Monday, December 31, 2018

Mystery Monday: The Clock Strikes Twelve

Mystery Monday: The Clock Strikes Twelve

Happy New Year!

As I approached the new year, I got to wondering about mysteries that were set during New Year's Eve. Turns out there are lots! Rather than provide a laundry list, because there are plenty of those around, I decided to focus on The Clock Strikes Twelve by Patricia Wentworth.

Wentworth, who is one of the Golden Age of Detective Era authors, was born in 1877 as Dora Amy Elles in India where her father, British General Edmond Elles served. She was tutored as a child then attended Blackheath High School for girls in London. She was married twice, having been widowed when her first husband, George Dillon died in 1906.

A prolific author, she published her first two novels in 1910. She went on to write nearly seventy novels; thirty-two in the Miss Silvers series and thirty-four standalones.

The Clock Strikes Twelve, the 7th Miss Silver book, was published in 1944, and is a fun read no matter what time of the year.

The victim, James Paradine, apparently has a death wish. He brings together ten of his family
members and announces that he knows someone in the group has a guilty secret and that he'll be waiting in his study until midnight for the person to come and admit to their deed. It's no surprise when he turns up dead, having been pushed out the window.

Unlike Miss Marple, who allows her compatriots to do the crime solving around her, Miss Silver, a retired governess, jumps directly into the investigation. She manages to sift through the parade of possible suspects all while trying to determine which wool to select in knitting a child's jacket. The "locked room" mystery (one in which there is a restricted location and a definitive number of suspects) is an oft-used plot line in classic mysteries, and this one is well-done. The characters are interesting and a couple of sub-plots at depth.

Available on Amazon and other book sites, The Clock Strikes Twelve is a great way to ring in the New Year.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Talkshow Thursday: Welcome Back, Leeann Betts

Talkshow Thursday: Welcome Back, Leeann Betts

Linda:  Thanks for joining me again. I love series and was excited to discover book #9, Silent Partner, in your By the Numbers series featuring Carly Turnquist is being released. Where did you find your inspiration for this story?

Leeann: I’ve always wanted to take an Alaskan cruise, so several books ago, a grateful friend who Carly saved from a philandering con man gifted her with a cruise. At the time, I planned the next book would take place on a cruise, but plans had to change. But it seemed a great setting: a captive population of suspects; a short time to solve the murder; and everybody loves to cruise.

LM: Research is an important part of writing any book. Have you ever stumbled on a fascinating tidbit that you knew had to be included in your story?

Leeann: I did. I learned about international law regarding cruise ships at the time the story is set, 2005, was fairly lax, which meant nobody would be there to solve the mystery, so it was all up to Carly.
LM: What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

Leeann: I moved from my home in Canada to the US to marry a man I’d only met over the phone and through emails. That was 19 years ago.

LM: What is your process for creating mysteries? Do you come up with the villain first, the “terrible deed” or the title? Where do you get your ideas?

Leeann: I come up with the terrible deed, match a cool title, develop the villain and the motive and how, then work back and then forward from there.

LM: How do you pick the location of your stories?

Leeann: Places I’ve been. Or places I want to go, so I have to take a research trip there first.

LM: What do you find most difficult about writing mysteries?

Leeann: Editing. I hate editing. But I’m learning to write really clean, depend on my critique group, and then I’m left with a quick edit and timeline check at the end.

LM: Here are some quickies:

Favorite Season: Summer
Favorite place to vacation: Anywhere warm
Favorite childhood author: Agatha Christie, Conan Doyle

LM: What is your next project?

Leeann:  Working on a contemporary romance set in Loveland, Colorado. And then, of course, Carly’s next book which will come out in June of 2019.

LM: Where can folks find you on the web?

