Now to the business at hand: my launch post! (I'm excited. Did I mention that?)
One of the most evocative scenes in American fiction takes place in a living room in a Long Island mansion and features two girls, Daisy and Jordan, long-limbed and lounging, dressed in white. The scene is in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s THE GREAT GATSBY, set in 1925, the year of its publication. Although not historical fiction in the strictest sense, it is fine fiction in the best sense – and it brings to life the Roaring Twenties in America. Great historical fiction brings the past to life. I can't wait for the movie version due out this summer.
I couldn’t be happier that the 20s are experiencing, forgive the pun, a renaissance. Anna Godberson has released the BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS series, and Jillian Larkin has crafted THE FLAPPERS series; Libba Bray has launched THE DIVINERS.
I'm thrilled to have SIRENS join the mix.
When I did my research I was all prepared for flappers and bootleggers, for gangsters (Al Capone) and gorgeous skimpy clothes (Coco Chanel.) Women got the vote, and writers had the Round Table. The 1920s in America was a wild and crazy time of financial boom and liberated behavior, a period when a fluid and mobile society, combined with the freedom afforded by the automobile and the new working middle class, allowed teens to flee from their parents’ Victorian restrictions. Advertising - the "Mad Men" era - was born, in fact, in the '20s.
Yes, everybody was on board with dancing and drinking (albeit not legally) and public necking. The 1920s in America were Party Time Central.
But the 1920s was also a time of quiet civil unrest and spiritual exploration. The Ku Klux Klan experienced a rebirth, with open marches and anti-black, anti-immigrant posturing. Immigrants of Italian, Irish, and Jewish extraction were pitted against one another and against society in general. A bomb went off on Wall Street in September 1920, targeting the rich capitalists of the stock exchange but killing clerks, runners and stenographers; it was said to be the work of radical Bolshevists, although no clear culprit was ever found.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle engaged in a long-running verbal war with his friend Harry Houdini over the question of spiritualism. Houdini was a pragmatist; he knew magic to be a performance. Doyle believed in spirits and the afterlife, and participated in a movement that experienced a resurgence in the 20s.
The parallels between today and the 1920s-1930s are all too evident: the prosperity of the Roaring Twenties echoed in the 1990s boom; the market crash of 1929 and 1930s depression echoed in the 2000s bust. Post-war trauma today found expression first after World War 1; we fear global pandemic today, but the deadly flu pandemic of 1918 killed millions.
Today we recognize the parallels of our own lives with the past, and maybe make sense of the present. I hope that I added to the "making sense" part of it with SIRENS.
Here's the full trailer for SIRENS, thanks to my talented son Kevin: