Moonshine Monday: The Ziegfeld Follies

moonshinemonday Welcome to Moonshine Mondays! In the lead up to the release of my Jazz Age-set romance Such a Dance on October 27, I’m rolling out some history, photos, background info and other special features relating to the book.

Broadway impressario Florenz “Flo” Ziegfeld most famously brought forth his Follies, a vaudeville variety show inspired by Paris’s Folies Bergère. There were imitators—the closest was George White’s Scandals—but Ziegfeld’s show was the biggest and flashiest.

Ziegfeld and SandowZiegfeld was born in Chicago in the 1860s. His father owned a night club called the Trocadero, and it was here Ziegfeld got his start as a producer, bringing in legendary strong man Eugen Sandow to attract crowds during the World’s Fair in 1893.

Ziegfeld moved to New York and produced the Follies from 1907 until 1931. The Follies featured some of the biggest names in entertainment of the day, including music composed by Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, and Jerome Kern. Stars included W. C. Fields, Eddie Cantor, Josephine Baker, Fanny Brice, Bert Williams, Bob Hope, Will Rogers, Ruth Etting, Louise Brooks, Marilyn Miller, and Sophie Tucker, among others. The Follies were also famous for their tableaux of beautiful women, the most elaborately costumed chorines on Broadway.

Ziegfeld New AmsterdamFrom 1913 until 1931, the Follies ran annually at the New Amsterdam Theater, which also hosted the Follies’ sexier sister show, the Midnight Frolic in its rooftop garden. The theater opened in 1903 and was run by producers Klaw and Erlanger, and it still stands on the south side of 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues. Along with the Lyceum Theater, it’s the oldest theater currently on Broadway. You may know it as the theater that Disney bought and restored in the 90s, and it has been home to The Lion King, Mary Poppins, and currently Aladdin.

Ziegfeld also opened his eponymous theater on 6th Ave between 54th and 55th Street in 1927. (The current Ziegfeld Theater was built over the old one, which was demolished in 1966. It’s now a movie theater.) The Ziegfeld hosted Show Boat, which Ziegfeld also produced, and this show is widely considered to be the first modern musical.

In Such a Dance, Eddie dances in the Doozies, kind of a low-rent knock off of the Follies. The Doozies are fictional, but the production is based on the many that tried to grasp at Ziegfeld’s success. Ziegfeld was a clever promoter and knew how to put on a good show, though, so no one could compete. There’s a scene in which Eddie auditions for Ziegfeld, even; in my head, Ziegfeld is domineering and difficult to impress, which is how I portrayed him in the book.

For further reading, I highly recommend Ethan Mordden’s biography, called Ziegfeld: The Man Who Invented Show Business. I’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg here; Ziegfeld’s life was tumultuous and fascinating.


Ziegfeld and his Ziegfeld Girls

Moonshine Monday: The Mafia

moonshinemonday Welcome to Moonshine Mondays! In the lead up to the release of my Jazz Age-set romance Such a Dance on October 27, I’m rolling out some history, photos, background info and other special features relating to the book.

Sicilians in New York referred to the mafia as La Cosa Nostra: “our thing.” Here’s a quick and dirty history:

Sicilian and other Italian immigrants were members of the New York gangs that terrorized lower Manhattan around the turn of the century, including the notorious Five Points gang. The mafia, loosely organized, committed extortion and other crimes in Harlem, Little Italy, and Brooklyn until Prohibition. During the 1920s, the Mob in New York was mostly controlled by Giuseppe “Joe the Boss” Masseria, although his rule was challenged by Sicilian immigrant Salvatore Maranzano, and there was no love lost between them, and an enormous amount of violence was committed on their behalves.

mafia lucky luciano

Lucky Luciano

Masseria’s right-hand man was Charles “Lucky” Luciano, but Luciano’s friend Meyer Lansky was not much loved within the organization, given that he was a Polish Jew and not Sicilian. Still, Luciano, Lansky, and their associates like Frank Costello, Arnold Rothstein (who fixed the 1919 World Series), and Jack “Legs” Diamond expanded mob operations to include not just extortion and gambling but also bootlegging, and organized crime as we now know it was essentially born.