Leeann: Seems like I’m everywhere these days

Website: Receive a free ebook just for signing up for our quarterly newsletter.
Books: Amazon  and Smashwords:

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Rolande Bisset

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Rolande Bisset

My next release, Love's Rescue, (anticipated date 2/14/19) is a modern retelling of the biblical story of Rahab, a prostitute who hid two Hebrew spies and diverted the attention of the authorities so the men could slip out of the city upon completion of their  reconnaissance. After lots of research, I chose the liberation of Paris during WWII as my setting to redo the story. It was a part of the war about which I knew very little. Here is Rolande to tell you what it was like to live in Paris during the dark days of German occupation:

LM: The Germans arrived in June 1940, what do you remember most about that day?

Rolande: I felt like the lights had gone out over the city. The joy was gone, overtaken by a sense of fear and foreboding. We had not believed we would be defeated, so when the government fled on the 10th, we were distraught to see German tanks rumbling down the Champs de Elysees with thousands of German troops marching behind them on the 14th. We thought we would all be killed or taken prisoner. Rumors were rampant the Germans would steal anything of value, rape the women, and kill the men. I stayed in my home with the curtains drawn, hoping to escape notice. When I went out later and saw the Nazi flag flapping in the breeze from the Eiffel Tower, my heart broke.

LM: In a show of power, the Germans implemented many laws to undermine the French culture. What were some of those laws?

Rolande: Censorship and propaganda made life difficult. We were not allowed to speak French, wear berets, fly the French flag, or sing Marseillaise, our national anthem. There was a curfew, and anyone breaking it faced stiff fines, or perhaps worse...Books and American films were banned, and the Germans changed our time zone to match that of Germany.

LM: What was it like trying to provide for yourself during the occupation?

Rolande: The occupiers took about eighty percent of food production, so finding enough to eat became a daily struggle. There was a rationing system of sorts, but it was so mismanaged the black market flourished and people became malnourished. Lots of substitutions had to be created to handle the shortage of things like gasoline and coffee. My friend started roasting chicory to replace her coffee, but I never developed a taste for it. Many vehicles were converted to run off charcoal.

LM: Your father was part of the Vichy government. How did that come about?

Rolande: My father was a wealthy and successful man long before the Germans arrived. He is cunning and has a lot of business savvy which is a lot of what helped him get ahead. But he also knows how to ingratiate himself with whomever is in power at the time, so I was not surprised that he managed to find a position within the new government

LM: Despite your father's job, you chose to join the Resistance. How did that come about, and weren't you frightened for your life?

Rolande: I could not stand by and let the occupiers win. I knew I might die, but it seemed more important to do the right thing rather than live in bondage under the Germans. There were times I was terrified. What if the circuit had been discovered? What if I had been betrayed? Those thoughts were with me every moment of every day, and more so when I was on a mission. My friend Adele was involved in the Resistance first. She knew how I felt about the Germans, and she eventually got me into the organization.

LM: A little more than four years later, Paris was liberated. What was that day like?

Rolande: It was very scary, but also exciting. The FFI had staged an uprising, so there was a battle in the streets. Barricades and trenches were created, and hundreds of people had guns. I was frightened to think I had survived the occupation only to be killed in the fire fight to liberate the city. After the surrender, people were dancing in the street, singing, and drinking. They were hugging the Allied troops who had come to save us.

About the book: 
Cover revealed in January!

A prostitute, a spy, and the liberation of Paris.

Sold by her parents to settle a debt, Rolande Bisset is forced into prostitution. Years later, shunned by her family and most of society, it’s the only way she knows how to subsist. When the Germans overrun Paris, she decides she’s had enough of evil men controlling her life and uses her wiles to obtain information for the Allied forces. Branded a collaborator, her life hangs in the balance. Then a British spy stumbles onto her doorstep. Is redemption within her grasp?

Simon Harlow is one of an elite corps of American soldiers. Regularly chosen for dangerous covert missions, he is tasked with infiltrating Paris to ascertain the Axis’s defenses. Nearly caught by German forces moments after arriving, he owes his life to the beautiful prostitute who claims she’s been waiting for the Allies to arrive. Her lifestyle goes against everything he believes in, but will she steal his heart during his quest to liberate her city?

