A handful of historical authors brave the wilds of unusual settings and times to create distinctive, exciting novels just outside of the mainstream. Join us as we chronicle the trials and rewards of our quest--from research and writing to publication and establishing lasting careers.
This week, we're pleased to welcome authorONA RUSSELLwith her latest historical mystery release, RULE OF CAPTURE. Join us again on Sunday for an author interview, with more details about the story behind the story. One lucky visitor will get a free copy of Rule of Capture. Be sure to leave your email address in the comments of today's post or Sunday's author interview for a chance to win. Winner(s) are contacted privately by email. Here's the blurb.
Los Angeles, 1928.
Oil, oranges and site of the C. C. Julian Petroleum stock scandal, a Ponzi type
scheme to rival any in American history and a foreshadowing of the decade's
looming, economic crash. As one of the scheme's victims, Ohio probate officer
Sarah Kaufman--still reeling from the KKK murders she helped solve in
Tennessee--is in the city to attend the trial of the perpetrators, in
particular of the ''friend'' who convinced her to invest. Sarah is eager for
justice and committed to seeing the trial through. She's glad she's alone, that
her lover Mitchell isn't there, that after court she'll have time to herself.
But when a Mexican woman she barely knows winds up dead, Sarah's plans are
thrown upside down. Suddenly she finds herself in a nightmarish trial by fire,
one that takes her from the glamour of Hollywood to the Tijuana frontier, tests
her deepest beliefs and leads her to discover not only a killer, but a part of
Los Angeles built on a terrible secret. Includes Readers Guide.
Excerpt from Rule of Capture**
L.A. morgue. Not where Sarah imagined she would spend the afternoon. But after
she retold her story to the only slightly more interested officer, she agreed
to his perfunctory request. It was already 3:00 p.m., and she was still
thumbing through magazines in the waiting area. The trial would have to go on
without her today.
leaned back. The shoes were now in police custody. Not that they’d be in a
hurry to investigate. Based on everything she'd seen thus far, the death of a
Mexican would be a low priority. Although with her husband being white and
apparently a prominent citizen, they might be forced to act if there were more
evidence that pointed to a homicide.
picked up a Saturday Evening Post. It
was the March edition, featuring on its cover a nightmarish Pied Piper figure
surrounded by equally creepy-looking animals celebrating the onset of spring.
Sarah thumbed through and stopped on an excerpt of Lost Ecstasy, a new novel by Mary Roberts Rinehart, the recently
dubbed Agatha Christie of the States. Sarah wasn’t a fan of humorous mysteries
but this one didn’t sound too funny:
Kay Dowling was used to luxury, expensive
pleasures, and the gentlemen who could afford them. But when she accompanied
her wealthy family to her late grandfather’s ranch, it was ordinary Tom McNair
who caught her eye. Then Tom was arrested for a not-so-ordinary murder, and
Kay’s life was turned upside-down. But she was determined to help Tom prove his
innocence, even if she had to put her own life in danger to do it.
dropped the magazine and gasped, startled by the somber, hospital-garbed man
appearing at the door. “This way,” he said, and without introduction, led her
down the cold, sterile hall. Their syncopated steps echoed in the silence.
Sarah never had to visit one of these places again it would be too soon—one of
Tillie's tired expressions, but it was true. Most of her work for the courts
was life affirming—repairing marriages, rehabilitating juveniles, finding work
for the unemployed. But then there were the suicides, the wives beaten to
death, and worse, the children, who had no family to bury them. The first few
times she had to identify a body, she trembled violently, got sick, thought she
could never do it again. But eventually she learned to control her emotions. Or
more accurately, was able to control
them, because she didn't quite know how she did it. An unconscious mechanism of
some sort. Self-protection, no doubt. The psyche was good at that. But whatever
the source, she was grateful for it, because the calm that came over her in
such instances allowed her to focus. And that is exactly what she did now as a
gloved hand slid open the metal drawer and pulled back the white sheet.
took in the stiff, purplish features. Mouth, cheeks, hair.Bruising on the neck. She could just make it
out. The striking eyes were closed for good, but there was no question. She
looked at the corpse hard, again hoping to remember something in the stilled
face. “Yes,” she said dully. “That’s her.”
man nodded, and then mutely escorted her out. Soon she was back at the police
station. Officer Hodges lit a cigarette and rocked back in his worn chair.
“Well ma'am.” He smiled sheepishly. “We appreciate your help, but, uh, looks
like we didn't need it after all.”
Path report is in. Cause of death is heart attack.”
heart attack. Probably happened very quick.”
attack? A woman of that age? What about the bruising?”
bruising on the neck.”
don’t know. Probably when she fell.”
for yourself,” he said, handing her the official yellow form.
read over it. Huh. “Well, that's that then,” she said, standing and feeling
something between confusion and relief. “Do you know why she was in that
area?I read it was popular with
if you hadn’t noticed, she was one of them, ma’am. Marianna’s just a street.
Residential, mostly, with that ravine at the end. But there are a few shops
nearby with junk from Mexico. Probably went for that. I’ve heard even some
stars like it for the novelty.”
“Oh, by the way. You can have these if you
want.” Officer Hodges reached under his desk, pulling out the bag with Rita's
shoes. “Family doesn't want 'em.”
“What? Are you sure about that?”
“Wouldn’t say so if I wasn’t. So you
she thought. According to the paper, the husband was in shock. Maybe not even
in town yet. “No, no. Why don't you donate them to…uh, on second thought, I
think I will take them.”
you go. Now then, Miss Kaufman. I've got a lot of work to do,” the officer
said. “Like I told you before, real crimes to solve.”
he said, “uh, you say you're here for the Pete trial?”
snickered. “C.C.’ll get off. Trust me. Him and all his Jew friends. They know
how to work the system.”
flushed and glared at the grinning officer. His smile dropped as he searched
her face. “Oh, uh, I didn’t mean nothin, really. Just a type, you know, a
certain kind I'm talking about, uh…”
worry about it,” Sarah said, grabbing the bag and marching out. “Ignorant pig,”
she said under her breath. You're lucky my people don't eat you.”