I'm pleased to welcome R.J. Koreto to Cozy Up With Kathy today. R.J. writes the Alice Roosevelt Mystery series. THE BODY IN THE BALLROOM is the second book in the series and was released last month.
The Joys of Researching the Gilded Age
by R.J. Koreto
Fun Fact: It is widely believed that the Manhattan Cocktail was invented in the late 19th century by Jennie Jerome—the American-born mother of Winston Churchill. Her first cousin was William Jerome, the Manhattan District attorney who later prosecuted the deeply disturbed millionaire Harry Thaw. In the most famous crime of the day, Thaw murdered architect Stanford White for having an affair with Thaw's young wife, the stunningly beautiful Evelyn Nesbit. Mr. Jerome has a cameo in "The Body in the Ballroom." He was a leading Republican figure, like Theodore Roosevelt, father of my protagonist, Alice Roosevelt. In my book, Alice visits a reporter at the New York Herald Building, a Gilded Age gem--designed by Stanford White!
This is my fifth turn-of-the-century historical mystery, and researching these books sends me along wonderful journeys like above. I stop writing to look up one item, and the next thing you know, I've spent an hour along byways of Gilded Age New York, or Edwardian London. I send my sleuths into a taxi in 1902 New York—yes, there were motorized taxis, but they were mostly electric, not gas. Could New Yorkers make phone calls—absolutely, but there was no dial; they had to go through an operator.
I had to figure out where my sleuths, the outrageous Alice Roosevelt and her wry bodyguard, ex-Rough Rider Joseph St. Clair, would send the culprits they caught. Manhattan's city jail is called the "Tombs." Did that term go back to their day? Yes—the original "Tombs" got the name from the 19th-century Egyptian Revival style of the first building on the site. It’s long forgotten, but the name lingers on. (Apparently no one really missed it—Charles Dickens, during an American tour, wrote how much he disliked it.)
In another chapter, Alice and St. Clair track a suspect to a church. What kind of church? New York was home to residents of all kinds of religions. The Catholic community had already built its magnificent St. Patrick's Cathedral, which was of particular interest to the city's large Irish population. But New York also had a fair number of African-American Catholics, and they had their own church named St. Benedict the Moor, after an early African saint.
I was raised in New York and I don't remember a time when I wasn't eating a wide variety of foods from the many immigrant groups that came into New York. When did these various foods arrive in New York, so my characters could enjoy them? It was fun to send Alice and St. Clair to a Lower East Side restaurant where they discover an exotically delicious preserved meat called pastrami. Alice also delights in a potato snack popular in Jewish neighborhoods, called a knish. They were still new in New York. In my previous Alice book, "Alice and the Assassin," St. Clair embarrasses Alice when he tries to dig in to a feast of Chinese food, but there is no cutlery in sight—just a pair of sticks.
But as much as I wanted to send Alice out for pizza, the first pizzeria in New York didn't open until 1905, several years after this book takes place.
Even shaving required research. Safety razors were still new; Mr. St. Clair probably took care of his own barbering needs with a straight-edge razor. (These aren't toys; a hipster friend of mine tried using one and nearly took his ear off.) But what if he wants to "dress to impress"? In the 19th century, rum from the Caribbean was distilled with leaves and berries of the West Indian bay tree for an early aftershave preparation called bay rum, still available today. Mr. St. Clair splashes some on in the final scene of my novel, and a jealous Alice Roosevelt deduces he is spending the evening romancing a special woman. Many things change—but not everything!
The Body in the Ballroom
by R.J. Koreto
on Tour July 1-31, 2018
Alice Roosevelt, the brilliant, danger-loving daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt, has already risked an assassin’s bullet to solve one murder. She never expected to have to sleuth another, but she’d never pass up the opportunity, either. Anything to stave off boredom.
And such an opportunity presents itself when Alice is invited to a lavish ball. The high-society guests are in high spirits as they imbibe the finest wines. But one man, detested by nearly all the partygoers, quaffs a decidedly deadlier cocktail. An African-American mechanic, who also happens to be a good friend of former Rough Rider-turned-Secret Service Agent Joseph St. Clair, is suspected of the murder-by-poison, but Alice is sure he’s innocent and is back on the scene to clear his name.
From downtown betting parlors to uptown mansions, Alice and Agent St. Clair uncover forbidden romances and a financial deal that just might change the world. But neither Alice nor her would-be protector may survive the case at hand in The Body in the Ballroom, R. J. Koreto's gripping second Alice Roosevelt mystery.
Book Details:Genre: Historical Mystery
Published by: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: June 12th 2018
Number of Pages: 304
ISBN: 1683315774 (ISBN13: 9781683315773)
Series: Alice Roosevelt Mystery #2
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads
Read an excerpt:
In his day job, he works as a business and financial journalist. Over the years, he’s been a magazine writer and editor, website manager, PR consultant, book author, and seaman in the U.S. Merchant Marine. He’s a graduate of Vassar College, and like Alice Roosevelt, he was born and raised in New York.
He is the author of the Lady Frances Ffolkes and Alice Roosevelt mysteries. He has been published in both Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. He also published a book on practice management for financial professionals.
With his wife and daughters, he divides his time between Rockland County, N.Y., and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.