Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel
by Linda Bennett Pennell
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 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 forever.
August 15, 2011
Liz Reams glanced at the caller ID and grimaced. She didn’t have time for this, but guilt wouldn’t let her put the conversation off any longer. Sighing, she pressed the talk button and prepared to listen with forbearance and humility.
“Hello, Roberta. I’m so glad to hear your voice. I was beginning to think we were going to play phone tag forever.” Internally, Liz squirmed. Her conscience yelled, liar, you returned calls when you figured you’d get her voicemail.
Roberta’s reply made Liz cringe. While she endured the diatribe pouring through her cell phone, Liz eyed her purse, book bag, and laptop case huddled together on the sofa. She couldn’t afford to be late today of all days. Her eyes narrowed as her gaze paused on her laptop. She had paid more than a month’s rent for the thing, but as much as she loved its power and speed, it was also a constant reminder of her dereliction. It only compounded her guilt that everything Roberta said was true.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
I have been in love with the past for as long as I can remember. Anything with a history, whether shabby or majestic, recent or ancient, instantly draws me in. I suppose it comes from being part of a large extended family that spanned several generations. Long summer afternoons on my grandmother’s porch or winter evenings gathered around her fireplace were filled with stories both entertaining and poignant. Of course being set in the South, those stories were also peopled by some very interesting characters, some of whom have found their way into my work.
As for my venture in writing, it has allowed me to reinvent myself. We humans are truly multifaceted creatures, but unfortunately we tend to sort and categorize each other into neat, easily understood packages that rarely reveal the whole person. Perhaps you, too, want to step out of the box in which you find yourself. I encourage you to look at the possibilities and imagine. Be filled with childlike wonder in your mental wanderings. Envision what might be, not simply what is. Let us never forget, all good fiction begins when someone says to herself or himself, “Let’s pretend.”
I reside in the Houston area with one sweet husband, one German Shorthaired Pointer who thinks she’s a little girl, and one striped yellow cat who knows she’s queen of the house.
Favorite quote regarding my professional passion: “History is filled with the sound of silken slippers going downstairs and wooden shoes coming up.” Voltaire
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