How Criminals Operated in the Past

I’m happy to welcome Soul Mate author Linda Pennell. Today, Linda hands over the reins to Professor Liz Reams, the protagonist of her novels, who shares interesting insights into how criminals operated in the past.

Here’s Linda!

Thank you, Joanne, for inviting Professor Liz Reams to your blog. With her specialty in the history of American crime, she has a lot to say about how criminals have operated in the past, especially in the early 20th century. She has received accolades and professional recognition for her discoveries about the likes of Al Capone and other Prohibition era gangsters. Without further ado, here are ten things that she believes readers may find of interest.

1. It is the footnotes of history that often make for the most interesting research and reading.

In addition to the “publish or perish” dictum under which most university professors find themselves laboring, Liz has an added level of stress. The dean of the University of Florida’s College of Liberal Arts hired Liz because she had a reputation at her former university of being able to magically attract undergraduates to her classes. On her slim shoulders rests the responsibility of keeping the budgetary ax from the History Department’s neck each academic year.

Teaching was never anything that Liz believed she wanted, but the first time she saw the light click on in a student’s eyes, she was hooked. Teaching has become her special joy.

The secret to her success in the classroom and in her research is her focus on discovering how big events and overpowering individuals affect the lives of ordinary people, those interesting little footnotes of history. She teaches history through the eyes of people caught up in the turmoil and chaos of events beyond their control. So far, the formula has worked very well.

2. Achievement in one’s professional life does not necessarily translate into one’s personal life.

Liz is like some young women you may have known. She is beautiful, talented, successful, accomplished, and smart – all the things a parent could hope for in a daughter save one small habit. She is attracted to the bad boys. If a guy is kind and pleasant, she finds him boring. She craves the glitz and glamor of rock stars and test pilots in her romantic life. It is a failing she works on.

3. Living and working with your boss will complicate one’s life.

How should one introduce the man with whom one lives and works? She could call him her fiancé, but she has yet to accept his proposals. Revealing that he is her boss will certainly raise eyebrows. Alas, another romantic issue she must resolve.

4. Florida has a long history of criminal activity and vice.

Even in pre-Columbian times, Florida was the refuge of the outcast and the outlaw. The Native tribes of present day Georgia and Alabama once exiled their undesirables to the swamps and sand hills of Florida.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Florida development as a tourist destination began. Julia Tuttle settled beside the Miami River and convinced Henry Flagler to extend his railroad to the city she helped found. Flagler and Tuttle are considered the father and mother of Miami respectively. Interestingly, while they worked hard to keep moonshining and prostitution out of their town without any success, they had no problem with gambling, which was a violation of state law. Both of them ran gambling parties in their luxurious mansions.

From its founding, Miami was a wide open city when it came to vices and other human foibles. Prohibition and the city’s proximity to the Bahamas meant that Miami became a major port of entry for contraband booze. Even local law enforcement ignored what went on. It is no surprise, then, that no one batted an eye when the Mob moved to town.

5. Childhood friendships can last a lifetime.

During her research into Al Capone’s brief stay at the Blanche Hotel in north Florida, Liz discovers the friendship between two young boys, Jack and Zeke, which led to the discovery that brought her professional acclaim. Almost by accident, she also found that the boys’ friendship endured despite the realities of segregation, threats from criminals, and finding a parent involved in acts of horror. The boys lived through it all and their love for one another never faltered. The strength of their friendship and what they endured touched Liz deeply friendship.

6. Even gangsters are not always 100% bad.

Liz’s research for her new class entitled Gangsters on the Gold Coast: the Mob in the Sunshine State brings the story of Sam, a young Jewish boy from Brooklyn who witnesses a gangland hit.

At 14, Sam quit school and took a job that paid two dollars more per week than he could make elsewhere. He needed every penny he could earn to help support his widowed mother and younger brothers. Unfortunately, that job was working for a low level Mob boss at the Fulton Fish Market and in the man’s speakeasy. It was in the speakeasy that Sam witnessed the murder of labor organizer William Mack. Under such circumstances, witnesses usually did not have a long life expectancy. Because Sam was young and a hard worker, his Mob boss took pity on him and sent him into exile in Miami. This act of kindness did not come without a price, however.

7. Disentangling oneself from the Mob is difficult.

Forced into working for the Mob in Miami, Sam longs to find a way out. He has fallen in love with the daughter of his devout landlord. Remarkably, the beautiful Rebecca wants only Sam, but they cannot marry until he disentangles himself from his Mob bosses and the debt he owes them.

8. Debts do not always involve money.

Both Liz and Sam discover that some debts do not involve the repayment of money. Whether it is a debt of “friendship” such as Sam owes or an emotional debt such as the one Liz owes, repayment would be so much easier if all they owed was money.

9. It is possible to care deeply for people one has never met.

Liz’s research into Jack, Zeke, and Sam’s lives brings out in her an emotion she is not expecting. She develops maternal feelings for these young boys caught in situations beyond their control. She wishes she could travel back in time and warn them of the dangers to come. In coming to know and care about the boys, she also gains insights into herself.