Inspired by the biblical story of Rahab, Love’s Rescue is a tale of faith and hope during one of history’s darkest periods.

Available February 14, 2019

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Wartime Wednesday: Christmas 1944

Wartime Wednesday: Christmas 1944

Here in the Northeast almost everyone crosses their fingers for a white Christmas. Most years it happens – this year we got our first snow at the beginning of November and it's been snowing ever since. We anticipate a White Christmas. Other years we barely get any snow – like 2001 when nearly every outdoor snow or cold-related event was canceled. More often than not, unless I'm traveling for the holidays, I don't give the weather too much thought.

Not so for the Allied troops hemmed in on all sides by German soldiers in December 1944.

After the successful landings at Normandy in June 1944, the Allied soldiers pushed toward Germany and made better time than expected. Because troops were fatigued by weeks of continuous combat, supply lines were stretched extremely thin, and supplies were dangerously depleted this was not the good news one would think. Eisenhower analyzed the situation and decided to stay put in the Ardennes region of Belgium. He felt that fewer troops would be needed to defend the area.

However, blizzards and freezing rain often reduced visibility to almost zero. Frost covered much of the soldiers’ equipment, and tanks had to be chiseled out of ice after they froze to the ground overnight. A turning point in the war, the Battle of the Bulge lasted from December 16, 1944 to January 25, 1945.

By Christmas Allied defeat seemed almost certain. On December 22 the German commander sent the following ultimatum to General McAuliffe, acting division commander of the 101st Airborne Division defending Bastogne:

To the U.S.A. Commander of the encircled town of Bastogne.
The fortune of war is changing. This time the U.S.A. forces in and near Bastogne have been encircled by strong German armored units. More German armored units have crossed the river Our near Ortheuville, have taken Marche and reached St. Hubert by passing through Hompre-Sibret-Tillet. Libramont is in German hands.
There is only one possibility to save the encircled U.S.A. troops from total annihilation: that is the honorable surrender of the encircled town. In order to think it over a term of two hours will be granted beginning with the presentation of this note.
If this proposal should be rejected one German Artillery Corps and six heavy A. A. Battalions are ready to annihilate the U.S.A. troops in and near Bastogne. The order for firing will be given immediately after this two hours term.
All the serious civilian losses caused by this artillery fire would not correspond with the well-known American humanity.
The German Commander.
Not one to use profanity, McAuliffe sent the following reply:

To the German Commander.
The American Commander
McAuliffe then sent a memo to his troops, notifying them of his refusal to surrender. He included a copy of his reply to the Germans. Despite the dire circumstances, reports indicate that morale skyrocketed, and the soldiers vowed to win at all costs.

Fortunately, relief troops and supplies arrived the day after Christmas. The battle continued, and the Allies ultimately won.

Have you ever suffered a exceptionally difficult Christmas season?

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Victorian Twelfth Night Parties with Kelly Goshorn

Victorian Twelfth Night Parties with Kelly Goshorn

Thank you, Linda, for hosting me on your blog today. It’s such great fun to meet others who love Christian fiction as much as I do, especially historical romance.

While Linda’s wheelhouse appears to be World War II fiction, I’m going to take you back a little further in time. My debut novel, A Love Restored, is set in Virginia in 1873-74. My heroine, Ruth Ann Sutton, “can’t carry a tune with a handle on it” according to her beau, Benjamin Coulter. In one scene, I have her decorating the Christmas tree and I wanted Benjamin to stumble upon her off-key singing once again. While searching for the lines to the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” I stumbled upon something called Twelfth Night parties that were quite popular during the Victorian era. I knew right away that I wanted to incorporate such a party into the book and decided that Ruth Ann’s friend, Charlotte Peterson, would be the perfect hostess.

Traditionally the twelve days of Christmas begin on Christmas day and conclude on January 5 (or the twelfth night). The next day, January 6th, is the Feast of the Epiphany on the church calendar and honors the day when the Three Kings brought Jesus their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Although not as popular in American, the Twelve Days have been celebrated throughout Europe since the Middle Ages.

