Mystery author Judith Copek has discovered that bad guys and scary situations are not limited to mystery fiction. In her latest novel, she leaps into another genre with an historical novel set in the nineteen twenties. Learn more about her and her books at her blog.
Did the Twenties Really Roar?
In 1928, my late mother took the Santa Fe Super Chief from Newton Kansas to Pasadena California. She would spend the summer with some girlhood friends who once lived in her hometown. She left a scrapbook, now in tatters, and a photo album, as well as a couple letters. The letters hinted at something darker, but photos and souvenirs just show everyone having a good time.
My mother’s scrapbook opened my eyes to life with a nice middle-class family in 1928 Southern California. These were not the nineteen-twenties I had expected. Where were speakeasies? The skinny girls in short dresses? Did my mom or her friends, all in their early twenties, do any roaring at all? They knew how to have fun.
And single people partied a lot. At home, at country clubs, at the dance hall on the mountain. Sometimes girls drank, but often they didn’t. At lease not this bunch. They were not averse to being around parents. Most of the girls didn’t drive, and parents were available for trips to Yosemite and other landmarks. I discovered that clothing for such excursions consisted of sweater, jodhpurs, striped socks, and boots or sturdy shoes. Rather fetching, actually. Women’s hair was worn short, some bobbed, some curly. Dresses were often fancy with lace and lots of ruffles.
My research found much sleeker women with shorter skirts and definitely bobbed hair. Seductive, vamping, dancing wildly. The image we all have of the twenties. Where did the truth lie? As usual, somewhere in between.
I couldn’t write a novel about young people swanning around and having a wonderful time all summer. It would have been dullsville. But on the other hand, I wanted some semblance of reality. I finally found a middle ground. And characters I could love. In a million years my mother would not recognize herself. But that’s okay, because her life-long friendship with these girlhood pals, and the inspiration she left-behind helped write Such Stuff As Dreams.
Some women of the time were serious about business careers and had their own organizations with meetings and what we would now call networking.
Bridge was a popular came both for women and men. Colorful placecards and bridge tallies echo the times. Life was more formal then, often with cards for seating as in the sample above.
Such Stuff As Dreams
Carla Curby, a young teacher and photographer, arrives in Southern California from rural Kansas to visit girlhood friends. Carla anticipates an exciting summer away from her staid Mennonite town, a summer where lipstick, bobbed hair, and dancing the Charleston are normal. She doesn’t anticipate the graft and corruption that permeate life in the Golden State where many dream of finding gold or striking oil.
Carla is pulled into the local art scene and is smitten with a Bohemian artist who admires her photography, but he has a huge strike against him. When her mother demands that Carla return home to help with summer chores, Carla, in an act of uncharacteristic defiance, sells her return ticket, sends her mother the money, and determines to stay in California.
Her choice haunts her, but love beckons as she becomes involved with two men: the artist and a get-rich-quick dreamer. On the uncertain road ahead, Carla travels far from her safe Kansas life. A young woman with gumption and perseverance, she will be required to make hard decisions and to face challenges that were never part of her dreams.