Book Blast and Giveaway: Pistols and Petticoats

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Genre: Mystery, NonFiction, History
Published by: Beacon Press
Publication Date: February 28th 2017 (1st Published April 26th 2016)
Number of Pages: 248
ISBN: 0807039381 (ISBN13: 9780807039380)
Purchase Links: Amazon  | Barnes & Noble  | Goodreads

A lively exploration of the struggles faced by women in law enforcement and mystery fiction for the past 175 years

In 1910, Alice Wells took the oath to join the all-male Los Angeles Police Department. She wore no uniform, carried no weapon, and kept her badge stuffed in her pocketbook. She wasn’t the first or only policewoman, but she became the movement’s most visible voice.

Police work from its very beginning was considered a male domain, far too dangerous and rough for a respectable woman to even contemplate doing, much less take on as a profession. A policewoman worked outside the home, walking dangerous city streets late at night to confront burglars, drunks, scam artists, and prostitutes. To solve crimes, she observed, collected evidence, and used reason and logic—traits typically associated with men. And most controversially of all, she had a purpose separate from her husband, children, and home. Women who donned the badge faced harassment and discrimination. It would take more than seventy years for women to enter the force as full-fledged officers.

Yet within the covers of popular fiction, women not only wrote mysteries but also created female characters that handily solved crimes. Smart, independent, and courageous, these nineteenth- and early twentieth-century female sleuths (including a healthy number created by male writers) set the stage for Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, Sara Paretsky’s V. I. Warshawski, Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta, and Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone, as well as TV detectives such as Prime Suspect’s Jane Tennison and Law and Order’s Olivia Benson. The authors were not amateurs dabbling in detection but professional writers who helped define the genre and competed with men, often to greater success.

Pistols and Petticoats tells the story of women’s very early place in crime fiction and their public crusade to transform policing. Whether real or fictional, investigating women were nearly always at odds with society. Most women refused to let that stop them, paving the way to a modern professional life for women on the force and in popular culture.

Read an Excerpt

With high heels clicking across the hardwood floors, the diminutive woman from Chicago strode into the headquarters of the New York City police. It was 1922. Few respectable women would enter such a place alone, let alone one wearing a fashionable Paris gown, a feathered hat atop her brown bob, glistening pearls, and lace stockings.

But Alice Clement was no ordinary woman.

Unaware of—or simply not caring about—the commotion her presence caused, Clement walked straight into the office of Commissioner Carleton Simon and announced, “I’ve come to take Stella Myers back to Chicago.”

The commissioner gasped, “She’s desperate!”

Stella Myers was no ordinary crook. The dark-haired thief had outwitted policemen and eluded capture in several states.

Unfazed by Simon’s shocked expression, the well-dressed woman withdrew a set of handcuffs, ankle bracelets, and a “wicked looking gun” from her handbag.

“I’ve come prepared.”

Holding up her handcuffs, Clement stated calmly, “These go on her and we don’t sleep until I’ve locked her up in Chicago.” True to her word, Clement delivered Myers to her Chicago cell.

Alice Clement was hailed as Chicago’s “female Sherlock Holmes,” known for her skills in detection as well as for clearing the city of fortune-tellers, capturing shoplifters, foiling pickpockets, and rescuing girls from the clutches of prostitution. Her uncanny ability to remember faces and her flair for masquerade—“a different disguise every day”—allowed her to rack up one thousand arrests in a single year. She was bold and sassy, unafraid to take on any masher, con artist, or scalawag from the city’s underworld.

Her headline-grabbing arrests and head-turning wardrobe made Clement seem like a character straight from Central Casting. But Alice Clement was not only real; she was also a detective sergeant first grade of the Chicago Police Department.

Clement entered the police force in 1913, riding the wave of media sensation that greeted the hiring of ten policewomen in Chicago. Born in Milwaukee to German immigrant parents in 1878, Clement was unafraid to stand up for herself. She advocated for women’s rights and the repeal of Prohibition. She sued her first husband, Leonard Clement, for divorce on the grounds of desertion and intemperance at a time when women rarely initiated—or won—such dissolutions. Four years later, she married barber Albert L. Faubel in a secret ceremony performed by a female pastor.