Much debate surrounds when to actually hold Twelfth Night celebrations. According to Christmas: A Candid History by Bruce David Forbes, it depends on how the first day of Christmas is counted. If day one is counted as Christmas Day, December 25, then Twelfth Night is celebrated on the evening of January 5, the eve of the Epiphany. However, if day one is counted as the day after Christmas, December 26, then Twelfth Night is celebrated on January 6, the evening of Epiphany itself. 
The highlight of the evening would be choosing the king and queen of the party. According to the 1923 Dennison's Christmas Book, "there should be a King and a Queen, chosen by cutting a cake..." Apparently, it was quite a large cake as one recipe I found called for a dozen eggs. Can you imagine? The Twelfth Night Cake would have both a bean and a pea baked into it. The man who finds the bean in his slice of cake becomes King for the night while the lady who finds a pea in her slice of cake becomes Queen. The new King and Queen sit on a throne and are adorned with "paper crowns, a scepter, and if possible, full regalia are given them."

Games, singing carols and dancing were a huge part of the evening’s entertainment. In A Love Restored, Charlotte and her party guests play a Victorian parlor game called Forfeits. In this game, an activity was chosen for all the guests to participate in. If the guest failed to complete the activity there was usually some kind of penalty in which you had to do what the winner asked. In ALR, the gentlemen requested the ladies sing, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” If the women made a mistake, the gentleman could ask for restitution in the form of a ‘sweet,’ either an edible treat or a kiss on the cheek. Ruth Ann’s rival for Ben’s affections, Rose Martin, intentionally messes up hoping that Ben will ask for a kiss. Being a gentleman, and one who is smitten with Ruth Ann, he passes and asks for a peppermint instead.

A popular beverage served throughout Europe on New Year’s Eve and Twelfth Night is wassail. Wassail comes from the Anglo-Saxon phrase ‘wases hael’ which means ‘good health’. Wealthier folks, however, were known to indulge in the drink throughout the twelve days. Wassail is mixture of mulled ale, curdled cream, roasted apples, eggs, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and sugar, and is often served with great fanfare and presented to those in attendance in a special Wassail bowl usually made of silver or pewter. Often people would take the wassail and present it as a gift to others. Here is a recipe for wassail.

I’ve never attended a Twelfth Night party, but after learning about the custom it’s something I’d like to do. The history lover in me thinks it would be fun to host such a gathering and have those attendance come in period costume.

To be entered in the drawing for a Kindle copy of A Love Restored, share your favorite line from the “Twelve Days of Christmas” in the comments below.

Book blurb:
She was nothing like the woman he’d envisioned for his bride, but he was everything she’d ever dreamed of—until a promise from his past threatened their future.

With pert opinions and a less-than-perfect figure, Ruth Ann Sutton doesn’t measure up to society’s vision of a perfect lady. When she accepts a position teaching in a Freedman’s School, it threatens the only marriage offer Ruth Ann is likely to receive. She’s forced to choose between life as a lonely spinster or reinventing herself to secure a respectable proposal.

Determined to rise above his meager beginnings, Benjamin Coulter's reputation as a fast learner and hard worker earn him the opportunity to apprentice with a surveyor for the railroad-a position that will garner the respect of other men. After a chance encounter with Ruth Ann Sutton, Benjamin is smitten with her pretty face, quick wit, and feisty personality.

When others ridicule his choice, will Benjamin listen to his heart or put ambition first?

