First, I want to express my appreciation to Joyce, Bente (who is in all of my Miranda books!), Annette, Paula and all my friends at Working Stiffs for letting me hang out! You guys rock, and I consider myself lucky to get to spend some time with you! :)
I’m actually just popping in between different weeks of a book tour ... the CITY OF SECRETS book tour, as a matter of fact. CITY OF SECRETS is the second Miranda Corbie book (following CITY OF DRAGONS, which I’m thrilled to say won a Macavity Award at Bouchercon last month!) We’re continuing to celebrate while traveling, and next week I’ll be in various cool places from Scottsdale to Thousand Oaks, California.
So, the title of my newest book begs the question: what kind of secrets? San Francisco secrets? Secrets about Miranda Corbie, the broken idealist and hardboiled PI of the series? Or secrets about 1940 and the American past that we didn’t learn in high school history books ...
The answer is all of the above.
Miranda Corbie is working the opening day of the second San Francisco World’s Fair, held on beautiful Treasure Island in the middle of the Bay. Stage hands find her in front of Sally Rand’s Nude Ranch, where she works security, protecting the girls behind the glass wall from everything other than eyes ... to use those, you pay a quarter. Use anything else and you have to deal with Miranda.
Shaking in shock and horror, the stage hands from Artists and Models—another peep show near Sally’s, in which young women posed “tastefully” for people with cameras or sketch pads, in pseudo-artist model style—inform Miranda that the opening act, a young blonde named Pandora Blake, seems to be ... dead. Miranda finds the young girl with a long, deep stab wound, the kind made by an ice pick. Blood trickles slowly down her white skin. And on her stomach, written in blood, is a word: an anti-Semitic epithet.
Miranda is plunged into a secret San Francisco that she—and many people today—didn’t know existed. A San Francisco in which an organization of domestic terrorists and racists can meet in a bar off Union Square, express their sympathies for Hitler and hatred for Roosevelt and plot violence against the government.
The fact is, San Francisco and the West Coast were home to many such groups in the 30s and early 40s.
Long before “right-wing militia” became a term in the 70s and 80s—long before Timothy McVeigh was born—there were people who believed the United States was becoming degenerate, too big, too encompassing, and too tolerant. That the government was far too liberal. That the dictatorships and totalitarian regimes were on the right track, and that Adolf Hitler was a man to admire.
And they were willing to back up their beliefs with violence.
These groups weren’t Nazis. They considered themselves patriotic Americans, with names like Defenders of the Christian Faith or The Musketeers ... which is the group Miranda investigates.
And so she does, uncovering more secrets. Secrets about eugenics, and the dangers of California’s sterilization laws ... which in turn inspired Hitler. Secrets about the bucolic and beautiful Napa Valley, and the sleep little town of Calistoga, where claims of rejuvenation and health were made for the mud baths and spa treatments at Nance’s Sanitarium. And even secrets about herself, as echoes of the past reverberate unexpectedly through her investigation of two murders.
The background is a world at war. Belgium falls and France is falling. And through it all, Miranda’s at war herself, chasing shadows, leafing through the forgotten belongings of a dead girl, playing a mean game of roulette, and ultimately facing her darkest decision while on the track of a vicious, anti-Semitic killer.
Real people make appearances in CITY OF SECRETS ... Sally Rand has a cameo in chapter one, and threatened to walk away with the entire book. The second real person is a surprise (no spoilers here). The settings are real—from Nance’s to the Club Moderne to a nightmarish, castle-like mansion in the Napa Valley.
It’s a frightening, dark and thrilling noir, and the events of CITY OF SECRETS will reverberate through future books. What isn’t a secret is how much I love to write this series, and how I hope to continue writing Miranda forever.
So, Working Stiffs ... what I want to know is this: have you uncovered any secrets you want to share? Or do you have any questions you want to ask? Let’s play a blog version of truth or dare, and let ‘er rip! :)