Today I am so pleased to welcome Kim Fielding to Joyfully Jay. Kim has come to talk to us about her latest release, Conned. She has also brought along some books to give away. Please join me in giving Kim a big welcome!
Hi! Kim Fielding here, and I’m so excited to announce the release of my newest novel, Conned. This book is in my Bureau series but can easily be read as a standalone. In fact, it takes place in 1928, which is earlier than the previous books in the series.
The setting for Conned is San Francisco, which I chose for a few reasons. First, the story was inspired in part by Dashiell Hammett’s Maltese Falcon, which he wrote in San Francisco in the late 1920s (the fantastic movie version with Humphrey Bogart was made in 1941). Second, San Francisco is one of my favorite cities and, as Hammett realized, makes an excellent setting for a noir story. But third, in the 1920s, gay people could live fairly openly in San Francisco—which wasn’t true in many other places in the United States.
One reason why 1920s San Francisco was relatively gay-friendly was that it’s in the American West. As far back as the gold rush era, some people had come to the area in hopes of escaping the stricter social rules of their homes. In fact, during the gold rush era, same-sex relationships were probably a lot more tolerated than most people today realize—but that’s a topic for another blog post. Eighty years passed between the discovery of gold and the events in my story, but some of that relaxed attitude remained.
Another factor is that San Francisco is a port town. Lonely sailors went ashore seeking company, and in some—maybe many—cases, the company they sought was male. The area around the Embarcadero, where many ships docked, was one of the major cruising spots in the twenties. And by cruising, I’m not referring to the kind that takes place on boats.
It was also significant that Prohibition was in place in the 1920s. Many of the people who ran the speakeasies didn’t care much if some of their patrons cross-dressed or openly consorted with the same gender. Sure, being gay or trans was essentially still illegal, but so was serving booze. That sort of “in for a penny, in for a pound” attitude meant the bar owners (and often the police) were willing to look the other way, especially if doing so was lucrative.
Interestingly, by the 1930s things changed in San Francisco. Authorities tightened their fists, and LGBT people were no longer as free to live openly. This stricter attitude didn’t truly begin to weaken until WWII—but again, that’s another story.
And speaking of stories, I hope you give Conned a try. While my heroes, Thomas and Abe, can be fairly candid about being gay, they face some other major issues: spirits, murders, and a twisted trail full of lies.
At last, heart pounding, Abe moved to the back row and came to a halt in front of Donne. Standing this close, he could see a bit of pale stubble on those broad cheeks and stubborn chin. Donne’s eyes were more fog-like than ever: opaque and chilling. The type of eyes a man could get lost in. He sat straight-backed but not tense, heavy muscles relaxed beneath his cheap suit and good shirt. But his hands—yes. They hung over the armrests and moved with the hint of a tremor.
Without truly intending to, knowing it might even be dangerous, Abe reached out and settled a palm on Donne’s shoulder. Although Donne flinched slightly, he didn’t strike out or move away. His jaw tightened, though, and his eyes narrowed.
The war, Abe thought. Yes. Donne was the right age for it, and his accent thick enough to suggest he’d come of age in England instead of the United States. Besides, there was something about the set of his body and the creases around his eyes. “I hear… a man,” Abe began.
And then he did.
As clear as if the person stood next to him, a voice spoke in Abe’s ear. It sounded young and sad and thin. Tommy. Oh, my darling Tommy, what have they done to you?
Abe unwillingly echoed a phrase, the words tearing his throat. “My darling Tommy.”
Donne leapt to his feet, jerking back so violently that he toppled the chair. One hand went into his coat pocket, and Abe was certain he was about to be shot. The idea didn’t frighten him, mostly because he was too deeply awash in the spirit’s sorrow. “Don’t hurt him, Tommy.” From his own mouth, but it wasn’t his accent or his voice. “Please don’t.”
The spirit… the man had been in his early twenties, perhaps. A pointed chin and sharp nose, thin mobile eyebrows, a wide mouth always a moment away from a cheeky grin. Ears that stuck out a little. Abe knew this although he couldn’t see the spirit. Just as he knew the spirit’s name. “Albert,” he said in his own voice.
Donne jerked again but held his ground. He was breathing hard.
Abe’s knees felt weak, his head swam, and Albert whispered in his head: tiny snippets and phrases that Abe couldn’t quite catch. Reaching out for a chair back to support himself, he became aware of the wide eyes and gaping mouths of his guests.
With considerable effort, he gathered his wits, giving Donne a quick apologetic glance before striding to the front of the room. “I am sorry, friends. Today the spirits have qvite exhausted me. I hope you have found some of the answers you sought.”
The guests seemed pleased as they gathered their coats and hats and filed toward the hallway and the door. They thanked Abe as they shook his hand. Soon only two others remained: Rosie, looking about as if perhaps she’d mislaid a glove, and Donne, towering and jut-jawed in the back of the room.
“I need to talk to you,” Donne growled.
Abe simply nodded. He took Rosie gently by the arm and led her down the hall, surreptitiously offering her five dollars at the door. She took it but paused with her hand on the knob. “Are you all right?” she whispered.
“I’ll explain another time, sweetheart.”
She scrunched her mouth together. “But that big fella, he don’t look too safe.”
“Nothing worthwhile ever is. I’ll see you tomorrow, Rosie.” He gave her a gentle push out the door and locked it behind her. Then he turned and walked back to face Donne.
World War I veteran Thomas Donne is new to San Francisco. Always a stoic man, shell shock and a lost love have nearly turned his heart to stone. No matter—a private eye has no room for softness. Almost broke, he takes on what appears to be a simple case: finding a missing young man.
As a magician and medium, Abraham Ferencz cons his audiences into believing he can cheat death and commune with their dearly departed. Although his séances are staged, the spirits are very real, and they’ve brought him almost more pain than he can bear.
When Donne’s case becomes complicated and the bodies start to pile up, he and Ferencz must fight their way through a web of trickery and lies. The truth is obscured by the San Francisco fog, and in their uncanny world, anyone can catch a bullet.
Kim Fielding is the bestselling author of numerous m/m romance novels, novellas, and short stories. Like Kim herself, her work is eclectic, spanning genres such as contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, and historical. Her stories are set in alternate worlds, in 15th century Bosnia, in modern-day Oregon. Her heroes are hipster architect werewolves, housekeepers, maimed giants, and conflicted graduate students. They’re usually flawed, they often encounter terrible obstacles, but they always find love.
After having migrated back and forth across the western two-thirds of the United States, Kim calls California home. She lives there with her family, her cat, and her day job as a university professor, but escapes as often as possible via car, train, plane, or boat. This may explain why her characters often seem to be in transit as well. She dreams of traveling and writing full-time.
Kim has brought copies of The Bureau: Volume 1 *and* The Bureau: Volume 2 to give away to two lucky readers. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Saturday, June 6th at 11:59 pm ET.
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