Excerpt from A Love Restored:

Loudoun County, Virginia
August 1873

Benjamin Coulter cringed as the shrill tune hung in the air. That woman sure knew how to ruin a Sunday afternoon. Sounded like something was dying and needed to be put out of its misery.
He shook his head. All he wanted to do was rest a while longer. His decision to go around his headstrong superior and talk to Mr. Farrell directly about his boss’s inaccurate measurements had made for a nerve wracking week. That decision could have cost him his job. Thankfully, his discovery had been received well, saving the struggling railroad both time and money.
Benjamin leaned against the sycamore tree and tossed his line into the creek. A slight hint of remorse nicked his conscience. He now sat poised to guide the construction of the Washington & Ohio Railroad through the town of Catoctin Creek and over the Blue Ridge Mountains to Winchester, but he hadn’t intended to get his boss fired. If only the man hadn’t refused to admit he’d made a mistake.
Yep, it was all coming together. Just the way he’d hoped it would when he agreed to leave Texas and take this apprenticeship in Virginia. All he had to do was pass that examination next spring and...
He shuddered. The woman’s screeching escalated to a bone-grating pitch. She’d frighten the fish away for sure. Like most folks, Sunday was his day off, and he didn’t intend to spend it listening to her sing off-key.
Wedging his pole in the mud of the creek bank, he set off to investigate. Her ear-piercing slaughter of The Merry, Merry Month of May led the way. He spied his first glimpse of the lyrical assassin through the thin limbs of a dogwood tree. Perched on a large, flat rock at the edge of the creek, she swirled her bare feet in the water. Behind the rock sat a pair of woman’s boots—fancy ones. Too bad she hadn’t spent some of her shoe allowance on singing lessons. Her voice cracked. “The skies were bright, our hearts were light, in the merry, merry month of May...”
Benjamin winced. That was the fourth time in a row she’d sung that part. For the love of Pete, didn’t Miss Fancy Boots even know the words? He needed to put a stop to this so he could continue fishing—and napping. He stepped forward then stopped. The woman reached up and removed a pin from her hair, then another. Mounds of long chestnut brown ringlets spilled over her shoulders into the middle of her back.
Curls. He groaned. Why’d she have to have curls?
“The skies were bright. Our eyes were light...”
Never mind. Curls or not, the woman’s voice could haunt the dead.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Wartime Wednesday: Internment Across the Pond

 Wartime Wednesday: Internment Across the Pond

Much has been made about the U.S. internment camps that housed (imprisoned) thousands of Japanese Americans, and to a lesser degree German Americans and Italian Americans. To put it mildly, it is an unfortunate part of U.S. history. In researching my current manuscript, I discovered that Britain also chose to round up “enemy aliens” and others deemed “undesirable.”

When Jews individuals in Germany and Austria saw the handwriting on the walls in the late 1930s, they began to flee, and by 1939 more than 60,000 had poured into Britain. After the war commenced and Germany began to overrun Europe, others followed-some Jews seeking asylum, some with anti-Nazi sentiments, and some merely seeking safety from starvation and indiscriminate violence.

Hearings were conducted to determine who should be considered an enemy alien, and approximately ninety-nine percent of those screened were classified as posing no threat. Those who were regarded as dangerous were imprisoned, housed in hastily constructed camps, or deported to Canada or Australia. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter feelings of anti-Semitism infiltrated the country, and Churchill issued a decree to round up the Jewish population. They were soon on their way to the Isle of Man alongside enemy aliens such as Nazis, Nazi sympathizers, and suspected spies. After England went to war with Italy, Italian resident workers joined them.

Considering the fact that these folks were imprisoned and families broken up as men were sent to one camp, and women and children sent to another, conditions were good. The camps were comprised of either hotels/resorts or vacation homes which featured heat and indoor plumbing. Food supplies were supplemented with local produce, fish, and dairy.

The women were allowed to work and open bank accounts, and later the men were given various responsibilities such as managing inventory, cooking, and working on local farms. Many of the internees were professionals such as doctors, professors, artists, engineers, etc. and used a variety of means to practice their craft. Doctors set up clinics and teachers set up classes and “universities.”

Although they operated through 1945, the camps began to release the Jewish inmates in late 1941 and early 1942. They were offered the opportunity to enlist or work for the war effort. Feelings are mixed with regard to Britain’s decision to intern some of its citizens and residents, but as internee Fred Godshaw said years later, “It is always easy to be wise after the event.”