The mafia had a specific structure. Here’s a pretty good explanation.

In Such a Dance, Lane is a member of the fictional Giambino crime family, recently promoted to caporegime, reporting mostly to David Epstein. Epstein is very loosely based on Meyer Lansky, a insider within the ranks of the Mob, but not family. Lane is a made man, meaning he is family, related to the family’s boss via his father, which affords him some protection.

And so it is that, at the beginning of the novel, Epstein offers Lane something incredible: a club catering specifically to men seeking men.

In reality, dance halls and “resorts” for gay men had existed in New York since the late nineteenth century, particularly along the Bowery and in Greenwich Village.

In the novel, Epstein tells Lane that, by opening the Marigold Club, he’s filling a niche, since so many of these places had been raided and shut down in the last decade or two. Epstein isn’t really interested in giving homosexual men a space specifically; he’s an opportunist who sees profit potential.

Indeed, the actual mafia started opening gay clubs in the 1930s purely because, as with bootlegging, prostitution, and gambling, they saw profit in illegal businesses. (Until Stonewall, it was essentially illegal to be gay in New York City, and gay men were routinely arrested for lewd conduct.) So Epstein was just a few years ahead of his time.

The Stonewall Inn was, in fact, opened in 1967 by the mafia. I modeled the Marigold on Stonewall a little; in both instances, the mafia paid off local law enforcement to overlook all the same-sex dancing. In the case of Stonewall, one of the factors in the famous 1969 raid that sparked the riots was that the police were cracking down on mafia activity and not necessarily homosexual activity. There’s more about that here and even more here.

The mafia plays a big role in Such a Dance and had a role in the gay rights movement that shouldn’t be overlooked.

For further reading, David Wallace’s Capital of the World is a great overview of New York City in the 1920s, including a few chapters on the mafia and more information about Luciano and Lansky (as well as information about LGBT subcultures in NYC in the era).

Moonshine Monday: Prohibition

moonshinemonday Welcome to Moonshine Mondays! In the lead up to the release of my Jazz Age-set romance Such a Dance on October 27, I’m rolling out some history, photos, background info and other special features relating to the book.

“…the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all the territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.”

This is from the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, otherwise known as Prohibition. It went into effect in January of 1920, effectively heralding in the Roaring Twenties.

The reasons Prohibition came about are complicated, and I can’t really do all of them justice in a blog post, but here’s a quick summary: In the late nineteenth century, alcoholism was seen by some as a moral failing, and though alcohol has always been an integral part of American culture, organizations like the Anti-Saloon League and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union began campaigning to dry up the United States. In New York City in the 1890s, Theodore Roosevelt, as police commissioner, began to enforce the tremendously unpopular Sunday Laws, which prohibited the sale of alcohol on Sundays in an effort to clean up crime in the city. But there were other factors contributing to the movement toward Prohibition as well. In part, the movement was xenophobic, a reaction to the immigrant cultures arriving in the U.S. in the latter half of the nineteenth century, primarily cultures in which alcohol played a key part (Irish and German mostly, but Italian and Jewish as well). In part, Prohibition was also an offshoot of the women’s movement. It was common in some pockets of society for a man to go to the local saloon after work, blow half his paycheck on booze, and then go home and beat his wife or otherwise mistreat and neglect his family. Many of the women involved in the suffrage movement took up the cause of temperance as well to prevent this very thing from happening. Some advocates of the suffrage movement got involved in the temperance movement as a kind of compromise position when full suffrage seemed unlikely.

tumblr_nb1szdvBHH1trrbo0o1_500In fact, one of the reasons women were finally granted the vote is that dry politicians counted on women to vote for Prohibition.

