Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel
Al 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 hisdevotion yet refuses to say the three simple words “I love you”. Despite the 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.
Miami Days, Havana Nights
A follow up to Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel, Miami Days Havana Nights tells the story of 1920-1960’s gangsters and the young female history professor determined to suss out their secrets.
Sometimes our biggest debts have nothing to do with money. 1926. When seventeen-year-old Sam Ackerman witnesses a mob hit, he is hustled out of New York under the protection of Moshe Toblinsky, A.K.A., the mob’s bookkeeper. Arriving in Miami with no money, no friends, and no place to hide, Sam’s only choice is to do as the gangster demands. Forced into bootlegging, Sam’s misery is compounded when he falls in love. Amazingly, the beautiful, devout Rebecca wants only him, but he cannot give her the life she deserves. When Prohibition ends, Sam begs the mobster to set him free. The price? A debt, as Toblinsky puts it, of friendship. A debt that will one day come due. Present Day. History of American Crime professor Liz Reams has it all—early success, a tantalizing lead on new info about Moshe Toblinsky, and a wonderful man to love. Life is perfect. So what’s keeping her from accepting her guy’s marriage proposals? Confronting a long-standing personal debt sets her on a journey of self-discovery. While she delves ever deeper into Sam’s and Toblinsky’s relationship, her understanding of her own relationships increases as well, but the revelations come at a price. The emotional and physical dangers of her dual journeys may prove too big to handle.
Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel
August 15, 2011
Liz Reams glanced at the caller ID and grimaced. She didn’t have time for this, but guilt wouldn’t let her put the conversation off any longer. Sighing, she pressed the talk button and prepared to listen with forbearance and humility.
“Hello, Roberta. I’m so glad to hear your voice. I was beginning to think we were going to play phone tag forever.” Internally, Liz squirmed. Her conscience yelled, liar, you returned calls when you figured you’d get her voicemail.
Roberta’s reply made Liz cringe. While she endured the diatribe pouring through her cell phone, Liz eyed her purse, book bag, and laptop case huddled together on the sofa. She couldn’t afford to be late today of all days. Her
eyes narrowed as her gaze paused on her laptop. She had paid more than a month’s rent for the thing, but as much as she loved its power and speed, it was also a constant reminder of her dereliction. It only compounded her guilt that everything Roberta said was true.
“I’m really, really sorry. I know I said you would have it by now, but I’ve been in the process of moving. You know what that’s like.”
Several expletives burned through Liz’s earpiece and then there was ominous silence.
“Look, I know how lucky I am to have a career practically dropped into my lap. You’ve been wonderfully patient and I’ve let you down. I feel so bad. I promise, no later than October . . .” Glancing at the calendar, Liz paused. “I mean November 1st. I just need to get the first couple months of teaching behind me, then I can focus on the novel.”
An angry question barked through the ether.
Liz tried to keep her voice cheerful and her tone even. “Of course I’m still seeing Jonathan. You know he’s the reason I moved to Florida. You’ll have something by November 1st. I promise. I’ve really got to go.”
The call ended with Roberta’s appeal to conscience ringing in Liz’s ears, leaving her feeling like an
ungrateful, spoiled child. Poor Roberta. She deserved better. Several years ago while on semester break and bored out of her mind, Liz dashed off a few ideas and half a manuscript. On a whim, she sent Roberta, a friend of a friend, a query letter for a series of mystery novels and the sample chapters. She’d been amazed by the response. Roberta had been more than enthusiastic. She believed Liz could be the next Mary Higgins Clark. Liz was thrilled and flattered, but alas, her attention to her fiction had been stop-start at best. Now with the move to Florida, she had a terrible inkling her new situation wouldn’t allow time to finish her long overdue first novel.
While her first allegiance had to be to her professional responsibilities, after one of Roberta’s talks, Liz would be unsettled for days. She feared her editor might be right: that a lucrative career was hers for the taking, that academia paid squat, and that Liz would live to regret neglecting her fiction for dusty research libraries, unwashed college students, and writing articles for esoteric journals that nobody read. As to the new deadline, Liz snatched November 1st out of thin air, but crossing that bridge could wait. Giving herself a last once over in the living room mirror, she slammed her apartment door and dashed to her Prius for the twenty-minute trip to
campus. This job was a fabulous last minute save and Liz had no intention of blowing it.
Thank you, Linda Bennett Pennell and Silver Dagger Book Tours.
About the Author
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.”
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.
“History is filled with the sound of silken slippers going downstairs and wooden shoes coming up.” Voltaire
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