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Talkshow Thursday: Welcome Bonnie Engstrom

Talkshow Thursday: Welcome Bonnie Engstrom

Linda:  Thanks for joining me today. Congratulations on your 5 Star Readers Favorite Award for Restoring Love at Christmastime! Where did you find your inspiration for this story?

Bonnie: My parents and I used to visit Cambridge Springs every summer, so I had fond memories of the old hotel and where I first rode a horse named Traveler. There was a cute stable boy there, too, but not as cute as Jake on the book cover. (Isn’t he adorable?)

LM: The age old question for writers – are you a planner or a “pantster,” and what is your favorite part of the writing process?

Bonnie: I am an off the cuff, maybe sometimes off the wall, writer. I do have ideas for every story I write, but each story evolves by itself. No outline, no plotting. Too boring, too restrictive. Although I admire authors who can do that. Just not my style.

LM: Research is a large part of any book. How did you go about researching Restoring Love at Christmastime, and did you discover any extra special tidbits of information?

Bonnie: Most of the actual details of the hotel were embedded in my memory. But, sadly, I decided right before I sent the manuscript to my publisher to check out the three turrets to be sure there was an angel one. I was devastated to learn the historic hotel had burned down just a week prior to my search. I was torn about the story but decided to honor the old inn and publish it.

LM: What is one thing you wish you knew how to do?

Bonnie: Knit! Deb Macomber is one of my favorite authors, and she centers many of her books and her life around knitting. I always thought it would be fun to join one of her knitting meetings. I do know how to quilt, though, and used to own a children’s shop that featured just about everything quilted. My poor sons had to wear quilted patchwork shorts when they were two and four. I don’t think they’ve ever forgiven me!

LM: You live in a beautiful area of the world, a place many people visit. If money were no object, what is your idea of the ultimate vacation?

Bonnie: We’ve dreamed of going back to Sweden to connect with our roots, but I’m not sure I want to endure the long flight. Besides, we are so busy with our four Arizona grandkids, we are tied down. We have visited our son and his two boys in Costa Rica, but not recently. Instead we pay for them to come here to connect with their cousins ~ all of whom adore each other.

LM: Here are some quickies:

Favorite movie: Dirty Dancing! In spite of what some Christians might say, I think it was a poignant and powerful love story. That’s another thing I wish I could do – dance like that.
Favorite food: Sushi. Actually, sashimi. Salmon and crab are close seconds.
Favorite childhood book: Anything Nancy Drew.

LM: What is your next project?

Bonnie: I promised my publisher I would write one more book in the Candy Cane Girls Series. Doreen needs her own story. After that . . . I have several books started – a love story about an older couple (sort of like my debut novel Butterfly Dreams) and one that involves a family secret and a trip to Sweden.

LM: Where can folks find you on the web?

I’m running a weekly contest, WACKY WEDNESDAY, on my Facebook author page I hope everyone reading this will stop by every Wednesday and answer my question to win fun prizes.

My website will be updated soon, but it’s still a place to see all those grandchildren. See if you can pick out the two surfing boys and the little imp who got baptized with me recently.

My favorite way to connect with readers is via email where we can chat and exchange ideas. I do ask that they put BOOK in the subject line so they don’t fly off into cyberspace.

I’m not very good at Twitter, but my handle is @BonnieEngstrom1.

I’ve given up on Instagram – don’t understand it.

Book blurb:
Why was Jenni taking this journey back in time during the Christmas holidays? Surely, she didn’t expect to see Jake the stable boy. She had moved on from sneaking kisses in the barn after trail rides. He must have, too. Who on earth would stay in the tiny town of Cambridge Springs?

She planned for a respite from teaching, time to read, take quiet walks and indulge in delicious hotel meals. At least no one knew where to find her, none of her friends, and not even her family.

She wanted to soak up memories, alone. Unless by a Christmas miracle Jake was still there to share them.

Can romance still flourish after fifteen years? Will a teacher and a former stable boy remember their first kiss?

