Ten Days in August is now available!

Ten Days In AugustNeed a little heat in your historical romance? Join Hank and Nicky as they solve a murder during a heat wave in New York in 1896! Ten Days in August is out today everywhere!

From the Lower East Side to uptown Manhattan, a curious detective searches for clues on the sidewalks of New York—and finds a secret world of forbidden love that’s too hot to handle…

New York City, 1896. As the temperatures rise, so does the crime rate. At the peak of this sizzling heat wave, police inspector Hank Brandt is called to investigate the scandalous murder of a male prostitute. His colleagues think he should drop the case, but Hank’s interest is piqued, especially when he meets the intriguing key witness: a beautiful female impersonator named Nicholas Sharp.

As a nightclub performer living on the fringes of society, Nicky is reluctant to place his trust in a cop—even one as handsome as Hank. With Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt cracking down on vice in the city, Nicky’s afraid that getting involved could end his career. But when he realizes his life is in danger—and Hank is his strongest ally—the two men hit the streets together to solve the crime. From the tawdry tenements of the Lower East Side to the moneyed mansions of Fifth Avenue, Nicky and Hank are determined to uncover the truth. But when things start heating up between them, it’s not just their lives on the line. It’s their love…

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Ten Days in August: NY in 1896

The Library of Congress website has a bonanza of images from the 1890s, which gives an interesting impression of how different New York City is now, 120 years later. Remember, New York in 1896 had no Empire State Building, no Times Square, no Rockefeller Center. Here are some of the photos I found (clicking on them will enlarge some of them):

Lower Broadway, 1892

Lower Broadway, 1892

Lower Broadway ca 1897

Lower Broadway, 1897

Broadway 1897

Broadway, 1897

Broadway runs adjacent to some of the neighborhoods that, in 1896, were full of immigrants packed into tenements. Some of these bustling photos are close to what that must have looked like. Only the real situation was worse. I bought an illustrated copy of How the Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis while I was researching this book, and some of the photos are brutal. For more see some of Riis’s photos here.

Cart on the street, 1896

Cart on the street, 1896

1890

1890

This photo was just labeled “New York City 1890,” but I think it might be taken from Union Square? (Feel free to correct me.)

Elevated train at 110th St, 1896

Elevated train at 110th St, 1896

Chatham Square Elevated Train Station 1880

Chatham Square Elevated Train Station 1880

In the late 19th century, before the subway (opened in 1904), New Yorkers got around by horse-drawn street cars and hansom cabs and the elevated trains. There are still elevated trains in the outer boroughs, but not so much in Manhattan. I imagine them as kind of a blight; the tracks must have blocked out the sun on some of the streets they ran over.

Newspaper Row, 1890

Newspaper Row, 1890

In the 1890s, most of the city’s major newspapers had offices in these tall buildings on Park Row, along City Hall Park.

Tammany Hall, 1896

Tammany Hall, 1896

Politics in the late 19th century was dominated by Tammany Hall. By 1896, Tammany’s notorious Boss Tweed had been dead for nearly twenty years, but Tammany played a role in New York politics well into the 20th century.

The Tombs, 1890s

The Tombs, 1890s

There have been a series of prisons in lower Manhattan called the Tombs, which doesn’t really speak well to the conditions at any of them. This ominous building was what the prison looked like at the time of the novel.

Newsboy, 1896

Newsboy, 1896

Hansom Cab and Driver, 1896

Hansom Cab and Driver, 1896

Police Officer, 1896

Police Officer, 1896

The LOC website has a series of photos of people on the streets. I liked these particular examples. I can only imagine wearing that police uniform during a heat wave; my detective, Hank Brandt, basically refuses.

So there’s a little glimpse into the New York City of Ten Days in August.

Ten Days in August and Real History

First, a programming note of sorts: so far in March, my mother came for a long stay, I started a new job, and I sprained my ankle, all of which threw a wrench in my blogging plans for the lead-in to the Ten Days in August release. Or any blogging, really, as you may have noticed. I also spent this past weekend at the Liberty States Fiction Writers Create Something Magical Conference (say that three times fast!) which was fabulous, but again, didn’t leave me much time for blogging.

