Saturday, January 08, 2022

Guest Blogger Mary Miley

Mary Miley

Type M is proud to start the New Year off right with our first guest blogger of 2022, the wonderful Mary Miley, author of 15 nonfiction books, 200 magazine articles and 7 historical mysteries, including her new mystery series set in Chicago during the truly roaring 1920s. The first, The Mystic’s Accomplice, hit US shelves last year and the second, Spirits and Smoke, was released in ebook last December and in hardcover on January 4, 2022. Spirits and Smoke features Maddie Pastore, a reluctant sleuth struggling to survive in 1925 Chicago, when gangsters ruled the streets and Prohibition turned law-abiding citizens into criminals. The word “Spirits” in the title refers both to bootleg hooch and to the ghosts a fraudulent medium conjures up in her seances; “Smoke” is present at the seances and is also Twenties slang for deadly wood alcohol, the murder weapon of choice in this whodunnit. I (Donis) read an advance copy of Spirits and Smoke, and I can vouch for the fact that it is a great read, evocative and fun, and Maddie is a character to root for! Visit Mary's website here.

Spirits and Smoke

    Mary Miley

With the new year came the release of Spirits and Smoke, the second in my Mystic’s Accomplice series. The story follows Maddie Pastore, a young widow struggling to keep herself and her baby boy safe during the violent years of Chicago’s Roaring Twenties. Maddie works as a shill and investigator for a fraudulent mystic, ferreting out information that Madame Carlotta can use in her seances to convince clients she’s the real deal. “I wasn’t proud of what I did,” says Maddie, “but I was proud of how well I did it.” But what to do when, in the course of her investigations, she stumbles across evidence that the deceased didn’t die of natural causes?

Maddie’s talents draw unwelcome attention from one sharp-eyed police detective. He doesn’t believe in Spiritualism but in a city stuffed with gangsters, con artists, and criminals, he’ll take whatever help he can get. Maddie brings him a puzzling case: why did teetotal banker Herman Quillen die of drinking “smoke” (AKA methanol or wood alcohol), and who is the gold-tooth man at Carlotta’s séance falsely claiming to be his brother and demanding that the spirits reveal where Herman hid the money?

For a historian turned mystery writer, the decade of the Roaring Twenties offers infinite possibilities for murder and mayhem plus access to some of the weirdest people and the most incredible true events in American history—I include several in this book. Prohibition is the defining characteristic of the era because it affected all Americans, turning most of them into lawbreakers. Corruption and violence leached into every level of society as cops, judges, juries, and politicians were bought off. No decade has been as violent: this is the era that saw not only the rise of organized crime but the high point of the Ku Klux Klan. Add to that the excitement of speakeasies, flappers, the women’s vote, jazz, radio, and vaudeville, and the potential for trouble is endless. 

Chicago was the epicenter of crime in the 1920s. Sure, there was crime before Prohibition, but it was largely local, not terrible violent, and not all that profitable. The opportunity to supply the thirsty public with illegal booze raised the stakes to unthinkable heights. With literally billions of dollars in play, the murder rate doubled as bootleggers organized themselves into international gangs, the predecessors of today’s drug cartels. With my research, I was able to weave real people (like Alice Clement, Chicago’s flamboyant female policewoman) and real events (like the murder of gang leader Hymie Weiss on the cathedral steps) into what Kirkus Reviews calls “plentiful historical detail and a sparkling cast of characters.” 



Susan D said...

Okay, just checked out Mary's website. These books sound like a real treat. I'm definitely going to dip in.

Unknown said...

Hello Susan D. If you're a book buyer, The Mystic's Accomplice just came out in (cheaper) paperback, but of course both that and Spirits and Smoke are available as e-books and (cheapest choice of all) in libraries for free. I'd love to hear your thoughts when you've finished. --Mary

Aubrey Hamilton said...

I loved the Leah Randall mysteries and look forward to reading these new Chicago books!

A J said...

The Roaring Twenties - my favourite era. I'll certainly check out Mary's books.

Sybil Johnson said...

This all sounds very interesting.