Saturday, August 29, 2015

Lauri Robinson: The Roaring Twenties

When my editor gave me the go-ahead to write a mini-series set during the roaring twenties, I was elated. That era implemented so many changes—technology advancements in transportation, radio, and movies; cultural changes with more people living in cities than on farms; and social changes, especially for women. And, yes, Prohibition. The Volstead Act instituted a time where most every American broke the law, and paved a way for the outlaws of the Wild West to become highly motivated and well-organized associations of gangs and mobsters.

But not all who ‘dabbled’ in the bootlegging business were hard-core criminals.

I chose to set my stories in my home state of Minnesota because of the local history. The growing season here is short, and in the late 1800’s the University of Minnesota had created a corn derivative that did extremely well in the area. They named it Minnesota 13 and during World War l, farmers bought up surrounding properties as the demand for corn grew. However, once the war ended, so did the demand. Searching for ways to feed their families, many of those hardworking farmers discovered Minnesota 13—the corn—created a smooth whiskey that soon took on the same name. It could be brewed in barns, sheds, basements, and in many cases, the kitchen. Minnesota 13—the whiskey—became so popular that during prohibition it was shipped around the world much like the corn had years before. I used that bit of information to create the Nightingale family, consisting of four daughters, and their powerful father, Roger Nightingale, who had amassed wealth bootlegging Minnesota 13 whiskey.

A bit more local history I chose to focus on was about the gangs and mobsters out of Chicago who had summer homes and hide outs in Minnesota. Researching for these books was as fun as writing them. A friend and I took a field trip to the White Bear Lake area. The curator of the historical society there had maps, pictures, newspaper articles, and an abundance of other information she readily shared, confirming that was the perfect place for Nightingale’s Resort.

My husband and I visited an old car museum where the owner pulled aside the ropes and let me climb in cars of the era to substantiate just how small they were back then, and we took a weekend trip to a resort on the North Shore that claimed Al Capone had hid out in a fish house on Lake Superior an entire winter. My favorite part of research for these books was the exhibit put on by the Minnesota Historical Society. Their feature included a Bootlegger’s Ball. Dressed as flappers and gangsters, several family members joined me in a night of fun and learning. There were reconstructed Speakeasies, cocktails that had been designed during the Twenties to disguise the taste of homebrew alcohol, and a Charleston dance off among the many exhibits. 

Of course you can’t have bootleggers without Prohibition Agents, and I read numerous books and websites concerning the increase in government to combat the somewhat ‘racy’ environment and conflicts brought on by the Volstead Act—which was named after the Minnesota Congressman Andrew Volstead who was ousted shortly after the act was implemented.

All in all, I had a tremendous amount of fun researching and writing The Daughter’s of the Roaring Twenties stories, which include, The Runaway Daughter, The Bootlegger’sDaughter, The Rebel Daughter, and The Forgotten Daughter.

I’ll give away an Epub or PDF ebook version of The Runaway Daughter next Monday to a commenter who tells me what they love most about that era!  

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erin said...

I'd have to say the fashion!!! Thanks for sharing and congrats on the series :)

girlygirlhoosier52 said...

I would have to say that I love the total change in women's fashion. My grandparents were of this era and we have some old black & white photos that are amazing!

Lauri said...

Hey Erin and grilygirlhoosier52,
I agree with both of you! The fashion of that era was fantastic! Post your email addresses and I'll send you each an ebook copy of The Runaway Daughter!