In theory, after January 1920, alcohol was no longer available, though there were legal exceptions, among them sacramental wine and alcohol used for medicinal purposes. More to the point, though, the new law, known as the Volstead Act, did not provide for Federal enforcement of Prohibition. Instead, the Federal government was mostly reliant on local governments to enforce the new ban. Prohibition agents were hired, but most of them were poorly trained.

All eyes were on America’s biggest city, New York, as enforcement went into effect. Many of the poorly trained agents accepted bribes to look the other way as speakeasies popped up all over the city. In 1920, half the new agents had to be fired. With so much media attention focused on New York, the city was forced to divert police resources to enforcement, but many of the cops accepted bribes as well. (Hence Officer Hardy in Such a Dance, an old cop who happily accepts bribes not to raid and shut down the Times Square speakeasies.) Ultimately, Prohibition in New York City was a spectacular failure.

The unintended consequence, of course, was the rise of organized crime. Many of the Mob bosses you know from popular culture got their start as part of the gangs running rampant in lower Manhattan around the turn of the century, but trafficking alcohol turned out to be the sort of lucrative business venture that encouraged them to organize. Brooklyn’s own Al Capone made a killing (har har) in Chicago. (I want to talk about the Mob more in a future post, but for now, the relevant piece of information is that Prohibition essentially made the U.S. mafia.)

Drinking actually increased across the country during Prohibition, with speakeasies quickly replacing saloons as nightly gathering spots. Arrests for Volstead Act violations tied up the courts and jails, preventing them from dealing with larger crimes. Mob-related activity and other crime went up in the era. Prohibition was a failure, and an increasingly unpopular one at that. It was repealed in 1933 by the 21st Amendment.

For further reading, I recommend Daniel Okrent’s excellent book on Prohibition, Last Call.

Moonshine Monday: The Hotel Astor

moonshinemondayWelcome to Moonshine Mondays! In the lead up to the release of my Jazz Age-set romance Such a Dance on October 27, I’m rolling out some history, photos, background info and other special features relating to the book.

Although Such a Dance is populated by a number of fictional locations—Lane’s club, the Marigold; the James Theater where the Eddie dances—I used a number of real locations, too. One of the most notable is the Hotel Astor, which was once a luxury hotel in Times Square, on the block of Broadway between 44th and 45th Streets.

Vintage postcard of the Hotel Astor

Vintage postcard of the Hotel Astor

In the novel, the hotel’s proximity to Lane’s speakeasy on 46th Street is important, but I included the hotel in the book specifically because of the Astor’s notorious hotel bar. Starting in the 1910s, it became a meeting place for homosexual men. It wasn’t subtle, either; an entire section of the bar was set aside for gay men, and they were welcomed as long as they were discreet (for the time). It was part of the thriving gay culture in Times Square in the era, a logical evolution perhaps from the music halls and dive bars for men seeking men that cropped up in the Lower East Side and Greenwich Village in the late 19th Century—gay culture essentially followed the Theater District uptown. By the 1920s, both gay culture and theater are thriving in Times Square, and though the Marigold is fictional, clubs like it existed at the time. (More on this in a future post, but for now I’ll say that a straight line can be drawn from the Bowery music halls of the 1890s to Stonewall, with some points along the way you might not expect.)

Anyway, with this history in mind, I set a pivotal scene in the book at the Astor. For more, here are some exterior photos. And here are more photos, mostly interiors.

The hotel was torn down in the late 60s and today, the block is dominated by a monolithic office tower that is home to MTV studios and the Minskoff Theater (currently home of The Lion King). (Wikipedia.) Next time you’re in NYC and walking through Times Square, imagine a previous era when this block was dominated by one of the most luxurious hotels in the city, and think about who might have been meeting each other at the hotel bar.

Moonshine Monday: NYC Then and Now

moonshinemondayWelcome to Moonshine Mondays! In the lead up to the release of my Jazz Age-set romance Such a Dance on October 27, I’m going to start rolling out some history, photos, background info and other special features relating to the book.