10. Learning from the past can inform our future in personal ways.

In analyzing the mistakes of the historical figures Liz is investigating, she learns to apply the lessons contained therein to her own life.

Liz can be found solving historical mysteries in Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel and Miami Days Havana Nights.
























Buy Links for Linda Pennell

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Bio

Linda Bennett Pennell is an author of historical fiction set in the American South or about Southerners traveling far from home. While she writes about the land of her birth, anything with a history, whether shabby or regal, ancient or closer to our own day, has fascinated her since early childhood. This love of the past and the desire to create stories of it probably owes much to her Southern roots.

Southern families are filled with storytellers who keep family and community histories alive. It is in their blood and part of their birthright. Linda’s family had many such yarn spinners who entertained the family on cold winter evenings around her grandmother’s fireplace and during long summer afternoons on her wraparound porch. And most important of all, most of those stories were true.

Where to find Linda…

Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Newsletter Sign Up


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Spotlight on Linda Pennell

I’m happy to feature Linda Pennell and two of her novels: Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel and Confederado do Norte. Both books will be on sale for 99 cents, starting May 20th. I’m including an excerpt from a recent interview with Shelley K. Wall.

Here’s Linda!

lindapennellpixWhy do you write?

I write because I find the creative process to be pure joy. Writing allows me to play “let’s pretend” all day. What’s not to like?

What’s your favorite genre? Do you have a favorite author?

I have three favorite genres: mysteries, historical fiction, and women’s fiction. I don’t have a current favorite author. It changes with whomever I’m really enjoying at the moment.

To be successful as an author, what do you see as the main goal?

Sometimes the simple answers are more difficult in the execution. The main goal for me is to write the best novel I am able. Easy to say, but damned hard work.

What advice would you give to the youth of today (not just authors)?

Reacting spontaneously and in the moment can be great fun for the casual portions of life. When it comes to life altering decisions and major events, however, reviewing all of the facts, considering and evaluating all of the options, planning for the future, and understanding that failure is a normal part of life are critical to one’s mental and emotional well-being. There is no such thing as overnight success. Success requires hard work and tenacity.

On sale for 99¢…May 20 to May 27!

alcaponebookAl Capone at the Blanche Hotel tells a story of lives unfolding in different centuries, but linked and irrevocably altered by a series of murders in 1930.

Lake City, Florida, June, 1930: Al Capone checks in for an unusually long stay at the Blanche Hotel, a nice enough joint for an insignificant little whistle stop. The following night, young Jack Blevins witnesses a body being dumped heralding the summer of violence to come. One-by-one, people controlling county vice activities swing from KKK ropes. No moonshine distributor, gaming operator, or brothel madam, black or white, is safe from the Klan’s self-righteous vigilantism. Jack’s older sister Meg, a waitress at the Blanche, and her fiancé, a sheriff’s deputy, discover reasons to believe the lynchings are cover for a much larger ambition than simply ridding the county of vice. Someone, possibly backed by Capone, has secret plans for filling the voids created by the killings. But as the body count grows and crosses burn, they come to realize this knowledge may get all of them killed.

Gainesville, Florida, August, 2011: Liz Reams, an up and coming young academic specializing in the history of American crime, impulsively moves across the continent to follow a man who convinces her of his devotion yet refuses to say the three simple words I love you. Despite entreaties of friends and family, she is attracted to edginess and a certain type of glamour in her men, both living and historical. Her personal life is an emotional roller coaster, but her career options suddenly blossom beyond all expectation, creating a very different type of stress. To deal with it all, Liz loses herself in her professional passion, original research into the life and times of her favorite bad boy, Al Capone. What she discovers about 1930’s summer of violence, and herself in the process, leaves her reeling at first and then changed forever.

buynow

Take a look at the real Blanche Hotel and other actual locations featured in Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel here!

On sale for 99¢…May 28 to June 3!

confederatobookConfederado do Norte, 2015 Honorable Mention in the RONE Awards, is on sale for 99¢ May 27- June 3!!

Set during the aftermath of the American Civil War, Confederado do Norte tells the story of Mary Catherine MacDonald Dias Oliveira Atwell, a child torn from her war devastated home in Georgia and thrust into the primitive Brazilian interior where the young woman she becomes must learn to recreate herself in order to survive.

October, 1866.

Mary Catherine is devastated when her family emigrates from Georgia to Brazil because her father and maternal uncle refuse to accept the terms of Reconstruction following the Confederacy’s defeat. Shortly after arrival in their new country, she is orphaned, leaving her in Uncle Nathan’s care. He hates Mary Catherine, blaming her for his sister’s death. She despises him because she believes Nathan murdered her father. When Mary Catherine discovers Nathan’s plan to be rid of her as well, she flees into the mountain wilderness filled with jaguars and equally dangerous men. Finding refuge among kind peasants, she grows into a beauty, ultimately marrying the scion of a wealthy Portuguese family. Happiness and security seem assured until civil unrest brings armed marauders who have an inexplicable connection to Mary Catherine. Recreating herself has protected Mary Catherine in the past, but this new crisis will demand all of the courage, intelligence, and creativity she possesses simply to survive.

buynow

See scenes from Brazil and other locations featured in Confederado do Norte here!

