ter­ies. Daniel Sul­li­van, the Irish cop, does not wel­come help from Mol­ly on his cas­es, nor does he want to hear about her detec­tive work that may be con­nect­ed to his. How­ev­er, their per­son­al rela­tion­ship advances from romance, to dis­tance, to rejec­tion, then back, and to mar­riage.

Do you like to make con­nec­tions such as this? Do you know of any oth­er mys­ter­ies that could be con­nect­ed in some ten­u­ous fash­ion? Let me know below in the com­ments. And, before I leave you, I’d like to give you a cou­ple of links for these two authors and their sites.

Vic­to­ria Thompson’s Ama­zon author page is here. A recent Face­book entry is here. 

Rhys Bowen’s Ama­zon author page is here. Her Twit­ter account is here.