“Ark City Confidential” – The Challenges of Historical Fiction

You currently know how to make a call and text and surf the internet on your smart phone; where to get a quick bite to eat; how to get cash expediently. You have myriad options for entertainment whether it is television through any source, the movies, or even a video arcade. Your grocery stores are Super stores which means you can buy whatever you need just about twenty-four hours a day.

If you are writing contemporary fiction, you already know what you need to know. However, if you try to write any kind of historical fiction, you may fall into some traps.

Now, by “historical fiction” I am basically referencing anything before this time, now. The Reagan administration from 1980-1988 could be considered as historical as the French Revolution or the Crusades. We truly have no idea how life was lived in those times, the basics of everyday life. The question arises: What do we need to know and what do we need to include in our stories?

I have always felt that the more detail you provide, the more of a trap you might fall into. There is the danger of becoming so enamored of your description that you take away from the story. You might also be providing the reader with the opportunity for the classic response “That’s not how it was!”

More importantly is the manner of writing given the fact you have a 20th century mindset. A couple of flappers from the 20’s are not “besties” and the court jester to the English king during the War of the Roses was not “ROFL”. While those may be obvious examples, there are the subtle nuances that make you who you are in today’s world that have to be eliminated when writing historical fiction.

While it was a challenge, “Ark City Confidential” takes place in a time period (1930’s Depression-era America) that had always been a source of fascination for me, even while growing up. The opportunity to learn more about the state that has been my home for over 20 years was a further reward. It is my hope that I have captured the era and the essence in service to an exciting crime story.

“Ark City Confidential” has its worldwide release one week from today, January 11, 2017. It will be available in paperback and on Kindle through The Wild Rose Press and Amazon.

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“Ark City Confidential” – Countdown to release date

Two weeks.

When I think back to starting this book in 2014…Wait, no, how about all the years my wife’s uncle told me stories about the underground tunnels and “Little Chicago” and now I’m just two weeks away from the release of the book.

A former publisher has removed my previous titles making it appear as though I am a “debut author” which I am not. But it feels new. The good folks at The Wild Rose Press have treated me as a professional worthy of consideration and respect. It is my hope that sales will be sufficient enough to warrant publication of the next book in the series.

Jumping ahead of myself? Not really. It is incumbent upon an author to keep writing. All this marketing and networking is important for the business ventures backing you. But you HAVE TO KEEP WRITING.

For now, I will revel in these last two weeks before the curtain is officially drawn back and hope to scrounge up some readings and signings and get myself out there among the readers and many friends and family who support me.

Just another two weeks.

“Ark City Confidential” – Excerpt

“I never heard the shell that exploded some fifty yards behind me, never felt a part of my skull chipped away. I could only see a mass of barbed wire coming straight for my face as I fell and wondered if those tiny pieces of metal actually could completely pluck out my eye. A soldier who witnessed the event told me I was like a wild beast caught in a trap, twisting and gyrating so fervently I actually caused more pieces of my face to be ripped away from the bone. Strange thing was I was trying to get away. Maybe I was always trying to get away. Fortunately for him, George McAllister never knew the tortures of the damned. If he was lucky, he never would. I hoped it wouldn’t take something tragic for him to learn.

I remember when Charlie Noble got himself an Indian and had the honor of being Arkansas City’s first motorcycle cop. They offered me a chance to ride one but I declined. I preferred walking my beat, which is probably why my feet were always bothering me. I liked being around the people I was protecting and keep a watchful eye over them. It was important to look at them and see their faces, look into their eyes, look into their hearts. They thought they could see into mine but they were usually wrong. Most of them were respectful when they looked at me, trying to see beyond the scars and remember the boy that grew up in their midst. I was grateful for that. It made it easier for me because I didn’t always remember as well.”

Worldwide release date, January 11, 2017 at The Wild Rose Press and Amazon.

“Ark City Confidential” – What’s in a name?

Heather Devore

When I heard her name, I thought “Wow! That’s a great name for a femme fatale!” I thought of Hammett and Chandler and Ellroy’s “L.A. Confidential.” THAT was a name. We worked at the same company but in different departments. I hadn’t even considered a historical crime fiction set in Prohibition-era Kansas. I just knew her name was special.

So when I approached her in the break room, I must have scared the heck out of her when I said, “I’d like to use your name in a book sometime as a femme fatale.” She looked at me kind of funny (the way my wife often does), and said “Sure. Just make me hot and sexy.”

Well, Time is a funny creature and does strange things because it can. A new department was created and we were both in it. Then, we were on the same team. And, well, then I started writing “Ark City Confidential” and I told her she was in it AND she was hot and sexy.

She is my co-worker. She is my friend. And in some small fashion she has been made famous (dare I say, infamous) as the femme fatale, the gangster’s moll, the key to the whole sordid mess. It’s been an absolute thrill to tell her about the writing, the editing, the pitch to the publisher, the release date.

I’m just the writer. And “Heather Devore” is a character in my novel. But there is a real person who has enjoyed this journey as much as myself.

“Ark City Confidential” has its worldwide release on January 11, 2017 through The Wild Rose Press and Amazon.

“Ark City Confidential” – Excerpt

“It was supposed to be my day off but George McAllister had been sick. Chances are he was hung-over. Rogelio Lopez wasn’t the only person in town to go a little crazy on a Friday night after getting paid. Chief Taylor preferred to have a minimum number of men on patrol to prevent any lapse where trouble might spring up so we could be prepared. Seems he always called on me to fill in seeing how I didn’t mind. It was something to do to pass the empty hours. George often acted like a young version of me, except without the war experience. Too bored to work on a farm all his life and wanting to do something a little more exciting. He had built up his body so he didn’t look like a pipsqueak, but he had no concept of death, certainly not the way I witnessed it in the trenches. It was dark and muddy, devoid of dignity, and stank of decay. He probably never thought about getting killed trying to stop a robber. Worse than that would be getting into the middle of a fight between a couple where the husband was madder than a hornet. He didn’t think this wasn’t a charmed life, and he’d have to work every day just to take another breath.”

