Five Things Renee Rosen Didn’t Know She Needed To Know Before Writing DOLLFACE

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Today author guest Renee Rosen tells us about her learning curve while writing DOLLFACE, which takes place in Chicago during the 1920s.

DollfaceVera Abramowitz is determined to leave her gritty childhood behind and live a more exciting life. Bobbing her hair and showing her knees, the lipsticked beauty dazzles, doing the Charleston in nightclubs and earning the nickname “Dollface.” When Vera captures the attention of two high rollers — a handsome nightclub owner and a sexy gambler — she thinks her biggest problem is choosing between them, until the truth comes out. Her two lovers are really mobsters from rival gangs during Chicago’s infamous Beer Wars, a battle Al Capone refuses to lose. Men from both gangs fall around her, and Vera’s own life is on the line as she becomes entangled in bootlegging and murder. Meanwhile, Chicago hurtles towards one of the most infamous days in its history, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

 

Hi Stephanie! Thanks so much for including me on your blog. I think one of the greatest challenges in writing historical fiction is getting the details right. You can get tripped up on the smallest things, like having a character in the 20s unzip a dress when zippers weren’t even invented yet. All it takes is one tiny anachronism to take the reader out of the story. So here goes with five things I didn’t know I needed to know before I wrote DOLLFACE.

 

(Click on the question to reveal the answer.)

 

[expand title=”1. Why Did Al Capone hang out at the Green Mill on the North side of town when he was a South Sider?”] Aside from Al being a jazz buff, one of his top henchmen, Machine Gun Jack McGurn became part owner of the club and hence, it became one of Capone’s hangouts. The Green Mill is still open and to this day you can go and sit in Capone’s booth.[/expand]

 

Portrait Of Al 'Scarface' Capone

 

A woman pours alcohol from a cane during Prohibition 1922

A woman pours alcohol from a cane during Prohibition 1922

 

[expand title=”2. Were there female bootleggers?”] Yes! Perhaps the best known female bootlegger was Mrs. Willie Carter Sharpe who outran the police countless times. I also recently learned of a group of female bootleggers in Butte, Montana. So yes, even though it wasn’t common, women were out there hauling hooch.[/expand]

 

 

 

[expand title=”3. Who was the Black Hand Group and how did they operate?”] The Black Hand Group was an extortionist group considered to be the precursor of the mafia. They would target wealthy businessmen and threaten bodily harm to them and their families unless they paid up. This message was typically delivered by way of a letter signed with a black handprint and a dagger or noose.[/expand]

 

[expand title=”4. What kinds of jobs were available to young women starting out on their own in 1924 and what would have been their salary?”]Their options were limited. The majority of them became schoolteachers or else performed some sort of clerical duties, such as becoming typewriters, like Vera. At best they earned about $20 a week.[/expand]
Woman at typewriter ca 1922

Woman at typewriter ca 1922

 

Union Stock Yards in Chicago

Union Stock Yards in Chicago

 

 

[expand title=”5. How did Bubbly Creek get its name?”] The southern part of the Chicago River was nicknamed Bubbly Creek because all the slaughterhouses dumped their animal carcasses and other waste in the river. All the decomposing animal parts generated methane and hydrogen sulfide gas and literally cause the river to burp and bubble up continuously.[/expand]

 

Rene-RosenA confirmed history and book nerd, Renée loves all things old, all things Chicago and all things written. A graduate of American University in D.C., Renée has contributed to many magazines and newspapers, including Chicago Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, Complete Woman, DAME, Publisher’s Weekly and several other now sadly defunct publications. She is the author of EVERY CROOKED POT. She lives in Chicago where she is currently working on a new novel WHAT THE LADY WANTS coming from Penguin/NAL November 4, 2014.

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