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The Flapper, the Impostor, and the Stalker by Charlene Bell Dietz
A privileged teenager from Minneapolis in 1923, scraps her college scholarship and runs away to become a flapper in dangerous, chaotic Chicago. In her search for illusive happiness, she confronts the mob and then must contrive a way to not be murdered.
What made you set the book in the roaring twenties?
This tale came to me in the form of a living, elderly aunt who had been a run-away teen in 1923. In her 90s, this chain-smoking woman, who drank all day, loved telling me stories about her errant life in Chicago during Al Capone’s heyday.
Think about this tantalizing history: The Flapper, the Impostor, and the Stalker opens with a 1923 scene of an upper middle-class, Minneapolis family. Their brilliant college-bound daughter dutifully translates her high-school Latin assignment upstairs, while her parents enjoy their nightly cocktail down stairs. If prohibition started in 1920 then how could the parents be drinking in 1923?
The government gave the public one full year to prepare for prohibition. Private citizens built cavernous wine cellars, stockpiled wine and liquor, and some even bought out liquor stores.
The law only prohibited the manufacturing, the sale, and the transportation of alcohol, not the consumption. Therefore, a couple could enjoy a night out in a fancy restaurant and bring their own alcohol.
Also, a person could drink legally if they had a prescription. Just go to the doctor for a toothache, flu, or maybe you needed “stimulation”. The good doctor might write you a prescription like this: Take 3 ounces every 3 hours for stimulation until. . . stimulated. You could refill your prescription every ten days, For Medicinal Purpose Only.
When a desired product is no longer available, gangsters dashed in to fill the void. They stockpiled like everyone else, buying complete liquor stores, robbing drug stores, and holding up trains that carried industrial alcohol. They smuggled liquor from Canada, bootlegged, made bathtub gin, along with rotgut moonshine. Anyone who wanted to make a buck off of America’s thirst, opened basements, garages, backrooms, and closets where a patron could enjoy a little nip for a few coins. Much of this peddled liquor, foul tasting and dangerous, contained industrial alcohol.
Hence, the creation of the fancy cocktail! These fruity or creamy drinks covered the taste of tainted chemicals. Alleys and closets gave way to fancier nightclubs. In order to gain access to these up-scale party places, a customer had to know someone or at least have a password to get in. Speakeasies became the happening places of the evening.
The federal government now frustrated and at a loss to explain why people kept drinking, ordered quinine, methyl alcohol and other toxic chemicals added to industrial alcohol. Certainly, the risk of drinking these chemicals would deter even the most foolhardy.
It didn’t. Many people became blind and numerous others died.
When a flapper and her crowd went out on the town for the night, they knew blindness or even death might be just one cocktail away. Some flappers carried their own booze, hidden in places like a hollowed-out walking cane or a flask tuck snuggly in their garter. Were these garters the forerunners of today’s conceal carry?
Flappers tucked other items such as knives and Derringers in their garters, because death in the world of a flapper came in many forms.
What better story could there be than the young run-away teen in The Flapper, the Impostor, and the Stalker, who navigates the thrilling, dangerous streets of Chicago in 1923, hoping to find happiness and love.
Now for an Excerpt:
Kathleen continued, “You said you wished you could go to college with me. What if we could go somewhere together, not to college, but someplace where we could dance and act and you could sing? I bet with our talents, we could turn this horrid world into something much more joyful—help make it one big party.”
“How?” Sophie’s eyes opened wide.
“We’ll go where you won’t have to teach kids piano, or act or dance, unless you want. You’ll be able to sing your heart out and, who knows, maybe even write your own songs.”
“My mother would never let me.” Sophie looked off into the near distance.
“Sophie, we’ll get to wear sparkly dresses. And wouldn’t you love to wear those modern, classy clothes? We’d bob our hair even shorter, wear lipstick, and be around people who know how to have fun and not have a care in the world.” Sophie should see the photos in Kathleen’s collection of theater magazines again. Then she’d be excited too.
“I’m sick of funerals and consoling others,” Kathleen continued.
“Look at how miserable Dolly is. Aren’t you tired of that too? We’d be around progressive people, thinking people, people who know how to make the most out of life. They’re searching for talent, Sophie. We’ll fit right in.”
“Where, Kathleen? No one much appreciates our abilities here.”
“Chicago. There are all sorts of openings for attractive young ladies with well-turned ankles and voices like canaries. That’s what the advertisements say.”
About the Author:
Charlene Bell Dietz’s award-winning mystery novels The Flapper, the Scientist, and the Saboteur combines family saga with corporate espionage, and The Flapper, the Impostor, and the Stalker propels readers back into 1923 in frenetic Chicago. The Scientist, the Psychic, and the nut gives readers a frightening Caribbean vacation. Her latest novel The Spinster, the Rebel, and the Governor is a historical biography about Lady Margaret Brent, the first American woman to be called an attorney, whose integrity and intelligence saves pre-colonial Maryland from devastation. This book won the New Mexico Press Women’s first place award and an award by the National Press Women. The Spinster, the Rebel, and the Governor will be released as a second edition by Artemesia Press in February 2024. Two of her Flapper books have won the coveted Kirkus stars, and two were named best book of 2018. Charlene, a retired educator, lives in the foothills of the mountains in central New Mexico where abundant wildlife, solitude, and natures’ beauty inspires her creativity.
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