Worldwide release date: January 11, 2017.

Currently available for pre-order at The Wild Rose Press and Amazon.

“Ark City Confidential” – The Back Story

For years, my wife’s uncle had told me stories about Arkansas City, KS (colloquially referred to as Ark City by locals and other Kansans). Three primary aspects were the inspiration for “Ark City Confidential”, my Prohibition-era crime novel being released by The Wild Rose Press on January 11, 2017.

First, there were the stories of underground tunnels. These are not unique to small towns whether they are in the Great Plains (due to protection from the weather or bandit hideouts) or the Deep South (as elements of the Underground Railroad). What is interesting is that many people knew about these tunnels but didn’t know all that much about what EXACTLY they were used for.

Unbeknownst to me, the town had been referred to as “Little Chicago.” There may have been several towns in Kansas Missouri, or Arkansas with similar epithets due to the anonymity that could be had by gangsters hiding out in such small towns. However, I can’t really imagine a “swell” from the big city being completely invisible in an atmosphere of church-going hard-working folks. At the very least, the Feds wouldn’t be able to find them.

Finally, there was an expression that was used more than once — The Grandfather on the Hill. It implied “the power behind the power”, an unknown and unseen individual (or small group) that ran everything, including the legitimate enterprises as well as the government and law enforcement. This notion is more ominous than tales of Capone killing former associates with a baseball bat. He was a character you could identify; something that could never be named created a pervasive sense of fear.

These three primary elements, told to me by my wife’s uncle over a period of years, formed the basis of a story that goes beyond the standard historical fiction formula. This tale has pieces of what really happened, at least as filtered through my imagination.

“Ark City Confidential” – The Blurb

Baron Witherspoon, a disfigured WWI vet, now a beat cop in a small Kansas burg, is on a collision course with Jake Hickey, a volatile Chicago gangster. While Baron wants merely to provide residents with a safe place to live and escape the memory of the horrors of war, Jake is looking to recapture the glory of Prohibition. Forced to hide out in Arkansas City, Baron’s town, Jake’s impatient nature drives him to put together his own gang. The local crime outfit is wary of Jake’s dealings and lack of cooperation. Baron has his own suspicions but can’t prove anything. A mutual acquaintance from the past, a dead war hero, holds a secret that raises the stakes even higher. Baron has too much to lose, but the town’s future is in the balance.

Worldwide release date for “Ark City Confidential” will be on January 11, 2017 through The Wild Rose Press and Amazon.

“Ark City Confidential” – The Cover Reveal

My Prohibition-era crime novel Ark City Confidential, will have its world-wide release on January 11, 2017 through The Wild Rose Press. In the meantime, please enjoy the stunning cover.

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Ark City, KS, known as “Little Chicago”, has secrets buried as deep as its underground tunnels. But police officer Baron Witherspoon has secrets of his own.

You CAN judge a book by its cover

Walk into a bookstore and you will more than likely encounter a table or a display right in front. Either the New Releases or the Staff Picks. All those brand new books sitting upright, staring at you like hungry puppies waiting for you to take them home.

Sure, you’ll grab one that looks interesting, flip over to the back and read the synopsis, the blurbs, the author’s bio. You may even open up to Page One and start reading the notorious First Line. Then you’ll go back to where you started.

The cover.

It attracts us because we SEE it before we read it. There’s a world being presented in a snapshot. The world created by the author. It may be based on a real place or it might be a fantasy kingdom. That cover has got to let you know something about that world.

My new novel, Ark City Confidential, a Prohibition-era crime story, is being released by The Wild Rose Press on January 11, 2017. It tells of a disfigured World War I vet working as a beat cop in Arkansas City, KS and encountering a dangerous man who just might be a Chicago gangster hiding out in the town. It is filled with period details of a time long gone but not long forgotten.

So that you may experience the world I have created, I will be revealing the cover on Wednesday, November 16, 2016. Your comments and feedback will be graciously appreciated.

It’s Actually Happening

As many writers are aware, there are many steps and check marks along the way of writing the novel. There is the initial idea, much like a spiritual epiphany. Then the first draft, kind of like escaping from Egypt, followed by the rewrites, which feels like the forty years of wandering in the dessert. The search for an agent, editor, or publisher seems like climbing Mt. Sinai. The contract and the publishing process is almost the same feeling as Moses being given the Ten Commandments. And then…

Yes, a lot of Old Testament biblical analogies. The joys, and struggles and pain of the entire writing process is very much like a religious experience. Writers know this; the rest of you may not. So, when you receive an email whose subject line is WORLDWIDE RELEASE DATE NOTICE, it feels like you’ve reached the Promised Land.

I am very pleased to announce that my Prohibition-era crime fiction, “Ark City Confidential” will be released through The Wild Rose Press on January 11, 2017. An intricate story of gangsters in small town Arkansas City, KS in 1934, known to many as The Year of the Gangster, this richly detailed tale of a disfigured WWI veteran turned cop locking horns with a sly Chicago thug hiding out will remind readers of Bonnie and Clyde and several other Depression-era tales.

There will be a cover reveal and book signings to line up and other types of marketing efforts. Sure, the whole purpose is to sell the book. But for one moment, I stop and reflect on all the various stops along the way. It’s been an exciting journey and it seems like it’s only just begun.

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