I am honored to have Renee Rosen, author of the new novel Dollface on my blog today. Renee is here to share her experience researching her book.
The Roaring Twenties seem to be everywhere these days—BOARDWALK EMPIRE, the remake of THE GREAT GATSBY, Ken Burns’ documentary, PROHIBITION, speakeasy parties and on and on it goes. And now that my novel DOLLFACE is out, people assume that I was inspired by our culture’s current fascination with this era, but unfortunately, I can’t write that fast! I actually spent the past ten years researching the 1920s.
For as far back as I can remember I’ve always been enamored of the Roaring Twenties– the fashions, the slang, and of course the real live gangsters who walked the streets of Chicago. Because I live in Chicago where DOLLFACE takes place, I was able to visit key landmarks that appear in the novel. I went to the sight of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, I’ve visited Holy Name Cathedral and saw the bullet hole left in the cornerstone from a gangland slaying. I even visited the last standing meatpacking houses from the Union Stock Yard days and watched them slaughter lambs—it was horrible but necessary and I don’t recommend it. I also sat in Capone’s booth at The Green Mill. To be able to “see it”, “touch it”, “feel it” helped me give the book some authenticity that I couldn’t get from photographs or history books.
I was also fortunate enough to meet some folks who were connected to the prohibition-era gangsters. One meeting that vividly sticks out in my mind was the day I had lunch with Al Capone’s great niece. She told me stories about her relatives, told me what it was like growing up as a member of the Capone clan and then she proceeded to tell me that she sells Tupperware—I mean, how great is that!
I also had an interesting encounter with “Uncle Lou”. I was told I had to meet with Uncle Lou because his father owned a meatpacking plant next to one of Capone’s breweries and that he’d have lots of stories for me. The only problem was that when I came face to face with Uncle Lou and asked him about Capone, he developed a case of “Chicago Amnesia” and said, “You must be mistaken. I don’t know what you’re talking about.” So here were are some 80 plus years later and “Omerta”, the code of silence is still being observed.
Thankfully there were others who were willing to talk and they told me stories about their fathers who were bookies for Capone or a distant relative who was a member of Detroit’s Purple Gang. By meeting with this folks, I was able to gather information that I would never have been able to find in books or online. I also spent a lot of time at the libraries going over microfilm of actual newspaper clippings from the 1920s and read about the infamous events that made headline news.
When all was said and done, doing this research made me even more in love with this era and now I’m just thrilled that everyone else is rediscovering this fascinating period in our country’s history.
Thank you again Renee for sharing your journey, I’m so in love with the 1920s!! I’m almost finished reading Dollface, and I’ll have a review to share here this week.
Please come back because in addition to a review…I’ve got a copy of Dollface to giveaway!!