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:

All Romance
Apple iBooks