It’s not clear why the then thirty-five-year-old, five-foot-three Clement decided to join the force, but she relished the job. She made dramatic arrests—made all the more so by her flamboyant dress— and became the darling of reporters seeking sensational tales of corruption and vice for the morning papers. Dark-haired and attractive, Clement seemed to confound reporters, who couldn’t believe she was old enough to have a daughter much less, a few years later, a granddaughter. “Grandmother Good Detective” read one headline.

She burnished her reputation in a high-profile crusade to root out fortune-tellers preying on the naive. Donning a different disguise every day, Clement had her fortune told more than five hundred times as she gathered evidence to shut down the trade. “Hats are the most important,” she explained, describing her method. “Large and small, light and dark and of vivid hue, floppy brimmed and tailored, there is nothing that alters a woman’s appearance more than a change in headgear.”

Clement also had no truck with flirts. When a man attempted to seduce her at a movie theater, she threatened to arrest him. He thought she was joking and continued his flirtations, but hers was no idle threat. Clement pulled out her blackjack and clubbed him over the head before yanking him out of the theater and dragging him down the street to the station house. When he appeared in court a few days later, the man confessed that he had been cured of flirting. Not every case went Clement’s way, though. The jury acquitted the man, winning the applause of the judge who was no great fan of Clement or her theatrics.

One person who did manage to outwit Clement was her own daughter, Ruth. Preventing hasty marriages fell under Clement’s duties, and she tracked down lovelorn young couples before they could reach the minister. The Chicago Daily Tribune called her the “Nemesis of elopers” for her success and familiarity with everyone involved in the business of matrimony in Chicago. None of this deterred twenty-year-old Ruth Clement, however, who hoped to marry Navy man Charles C. Marrow, even though her mother insisted they couldn’t be married until Marrow finished his time in service in Florida. Ruth did not want to wait, and when Marrow came to visit, the two tied the knot at a minister’s home without telling Clement. When Clement discovered a Mr. and Mrs. Charles C. Marrow registered at the Chicago hotel supposedly housing Marrow alone, she was furious and threatened to arrest her new son-in-law for flouting her wishes. Her anger cooled, however, and Clement soon welcomed the newlyweds into her home.

Between arrests and undercover operations, Clement wrote, produced, and starred in a movie called Dregs of the City, in 1920. She hoped her movie would “deliver a moral message to the world” and “warn young girls of the pitfalls of a great city.” In the film, Clement portrayed herself as a master detective charged with finding a young rural girl who, at the urging of a Chicago huckster, had fled the farm for the city lights and gotten lost in “one of the more unhallowed of the south side cabarets.” The girl’s father came to Clement anegged her to rescue his innocent daughter from the “dregs” of the film’s title. Clement wasn’t the only officer-turned-actor in the film. Chicago police chiefs James L. Mooney and John J. Garrity also had starring roles. Together, the threesome battered “down doors with axes and interrupt[ed] the cogitations of countless devotees of hashish, bhang and opium.” The Chicago Daily Tribune praised Garrity’s acting and his onscreen uniform for its “faultless cut.”

The film created a sensation, particularly after Chicago’s movie censor board, which fell under the oversight of the police department, condemned the movie as immoral. “The picture shall never be shown in Chicago. It’s not even interesting,” read the ruling. “Many of the actors are hams and it doesn’t get anywhere.” Despite several appeals, Clement was unable to convince the censors to allow Dregs of the City to be shown within city limits. She remained undeterred by the decision. “They think they’ve given me a black eye, but they haven’t. I’ll show it anyway,” she declared as she left the hearing, tossing the bouquet of roses she’d been given against the window.

When the cruise ship Eastland rolled over in the Chicago River on July 24, 1915, Clement splashed into the water to assist in the rescue of the pleasure boaters, presumably, given her record, wearing heels and a designer gown. More than eight hundred people would die that day, the greatest maritime disaster in Great Lakes history. For her services in the Eastland disaster, Clement received a gold “coroner’s star” from the Cook County coroner in a quiet ceremony in January of 1916.

