WINNERS! WINNERS! The winners from last week’s blog with Sophie Jordan are: Julie S. and Kristen Schuster! Email me at: christie (at) christie-craig.com with your choice of print or e-book and delivery particulars. Congratulations!
Today, I have a special treat for you. Linda Bennett Pennell is here to tell us about her book, Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel, which is a unique blend of intrigue and gangsters, told through two time periods. It’s worth checking out, and if you stick around and comment, you may be lucky enough to win one of two Amazon e-book copies I’m giving away. Welcome, Linda!
What is fact and what is fiction in Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel?
The Blanche Hotel has stood on Marion Street in downtown Lake City, FL since 1902. It is home to the state’s first elevator. Since Lake City, Florida’s Gateway City, is at the junctions of major north/south and east/west highways, people traveling to points farther south have made Lake City their overnight stop since Florida became a travel destination at the turn of the last century. Al Capone stayed overnight at the Blanche at least once in transit from Chicago to his Miami property. While all other events and characters in the novel are fictional, they are evocative of the era in which the historical part of the novel is set and of the darker side of north Florida’s history.
In chapter 1, a body goes down a sinkhole. Does the sinkhole really exist?
Yes, as a matter the Santa Fe River really does disappear underground at O’Leno State Park. It resurfaces several miles farther southwest and joins another river on its way to the Gulf. Several years ago, a diver tried to follow the river’s underground path, but he disappeared and his body never resurfaced. This was the germ that sparked chapter 1. Here is a link to pictures of the park and river: http://seenorthflorida.com/destinations/oleno.php
Wow, interesting! What inspired you to write Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel?
When my parents and I moved to Lake City, FL during my high school years, we stayed at the Blanche for several nights. I have always been interested in its history and decided it was the perfect setting for exploring topics of interest to me. Writing the novel allowed me to explore issues of racism, love vs economics during the Great Depression, friendship, and personal vs professional balance for modern women. The 1930’s main character is very loosely based on my mother and mother-in-law who were young women during the Depression. The modern day main character is like so many young career women of my acquaintance. Perhaps having it all is more difficult than we were led to believe.
OK, last question, what is something that people would be surprised to know about you?
Well, most people are surprised to know that I have had close personal relationships with real live gangsters. Sadly, they are youth who have become involved with street gangs, primarily Latin Kings and Crips. Being a public school administrator isn’t just about teaching the three R’s and meting out discipline. It is also about trying to save kids from foolish, dangerous choices and from people who want to use them for evil.
Wow, I never would’ve guessed! And, your book sounds so interesting, too! Can you tell us more about it and how to find it?
Lake City, Florida, June, 1930: Al Capone checks in for an unusually
long stay at the Blanche Hotel, a nice enough joint for an insignificant
little whistle stop. The following night, young Jack Blevins witnesses a
body being dumped heralding the summer of violence to come. One-by-one,
people controlling county vice activities swing from KKK ropes. No
moonshine distributor, gaming operator, or brothel madam, black or
white, is safe from the Klan’s self-righteous vigilantism. Jack’s older
sister Meg, a waitress at the Blanche, and her fiancé, a sheriff’s
deputy, discover reasons to believe the lynchings are cover for a much
larger ambition than simply ridding the county of vice. Someone,
possibly backed by Capone, has secret plans for filling the voids
created by the killings. But as the body count grows and crosses burn,
they come to realize this knowledge may get all of them killed.
Gainesville, Florida, August, 2011: Liz Reams, an up and coming young
academic specializing in the history of American crime, impulsively
moves across the continent to follow a man who convinces her of his
devotion yet refuses to say the three simple words “I love you”. Despite
the entreaties of friends and family, she is attracted to edginess and a
certain type of glamour in her men, both living and historical. Her
personal life is an emotional roller coaster, but her career options
suddenly blossom beyond all expectation, creating a very different type
of stress. To deal with it all, Liz loses herself in her professional
passion, original research into the life and times of her favorite bad
boy, Al Capone. What she discovers about 1930’s summer of violence,
and herself in the process, leaves her reeling at first and then changed
Available now at Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/lkbsjan
Perfect! Thanks for being here, Linda! Now, anyone else have any surprising tidbits about themselves? How about any gangster stories? Two lucky commenters will win a copy of Linda’s book, check back next week to see if you’ve won. Good luck!