When I was invited to participate in The Ever After Mysteries, a Celebrate Lit collection of 1920’s mysteries inspired by fairy tales, I couldn’t resist. I’m a great fan of mysteries from the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, and I read at least a thousand fairy tales as a child.
To be honest… I set about it backward. I knew I wanted to write about a young woman who plays the organ for silent films at a movie palace, so I pulled out some of my old books (yes, the fairy tales books from my childhood) and looked for one that could serve as a basis for my story.
It didn’t take me long to realize that The Nightingale was the perfect choice. The Nightingale is set in China, where an Emperor has a palace filled with beautiful and very fragile treasures. It’s so full of these things that no one can move through it easily, but he wants it all on display. In his gardens, he has gardeners tie bells on the prettiest flowers, so no one misses them.
One day, he hears a nightingale singing, and he has it brought to the palace. He’s surprised to learn that this simple little brown bird has such a beautiful song. She stays and sings for him, delighting the Emperor and all at the palace.
Now, from this point forward, the correlation fails.
In the fairy tale, the Emperor of Japan sends the Chinese Emperor a beautiful jeweled mechanical bird – so much prettier than the plain brown one! The real nightingale gets ignored, because the new one is better to look at while she sings, so the real nightingale flies away. But eventually, the mechanical bird breaks, and now the Emperor has no music at all. He gets sick and fights off death. The nightingale returns and brings him joy again. The End.
In my story, Murder at the Empire, the plain brown nightingale gets all dolled up for her performances on the Mighty Wurlitzer, accompanying the silent films at the Empire movie palace. The Emperor is a handsome young man who owns the theater and furnishes it with beautiful and expensive art, just to bring pleasure to the moviegoers. He’s a nice guy. Instead of nearly dying, he’s trying to solve the mystery of his disappearing treasures. Then it’s not just the artwork… his employees start dying, and he’s afraid that his new organist may be the next victim!
I loved researching this era!
The 1920s was an amazing and progressive era. It was a time of great prosperity for middle-class people as well as the wealthy. Affordable cars provided freedom. Women were able to vote, and from that point forward, women started pursuing careers in every field previously open only to men. African Americans, too, began to find opportunities they’d never had before.
It was also the era of Prohibition, which led to more drinking than the nation had ever seen before. In the past, men and women didn’t usually drink together in public. Now, that barrier was down. Young people, especially, wanted freedom and excitement after the first world war and the Spanish flu. They had cars, they had money, they had alcohol. It was a time of wild parties and excess. The music was lively, and the speakeasies were exciting.
How does a Christian novel – especially one set in a Chicago movie palace – fit into that setting? The same way Christians did, in that time period. The same way we live in a sinful world now, but we are not of the world. In this book, there are people who drink alcohol (but not my Emperor or organist). There are difficult situations. I hope you’ll enjoy it… I had fun researching and writing it.
Are you ready? I introduce to you:
Murder at the Empire
We have LOTS of cover reveal and Ever After release fun planned, starting with…
The Amazon cover reveal!
For the past few weeks, Murder at the Empire has been available for preorder with a cover that looks like this:
Sometime today, it will be replaced with the real cover:
Watch the Amazon Book Page! The first person who finds the placeholder cover replaced with the real cover, shares it somewhere online, and sends the link or a screenshot to that share will win a free advance reader copy of the book. Send your email to email@example.com. First email to arrive wins! It’s that simple.
Look for the covers already revealed on Amazon! We’ve been releasing one cover at a time this week. The all feature the paintings of the talented artist, Josh Markey. I can’t wait for you to see all his excellent work!
Tomorrow, you’ll want to head over to Rebekah Jones’s website to see her reveal, to watch for her cover to change on Amazon, and to get your entry in first!
And be sure to preorder your copy of Murder at the Empire!