New York has changed quite a bit in the 90 years that have passed since the book takes place. Such a Dance takes place almost entirely within a few blocks of Times Square. We’ll get into some of the specific locations from the book in the coming weeks, but first, I thought I’d set the scene by sharing some photos showing how NYC used to be.

Consider this: in 1927, there was no Empire State Building. There was no Rockefeller Center, no Chrysler Building, no Lincoln Center. There were still elevated trains running down major arteries in Manhattan and whole subway lines that hadn’t been built yet. It’s Prohibition, but though it was illegal to sell “intoxicating beverages,” liquor flowed freely in speakeasies all over the city. It was a seminal year for Broadway as well, with more shows opening that year than any year before or since. Vaudeville was on its way out and Broadway as we know it today, with shows like Showboat opening that year, was taking shape.


Here are some links to posts with photos of Jazz Age New York:

Spotlight on Broadway: The Great White Way—Some fantastic photos of old Times Square

Then vs. Now: 1920s New York—Photos showing NYC in the 1920s and now

Stock footage showing NYC in 1927

I also have a Pinterest board showing NYC in the 1920s.

Tune in next Monday for more!

Cover: Ten Days in August

The cover hit the Internet this past weekend, so I can now show it off to you all. Here’s the cover for my March 2016 historical romance, Ten Days in August

Ten Days In August

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…

Add it on Goodreads!

Pre-Order Info:

Barnes & Noble


The winner of the Rafflecopter giveaway was Kelly J! Let’s trot out the 2009 World Champion New York Yankees to celebrate!

The World Series Champion 2009 Yankees

Thanks so much for playing, guys! The response to this contest was way more than what I was expecting!

If you did not win, don’t despair! As of right now (6:30pm Sunday) you can still get The Windup (Rainbow League #1) for 99¢ at the Dreamspinner site for a few more hours! So get yours!

The Long Slide Home Blog Tour

Did you miss any of these stops? Want a little more background on the book? Here’s the tour:


Diverse Reader (character interview with Nate and Carlos)
The Blogger Girls (why I can’t stop writing about baseball)
Prism Book Alliance (the tonal shift this book took from the rest of the series)
The Novel Approach (some fun baseball anecdotes)
Joyfully Jay (series planning)

The blog tour Rafflecopter is still up until Sunday, and you can enter it here.

And the book is available at most fine retailers, including:
Barnes & Noble
All Romance eBooks

The Long Slide Home is NOW AVAILABLE!

The Long Slide HomeThe third Rainbow League book, The Long Slide Home is now available just about everywhere!

The Rainbow League: Book Three

Nate and Carlos have been the best of friends since their childhood playing baseball together in the Bronx. For the past few years, Nate’s been in love with Carlos, though he’s never acted on it and Carlos has never given any indication that he returns Nate’s feelings. Nate has finally given up, determined to move on and find someone else, especially now that Carlos has shacked up with his boyfriend, Aiden.

Carlos doesn’t understand why Nate has suddenly gotten weird, acting cold and distant at team practice for the Rainbow League. But if that’s how things are going to be, Carlos is done trying to figure Nate out. But then Aiden reveals he has a violent side, and Carlos needs his best friend’s support. On top of that, he starts to realize his feelings for Nate might not be limited to friendship. But in the aftermath of his relationship with Aiden, and with Nate having problems of his own, the timing is all wrong to make a real relationship work. As emotions run high, both have a hard time figuring out what is real and what is just convenient.

Some places you can find the book:
Barnes & Noble
All Romance eBooks

The contest is also still open for one more week!

Enter to Win All Three Rainbow League Books!

To one winner, I’m giving away the set of all three Rainbow League books plus a $25 gift card or credit to a book store (winner’s choice of store). I’m calling it the Season Finale giveaway! There are a bunch of ways to enter. The contest closes on 8/16 and I’ll post the winner on 8/17.

Book 3: The Long Slide Home comes out on Friday.

a Rafflecopter giveaway