Bio

“I have been in love with the past for as long as I can remember. Anything with a history, whether shabby or majestic, recent or ancient, instantly draws me in. I suppose it comes from being part of a large extended family that spanned several generations. Long summer afternoons on my grandmother’s porch or winter evenings gathered around her fireplace were filled with stories both entertaining and poignant. Of course being set in the American South, those stories were also peopled by some very interesting characters, some of whom have found their way into my work.

As for my venture in writing, it has allowed me to reinvent myself. We humans are truly multifaceted creatures, but unfortunately we tend to sort and categorize each other into neat, easily understood packages that rarely reveal the whole person. Perhaps you, too, want to step out of the box in which you find yourself. I encourage you to look at the possibilities and imagine. Be filled with childlike wonder in your mental wanderings. Envision what might be, not simply what is. Let us never forget, all good fiction begins when someone says to her or himself, Let’s pretend.”

Linda resides in the Houston area with one sweet husband and one adorable German Shorthaired Pointer who is quite certain she’s a little girl.

Where to find Linda…

Website | Facebook | Twitter


When Change Means Survival

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have a different kind of second act. A character in Soul Mate author Linda Bennett Pennell’s novel, Confederado do Norte, is sharing her reinvention story.

Here’s Mary Catherine!

Confederado-Soulmate 105_105x158 (2)Set during the aftermath of the American Civil War, Confederado do Norte tells the story of Mary Catherine MacDonald Dias Oliveira Atwell, a child torn from her war devastated home in Georgia and thrust into the primitive Brazilian interior where the young woman she becomes must learn to recreate herself in order to survive.

Mary Catherine’s first recreation began when she was just a child of 10. Here is a mature Mary Catherine sharing that first recreation in her own words.

My story began at the end of a long war in which many lives and much property were destroyed. After all these years, I can still smell the acrid smoke coming off the ash heap that was the farmhouse where my parents and I once lived. It is as though no time at all has passed since Sherman’s March to the Sea. The only thing that Mama, my beloved nurse Bess, and I could do was watch from our hiding place and wish that Papa wasn’t so far away fighting.

When Papa finally found his way home from the war, it was as a changed man – bitter, lost, and given to unpredictable rages followed by deep melancholia. Even so, we were happy to have him home because we believed he would one day return to himself. If it hadn’t been for a newspaper article and a handful of advertisements my life would have turned out quite differently. As it was, it took little to convince Papa that leaving home was the only solution left to defeated Southerners. Emperor Dom Pedro II’s promise of free land in Brazil’s heartland and subsidized passage sealed our fate.

Shortly after we immigrated, my mother died of galloping consumption, leaving me in the care of my father and my mother’s only surviving brother, Nathan. Papa’s mercurial nature coupled with Nathan’s hatred of me left me uncertain and confused. You see, Nathan blamed me for my mother’s death. The fear that he might be right haunted me, but when I learned Nathan was demanding I be returned to family in Georgia, I became determined to do everything possible to prevent it. I had already lost Mama. I couldn’t bear being separated from Papa as well. At the age of ten, I became a self-taught housekeeper – cooking, cleaning, washing the clothes, tending the vegetable garden, preserving food – nothing was beyond my scope.

By age twelve I decided to pile my long auburn hair up on my head as I had once seen Mama do. It was safer and cooler when I did the housework. Nathan said I was too young to flounce around like a grown woman, but Papa said I did the work of two women so to leave me alone. It came as a shock when I realized that I really didn’t feel like a girl anymore. Somewhere between lifting wet clothes out of the wash pot and cooking on the wood fired stove, I had made the transition from little girl to young woman. Somehow all that I had experienced made that little girl seem like a stranger, as though I were a different person completely. Before I was twenty-one, I would recreate myself two more times because my life and freedom would depend on it.

Bio

lindapI have been in love with the past for as long as I can remember. Anything with a history, whether shabby or majestic, recent or ancient, instantly draws me in. I suppose it comes from being part of a large extended family that spanned several generations. Long summer afternoons on my grandmother’s porch or winter evenings gathered around her fireplace were filled with stories both entertaining and poignant. Of course being set in the American South, those stories were also peopled by some very interesting characters, some of whom have found their way into my work.

As for my venture in writing, it has allowed me to reinvent myself. We humans are truly multifaceted creatures, but unfortunately we tend to sort and categorize each other into neat, easily understood packages that rarely reveal the whole person. Perhaps you, too, want to step out of the box in which you find yourself. I encourage you to look at the possibilities and imagine. Be filled with childlike wonder in your mental wanderings. Envision what might be, not simply what is. Let us never forget, all good fiction begins when someone says to her or himself, “Let’s pretend.”

I reside in the Houston area with one sweet husband and one adorable German Shorthaired Pointer who is quite certain she’s a little girl.

Favorite quote regarding my professional passion: “History is filled with the sound of silken slippers going downstairs and wooden shoes coming up.” Voltaire

Where to find Linda Pennell…

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon

Joanne here!

Linda, thanks for giving us insight in Mary Catherine’s early life. I’m putting Confederado do Norte on my TBR list.