Today I am really excited to welcome author Charlie Cochet to Joyfully Jay! Charlie has recently released her new novel, The Amethyst Cat Caper, a mystery romance set in 1930s New York. She is here to chat with us more about her book and is also offering a giveaway to one lucky commenter.
Welcome Charlie! Thanks so much for stopping by today!
Thanks so much for having me!
I reviewed The Amethyst Cat Caper yesterday on the blog, but maybe you can start us off with a short summary of the story?
The Amethyst Cat Caper is a fun little romance about Remington Trueblood–a handsome, young Englishman in New York City, and the trouble caused by his purchase of an item he supposes is nothing more than exquisite forgery. On his tail is the rugged Pinkerton’s Detective, Stanley Hawk, and the notorious Gentleman Thief. There’s museum mayhem, a tea house, kisses, fisticuffs, a steamy shower scene, and more!
Hawk is a Pinkerton’s detective. Can you tell us more about that organization?
The Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency is one I’d heard of, but didn’t know all that much about until I started collecting research for this book. It was a U.S. private security guard and detective agency started by Allen Pinkerton “the original private eye” back in 1850 when police forces and their jurisdictions were small, often corrupt, and unwilling to chase down suspected criminals. Allen Pinkerton became nationally renowned when he uncovered and foiled an assassination plot against Abraham Lincoln. When he opened the agency, he promised not only results, but hard-core ethics. His motto was, “We never sleep,” advertised by the famous icon of the open eye, spawning the term “private eye.” [Wow, interesting!]
The agency was responsible for the apprehension of counterfeiters, train robbers, and chasing some of the most famous outlaws in history, from Jesse James, the Wild Bunch (which included Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid), to the Dalton gang. It’s a long and fascinating history.
By the time The Amethyst Cat Caper takes place, the agency was headed by Allen Pinkerton’s son, and it had changed quite dramatically. During this time, there was less need for the agency to go off chasing criminals, due to an already established Bureau of Investigations, functioning law enforcement, and competing agencies. Pinkerton’s became known for their less admirable, and heavy-handed approach to matters. They were often a law unto themselves. Detectives were known to lie, cheat, steal evidence, and even kidnap to achieve results. During the 1930s, they mostly investigated things such as insurance fraud and provided companies with round-the-clock security.
I really loved the setting and the time period and thought the story really evoked the 1930s. Can you tell us what attracts you about writing in this era?
I’ve always loved the Golden Age of Hollywood, and I think that’s where my love for the 1930s came from. The beauty and glamor portrayed by the movie stars of the time, like Cary Grant, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, and Katherine Hepburn. It always enchanted me. It was also a time when radio was king, and folks sat around their sets to listen to their favorite serials whether they were about romance or detectives. The 1930s were also troubling times, with the great Depression affecting so many lives. Social inequality was more prevalent than ever, and gangsters like John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, the Barker Gang, and Al Capone were constantly escaping the clutches of a still new and inexperienced Bureau of Investigations. It was such a contrast to the decadence of the Roaring 20s. There’s just so much inspiration to draw from.
What was life like for gay men and women during this time? Was homosexuality accepted at all, or did it need to remain hidden?
The history of gay culture during the late 19th and early 20th century was a very complex one, and in a span of just fifty years it had changed dramatically. Obviously it would have varied from city to city and state to state, and as most of my stories take place In New York City, that’s where most of my research is based. Gay culture very much existed there, even if it was largely invisible, though that changed in the 1920s. To understand what it was like for gay men and women in the 1930s, you have to know what happened in the years leading up to it, especially the 1920s.
Many gay figures and entertainers in the 20s had become highly visible in newspapers, clubs, films, on the streets, on stage, and in various other public forums. Homosexuality had become a part of the cultural landscape. People attended drag balls by the thousands and these balls were even staged in places like Madison Square Garden. During the 1930s things took a drastic turn, and as folks started reacting to Prohibition—all the corruption and crime that emerged from it, suddenly gay men and women were ‘less amusing’ to people. A campaign to render the gay culture invisible again had begun. The country was attempting to morally cleanse itself, and so pressure was built for police forces to restore order. Gay men and women were looked upon as being ‘undesirables’ and causing disorder. With the repeal of Prohibition, it was now possible for the state to redraw the boundaries of what was ‘socially acceptable’.
The State Liquor Authority staffed plainclothes agents who threatened proprietors with the revocation of their liquor licenses if their establishments were found to be ‘disorderly,’and so folks were refused drinks, kicked out, even arrested if the proprietor decided they ‘looked homosexual.’ Gay culture continued to thrive, but it was most certainly hidden, and segregated. It had become a very dangerous for gay men and women, many whom led double lives.
For those interested in learning more about that period or looking to research it, I highly recommend Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940 by George Chauncey. It’s a fascinating and exceptionally informative book.
This story provides a lot of detail about life during this era, as well as about Egyptian artifacts and antiquities. What kind of research did you need to do for this book?