Clement’s exploits and personality certainly drew attention, but any woman would: a female crime fighter made for good copy and eye-catching photos. Unaccustomed to seeing women wielding any kind of authority, the public found female officers an entertaining—and sometimes ridiculous—curiosity.

Excerpt from Pistols and Petticoats: 175 Years of Lady Detectives in Fact and Fiction by Erika Janik. Copyright © 2016 & 2017 by Beacon Press. Reproduced with permission from Beacon Press. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

erika-janikErika Janik is an award-winning writer, historian, and the executive producer of “Wisconsin Life” on Wisconsin Public Radio. She’s the author of five previous books, including Marketplace of the Marvelous: The Strange Origins of Modern Medicine. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

Catch Up With Our Ms. Janik:

Website // Twitter // Goodreads // Wisconsin Public Radio

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Giveaway

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Erika Janik and Beacon. There will be 5 winners of one (1) print copy of Pistols and Petticoats by Erika Janik. The giveaway begins on March 3rd and runs through March 8th, 2017. The giveaway is open to residents in the US & Canada only. Enter the drawing here.

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Partners in Crime Book Tours

Murder, Power & Intrigue

I love a well-written mystery (with and without dogs), and I’m a big fan of compelling fiction that pushes the boundaries of traditionally recognized genres. I’m fascinated by authors who can take that “What if...” question and create something that keeps me reading far into the night.  And when the author is another writer who calls the Ozarks home, I want others to know there’s a great book waiting to be savored.

Most of us know the basic story of the Roman Empire’s near-unstoppable march through northern and western Europe. But did you ever wonder what might have happened if the Roman army came upon a place where the people dared to hold fast to their way of life? What if during the 5th century they came upon a place where Celtic traditions and religious practices would not yield to the ways of the mighty Roman Empire?

Imagine a valley serving as a buffer between the Celtlands to the west and the Roman Empire to the east. Imagine a place of small villages linked by rough roads and river barges, with narrow footpaths winding their way up the mountainsides to isolated homesteads. Law and order was ostensibly the charge of the soldiers stationed at the Roman garrisons in the valley, but it was the Celtic magistrates who kept the tenuous peace. Inevitably, it becomes the story of two cultures on a collision course. And there you have the premise of the Mystery of the Death Hearth, first in the Runevision novel series by the author Jack R. Cotner. From the back cover:

In a far-flung outpost of the Roman Empire, the Great Cross—made of Celtic gold and amber now claimed by the Roman church—goes missing along with a fortune in coins and precious gems. Murder soon follows, igniting tensions when church leaders, maneuvering for political gain, are implicated in the violent plot. When the news reaches the Grand Prefect in Rome, Enforcers are sent to identify the thieves and recover the missing treasure.

The trail leads to the Brendan Valley, where it falls to deputy magistrate Weylyn de Gort to work with those whose ways are alien to his Elder Faith beliefs. Along the way, he must find an elusive young Celt girl and her missing grandfather, unravel the mystery of an Elder’s runevision, and avoid death at the hands of an assassin as he faces the greatest challenge of his life.

mysteryofthedeathhearthThis story fascinated me from the beginning. It’s not historical fact and doesn’t purport to be. It’s a well-crafted mystery that’s set in a fictional world that might seem both familiar and foreign. Some of that familiarity, at least for me, stems from my own studies and the author’s research of Celtic and Roman lore. (Check the Author’s Note at the start of the book for reading recommendations; you’ll find some wonderful suggestions there to include the work of Professor Miranda Aldhouse-Green.) I learned a great deal about ancient traditions and religious practices without feeling I was being lectured or that one culture was more significant than another. Add in a cleverly constructed plot, a vivid landscape, and characters I could love or hate, and I was hooked!

Each chapter is preceded by an original poem penned by the author. After I’d read the whole story I found myself going back and browsing the poems again. There were several “Aha!” moments as I re-read the poems and thought about the chapter and events that followed.

Mystery of the Death Hearth is available in Kindle and paperback editions (US customers: http://tinyurl.com/lwsmy59; UK: http://tinyurl.com/ly9cehc).  Jack is currently working on the second in the series; you can find teasers and tidbits on his website and on his Facebook page.