But I did want to provide some background information. I’m doing a blog tour for this book, too, and I’ll be sure to link to those posts, because I’ve written quite a bit already about how this story came to be. But here are a few factoids that haven’t made it into my blog-post-a-rama yet.

In New York in the 1890s, the modern NYPD was not yet a thing. Instead, the police department was run by a 4-man board. Police headquarters were on Mulberry Street, in a building that no longer exists. In 1896, Teddy Roosevelt presided over the Board, which was constantly deadlocked for petty political reasons, which stymied a lot of the reform Roosevelt wanted to implement. He was on a mission to eliminate corruption, to promote the best men, and to actually enforce the laws on the books. New York was, however, a city of vice, particularly drinking and prostitution.

I read Caleb Carr’s novel The Alienist maybe a decade ago, and one of the things that hooked me about that book was the opening, in which a dead male prostitute is discovered on the Manhattan Bridge. Male prostitutes were often young and referred to as working boys. The one in The Alienist worked in a notorious club called Paresis Hall, a place men went to pick up working boys.

Paresis Hall was a real place. So was the Slide, considered by many to be the worst dive in the city. The club in Ten Days is called Club Bulgaria, and it is entirely fictional, but I intended it to be roughly between these two in terms of relative shadiness. Club Bulgaria features a shabby ballroom where men go to dance and meet each other, where performers sing or dance, and where men can retreat to the backroom for sex, roughly the model of similar clubs of the era. (And now, really.)

The thing with this era in New York history is that it was a period of both tremendous wealth and tremendous poverty. Robber barons ruled the city; old money families and captains of industry displayed their wealth conspicuously. Immigrants, meanwhile, were crowded into tenements without proper ventilation or running water. As a student of history, I find this juxtaposition really vital to understanding the era. So I wanted to explore both aspects of the city: Hank’s friend Amelia represents high society, and Nicky’s Irish immigrant family represents the other half. Nicky and Hank exist in a sort of limbo. Hank mostly aspires to live comfortably, and he’s essentially middle class, while Nicky has been clawing his way out of poverty and makes enough to afford his own apartment (and the gorgeous gowns he loves to wear).

The New York of this era is different from now in a lot of ways, some of which are detailed in this map. (A lot of places I name checked are shown here, actually, so you can follow along as you read, if that’s your thang.)

Ten Days ended up being kind of a tour of New York City in 1896. Hank works at a precinct in today’s East Village. There are scenes in the Lower East Side Tenements, uptown in a Fifth Avenue Mansion, at the clubs on the Bowery, at Hank’s house in the West Village, at City Hall in lower Manhattan. There were no subways at this time, no cars; the characters take the elevated trains or horse-driven cabs. But I still wanted this novel to feel essentially New York; I think I’ve accomplished that. I drew on a lot of research, books, transcripts, photos, and so on, to create a fictional story that I still hope feels like it could have happened.

Stay tuned for more info from the blog tour.

The book is out 3/29, but you can preorder it now from the bookstore of your choice. Here are some links:

Kensington
Amazon
B&N
All Romance
Google
Kobo
Apple iBooks

one hero to rule them all…

Or something like that. I’m participating in Kensington’s Hero vs. Hero contest, a March Madness-style bracket of doom wherein the heroes from a number of Kensington books duke it out for heroic supremacy. Lane Carillo from Such a Dance is the nightclub owner, and maybe he’s not the brawniest, but he’s a mobster, so you know he’s got some tricks up his sleeve. You can vote at the abovelinked Kensington tumblr account, and you should. Early and often as Lane’s colleagues might say. Here’s his info:

FACEKate-McMurrayTEXTKate-McMurray

Our first fight is against a gambler named Damian from a Mary Jo Putney book. STIFF COMPETITION! Go vote and help Lane win! You have until midnight on 3/17!