I’d actually started collecting research for this era years ago. So although there was quite a bit of new information to look into, it wasn’t nearly as much as there would’ve been if I’d had to start from scratch. Although I research A LOT, my aim isn’t to give folks a history lesson or inundate them with facts when they’re reading my stories, but to make them feel immersed in that world.
For The Amethyst Cat Caper, the first thing I had to research was the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo (now known as the Egyptian Museum), its location and the surrounding area, including Port Said. I had to research the departments involved in the museums running in 1934, look up floor plans, what exhibits were located where, and find plenty of pictures. I had to look up shipping routes, timetables, transportation. Even something as simple as a telephone call had to be double checked.
Another thing I had to research was Hawk’s employment. Originally, I’d made him a police detective, but as my editor rightfully pointed out, having him in that position wouldn’t have given him the freedom I needed him to have. So, looking into it, I came across Pinkerton’s, and it was a perfect fit, not only for the role he starts out in, but the role he ends up taking. It gave him the freedom to work on his own and play by his own rules as well. Then there were a few locations and streets to research, such as China Town, the Battery, and the Docks.
There’s a whole lot of fact checking involved, and one little detail can change a whole scene. Even if something is just mentioned in passing, there’s a chance I had to do quite a bit of research for it. You have to take so much into consideration when writing historical, and I’m bound to miss something at some point. But it’s those little details that I believe help make the feel of the period believable.
At the end of the book we get a hint that there might be more in store for Hawk and Remi. Is there another story coming?
Oh, definitely. I love Hawk and Remi. I think there’s potential for them to really grow into a strong pair. I’m looking forward to developing them even more. They’re personalities are so different and because they know just how to press each other’s buttons, they’re so much fun to write. Remi is sweet and curious by nature, but he also had a pretty explosive temper, and a talent for getting into trouble, which of course means dragging poor Hawk with him. When we add Remi’s adorable and equally troublesome younger brother into the mix… Well, I feel for Hawk, I really do. The next story will take place the same year, with Chess—who’s seventeen, causing mischief. I can’t wait to find out what kind of mayhem these brothers are going to unleash on Hawk. [Oh, me either! How exciting!]
Looking at your website it sounds like you have some other projects in the works. Can you tell us more about what you have coming up? Are those books also set in this same time period?
I have a long novella that’s coming out in the summer from Dreamspinner Press called The Auspicious Troubles of Chance which I hope to have more information about on my site soon, as it’s currently in the production process. That one’s a little more complex time period-wise as it spans most of the life of the main protagonist, from the early 1900s to 1934. Though a good deal of the story takes place in the desert during the 1920s where the main character, Chance, is part of the French Foreign Legion. It’s the first in a trilogy.
I’ve got the next novel with Bruce and Jace (from When Love Walked In) which will be the first in a series written from Bruce’s point of view. It starts a year later in 1934 and will follow more of the old school detective noir type mystery–with romance thrown in of course. Then there’s Joe Applin (the café owner from When Love Walked), and the handsome stranger with no name who just appears one day and turns his world upside down. I actually started Joe’s story months before sitting down to write When Love Walked In. [Yeah, I loved Bruce and Jace!]
There’s the next story from Remi and Hawk, as I mentioned, and I’m hoping for a third that will take place in 1936 when Chess is nineteen. If folks really take to these fellas, I’d like to involve them in an adventure series.
I have a story that’s set during Prohibition in 1927 about a fast and loose fella named Eros (no, that’s not his real name) who is the hottest act in one of the swankiest, most scandalous clubs in New York City, and a prim and proper businessman named Edward, who is the heir to the Clarence & Co. Department Store.
I’m also taking part in the Love Is Always Write event from the MM Romance group at Goodreads. Hopefully they’ll make another one of their great anthologies with all the stories they’ll receive. I’m sure by the time I finished my next story, some more plot bunnies will have appeared.
Now, at some point, some folks might start to wonder why all my stories are set in New York City around the same periods, and there’s a reason for that. These fellas will cross paths at some point or other in their lives. They are all already connected in some way before their stories are even written. As I mentioned, gay men had created an urban gay culture for themselves in places like New York City, and that’s just what I’ve been doing with my fellas. Just because gay men at the time had to keep things secret (some more than others), doesn’t mean they didn’t know or socialize with other gay men. I’ll be posting all about it on my blog real soon.
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer all my questions! If folks want to know more about you or your books, how can they find you?
The best place to find me is at my blog: http://charliecochet.blogspot.com. I love to hear from folks, so if anyone ever fancies sending me a message or an email, there’s no need to be shy. You can also find me at any of these other sites:
Thank you again for taking the time to stop by Joyfully Jay! It was so much fun having you here!
I’ve had a fantastic time, thank you so much! And thanks to everyone who stopped by today. I look forward to seeing you all again!
x Charlie x
Charlie is generously donating a copy of The Amethyst Cat Caper to one lucky follower. Leave a comment below to enter. The contest closes on March 13 at 11:59 pm EST. Good luck!
- By entering the contest, you’re confirming that you are at least 18 years old.
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