And for those of you who enjoy mixed-genre short stories, check out Jack’s Storytellin: True & Fictional Short Stories of Arkansas (US customers: http://tinyurl.com/poen7ts; UK: http://tinyurl.com/qh3ab7c).  From Amazon:

Inspired by generations of Cotner storytellers (all colorful characters in their own right) the author has crafted a unique collection of short stories set in Arkansas in the early 1900s and spanning half a century. Each story is preceded by recollections of family events that inspired the fictional tales.

Set against the rugged backdrop of the Ouachita Mountains, Storytellin’ brings you ageless tales of hope, fear, laughter, kindness, and retribution.

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Whether your preference is for short stories or novels, funny or sad, straightforward or complex, I think you’ll find something to enjoy when reading Jack’s work. I hope you’ll give it a try!

Let’s Get to Know Tim Baker

In the world of mystery writing, you’ll find all sorts of characters, settings, and story lines. This week’s featured author takes us into the world of thrillers and crime fiction.

Hanging at the bookstoreOriginally from Warwick, Rhode Island, Tim Baker is an avid dog lover who’s been a volunteer puppy raiser for Guiding Eyes for the Blind, raising and socializing potential guide dogs. His passion for dogs comes through in his writing, and in his very public support of dog rescue work. Like many of the authors you’ll meet here, Tim’s career path took quite a few turns before reaching the keyboard. After 25 years in architecture and engineering, his path led to short stints in the natural gas industry, construction, and even ice cream sales. He wrote his first novel, Living the Dream, in 2007 after inspiration came in the shape of “a bizarre dream” (his phrase, not mine). Ever since, Tim’s been writing fast-paced, off-beat crime stories set in Flagler Beach and St. Augustine. He makes his home in Palm Coast, Florida.

Here’s Tim, telling us about his work:

Typically my novels are fast-paced thrillers with “colorful” characters, snappy dialogue and a healthy dose of humor. People tell me quite frequently that once they start reading my books they just want to keep reading until they finish. I try (as my hero Elmore Leonard advised) to leave out the parts people tend to skip!!

My books are set in the small beach-side community of Flagler Beach, Florida, and the backdrop of a quaint tourist town is a perfect foil for my off-beat stories. I have a band of recurring characters in all of my books, which my readers have all come to know (to the point where I’ve gotten fan-fiction stories about them!). They may not always operate on the right side of the law, but they always make sure that the bad guys get what’s coming to them!

My work appeals to readers who love a good fast-paced, action-packed thriller/mystery. I’ve had great feedback from young adults to grandparents, male and female. Let me note: while there are a couple of passing references to sexual activity, there are no graphic or explicit descriptions. Acts of violence get the same treatment—enough description to set the scene and nothing more. Overall I would rate the book PG-13 (more so for the “colorful” language than anything else).

You want dogs? During the course of the case Steve finds himself trying to take down a dog-fighting ring.

One final thing that, I hope, will appeal to the dog lovers here: A close friend of mine in Rhode Island runs a dog-rescue operation called Golden Huggs Rescue – I have pledged to donate half of all profits from Backseat to Justice to her organization!

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“A unique twist on the typical murder mystery”

Private investigator Steve Salem has learned the hard way that sometimes the law has to take a Backseat to Justice.

Steve is hired by a woman to determine if her husband is being unfaithful. When the husband is executed before Steve’s eyes the widow hires Steve to solve the murder. Once he does, the adventure begins for real when Backseat to Justice takes one of the strangest and unsuspected turns imaginable in a mystery novel.  Read Chapter 1 here.

Read the reviews here.  Here’s what one reader had to say about Backseat to Justice:

“Greed, betrayal and murder with a bit of homespun revenge thrown into the mix. Add a down and out PI,a mystery female, a marriage built on lies, toss in a few wise guys drop them all down into Paradise and Tim Baker has one heck of a story.”

Follow this author!

To contact Tim or find out about upcoming works please visit his website at www.blindoggbooks.com. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon.  And speaking of Amazon, be sure to check out the special price discounts currently offered for several of his books!