Bonnie will gift two Restoring Love at Christmastime books to two people who comment; an eBook and a signed print copy. She hopes you will give a review on Amazon or Goodreads after you read and enjoy it.

Author Bio: Bonnie spends her time between writing and driving four Arizona grandkids to and from school, with Starbucks stops on the way. Her psychologist husband, Dave, takes his turn, too, when he isn’t on a Skype meeting with his University of Phoenix colleagues or preparing dinners as the resident chef. Life is busy for Bonnie and Dave, but filled with love and blessings, soccer games, spelling bees and strings concerts.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Traveling Tuesday: The Italian Resistance

Traveling Tuesday: The Italian Resistance

Much is made over the French Resistance, and the thousands of French citizens who put their lives on the line to fight German Occupation. Less well-known are the activities of the men and women of the Italian Resistance.

An intriguing aspect of the Italian Resistance is that in some ways it was a Civil War. Members not only faced “faceless” enemies, but also neighbors, friends, and family members who stood behind the Nazi-Fascist cause. This added a personal level to the conflict that many have never forgotten. At its peak, the Resistance boasted somewhere around 300,000 members who opposed occupying German forces as well as Mussolini’s Fascist government.

One of the most famous incidents occurred at Piombino after the armistice. German forces made their way to the town, and citizens asked the Italian Army to respond, but despite hostility shown by the Germans indicating they planned to occupy Piombino, General DeVecchio commanded his troops not to intervene. Junior officers went against orders and outfitted the townspeople with weapons. The Germans were repelled and taken prisoner, but again DeVecchio stepped in and freed the prisoners. Senior Italian commanders fled the city and the troops disbanded, allowing the Germans to take over the city. 

Soldiers, sailors, and airmen retreated to the nearby forests and formed several partisan units. Armed resistance involved ambushing and harassing the Germans and their allies through the use of guerilla tactics. Supported by locals with food, blankets, medicine and other supplies, the partisans would provide citizens with “promissory notes” that could be redeemed after the war. Other types of resistance were aid networks that assisted escaped POWs to reach Switzerland or Allied lines. Italian Jews were assisted by the Delegation for the Assistance of Jewish Emigrants with food, shelter, and money.

A brave group of men and women, the Resistance lost approximately 50,000 over the course of the war.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Mystery Monday: Who was Milton Propper?

Mystery Monday: Who was Milton Propper?

I’m always intrigued when I discover an author who has written multiple books (in this case fourteen), and yet I’ve never heard of him.

A native of Philadelphia, Milton Morris Propper was born in 1906, yet almost nothing is known of his upbringing. He attended the University of Pennsylvania where he obtain a law degree, and upon graduation in 1929, he was admitted to the Bar.

That same year, his first novel, The Strange Disappearance of Mary Young was published. A police procedural, the book features Tommy Rankin, a specialist detective in the Philadelphia Homicide Bureau. Scholars and critics often compare Milton’s books to those of Freeman Wills Crofts, an Irish writer whose career spanned nearly forty years. Not surprising as Milton admitted he was a great fan of Crofts’s work.

There are conflicting reports as to whether Milton practiced law, but it is certain that by the mid-1930s he worked for the Social Security Administration and wrote his mysteries on the side, all of which take place in Philadelphia.

Most of his novels are formulaic: the discovery of a body under unusual circumstances, suspicion scattered among lots of characters with lots to hide, the police are above the law, and the rich and powerful can do now wrong. Estate issues and legal questions are an integral part of many of his stories which speaks to his Law degree. Toward the end of each book, Detective Rankin puts together some piece of the puzzle not formerly revealed to the reader and determines the killer is part of the victim’s life and avenging something from the past. A chase entails in order to catch the murderer.

Despite his literary success, Milton’s personal life was difficult and “messy,” as one scholar put it. He was estranged from his family, had run-ins with the police, and mismanaged his funds to the point he was living in poverty. Sadly, he lost his writing markets and deciding that life was no longer worth living, killed himself in 1962.