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The 1920s Novel Speakeasy Party

A couple of weeks ago we held a party in the 1920s Book Club. We exchanged recommendations of books set in the 1920s or written around the 1920s. The recommendation had to be accompanied by a visual.

It was great fun and there were such interestiresting recemmendations that I thought I’d share them with you here.

Sharilyn Decter

Dennis Lehane, “Live By Night

Dennis Lehane, “Live By Night”- crime noir- hard-boiled- (Great opening line)“Some years later, on a tugboat in the Gulf of Mexico, Joe Coughlin’s feet were placed in a tub of cement,”- Opens in Boston 1927, heads to Florida by way of Cuba.

Live by Night is a riveting epic layered with a diverse cast of loyal friends and callous enemies, tough rumrunners and sultry femmes fatales, Bible-quoting evangelists and cruel Klansmen, all battling for survival and their piece of the American dream.

But life on the dark side carries a heavy price. In a time when ruthless men of ambition, armed with cash, illegal booze, and guns, battle for control, no one – neither family nor friend, enemy nor lover – can be trusted. Beyond money and power, even the threat of prison, one fate seems most likely for men like Joe: an early death. But until that day, he and his friends are determined to live life to the hilt.

Mary Russell series by Laurie King

I’ve always been intrigued by the adaptations of Sherlock Holmes. one of my favs are the Mary Russell series by Laurie King. Sherlock meets Mary in the Bee Keepers Apprenticeship and over many books, they fall in love and are married. Miss Russell takes over the role of Dr. Watson. In Laurie’s words:

“Mary Russell walked into my life with the first line of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, and took over. At the time, I had little knowledge of the Great War, England in the Twenties, or Sherlock Holmes, but that didn’t seem to matter to her, she just waited (graciously stifling her impatience) for me to catch up.

Fourteen books later, I have learned a great deal about Russell, Holmes, and their world. I have learned even more about myself and my world, since a central raison d’etre of reading history, even fictional history, is that it is a mirror, reflecting unexpected sides of our times and ourselves. Politics, women’s rights, religious expression, governmental oppression–all these and more wander through the Russell stories, so that although they are primarily, as Graham Greene called his books, “entertainments,” they also have the real-life grit and dimension that a crime novel demands.

But mostly, I enjoy the Russells because they’re fun, for the writer and (I am led to believe) for the reader. I hope you agree.”

Angela Misri’s Portia Adams books

The second series of Holmes adaptations that I love are Angela Misri’s Portia Adams books. A young girl inherits 221B Baker Street from a long-lost relative, which turns out to be her grandfather Sherlock Holmes. Of course, she’s a natural sleuth and soon is partnering with a young Scotland Yard bobbie to solve crimes. While written as YA, the series is an excellent read for adults as well.

The Unstoppable Jennie Justo
by Sharilyn Decter

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my own The Unstoppable Jennie Justo serial. The four-part Bootleggers’ Chronicles series won’t be published until early 2019 so I wrote Jennie to keep my mailing list interested. It’s based on the true story of Jennie Justo, who ran a speakeasy in Madison Wisc. in the 1920s. She handles whatever life throws at her, determined to succeed. And coming from one of the areas early Cosa Nostra families, its a lot. The speakeasy was also a real place and is still running as a bar today.

Johann Laesecke————————————


There’s a wonderful Prohibition era webcomic named Lackadaisy – speakeasies, bootlegging, all the good stuff. Excellent artwork, fascinating story line, well researched, great character development. Here’s the kicker: I’m not a ‘furry’ and stay away from anthropomorphism, but Lackadaisy’s characters are cats and I love it anyway. Go figure, but take a look.

The Roaring Road Series
by Johann Laesecke

The Roaring Road is a series about Laure and Dan, a young couple during Prohibition. They are good people, but they are not saints. They are rough on railcars, having destroyed three executive cars and numerous boxcars. They travel on their own train unless they drive their Duesenberg automobiles. They have transported wine and whiskey, and used those ill gotten gains to build their own legal businesses, are now making a Hollywood movie, setting the stage for some very salacious behavior. They met Hymie Weiss just weeks before he was gunned down in Chicago, and Al Capone (who could be nice when he wanted to be nice, which wasn’t often). When in Chicago they often hang out at The Green Mill. Thrills and action, Prohibition style.

Steven Malone

The Thin Man

I’m a huge fan of Dashiell Hammett. Especially “The Thin Man” and “The Continental Op.”
(citation for comic – schweizercomics)

Jenny Leo

ALICE ADAMS by Booth Tarkington

Hi, everyone! One of my favorite 1920s stories is ALICE ADAMS by Booth Tarkington, published in 1921. It’s a class-conflict drama in which young Alice Adams, from the “wrong side of the tracks,” longs to be included in the inner circle of her small town’s social scene. I first read this book as a teen and cringed for Alice and her misguided attempts to fit in where she’s not wanted, nose pressed against the glass. And yet the story was strangely satisfying as the eternally-optimistic Alice comes to readjust her values. (It was made into a movie in 1935 starring a young Katharine Hepburn and Fred MacMurray. I liked it, but be forewarned that the ending of the movie differs from the book and thus carries a different message.)

In an early scene, Alice is going to a dance but cannot afford a corsage, so she goes to a city park, picks violets, and pins them to her dress. I echoed this scene in my own novel, You’re the Cream in My Coffee, when my heroine picks her landlady’s daisies to adorn her dress.


You’re the Cream in My Coffee by Jennifer Lamont Leo

I’ve been so excited to find other authors and readers interested in the 1920s my favorite era. I’ve set both my novels in Roaring Twenties Chicago. The first, You’re the Cream in My Coffee, concerns a woman who thinks she sees her first love, believed killed in the Great War, standing in a train station. The sequel, Ain’t Misbehavin’, will be coming out in March.

Lín Rhys———————————-


Hello everyone! I’m working today but I wanted to write a quick note about this fabulous book! The character development is really amazing – even all of the side characters are presented in a fascinating way…but The main character is really interesting: he’s a wounded war veteran (with a mask, which was very common for the times). He reminds me very much of my favorite character from Boardwalk Empire, Richard Harrow…!


Babylon Berlin

Babylon Berlin is fantastic!
It’s a German series (based on
novels by Volker Kutscher).
I’ve always been near-obsessed Weimar Germany anyway… But the show is really amazing. It combines elements of film noir, German expressionism, and 1920s Jazz Age with complex characters and a deep storyline.
(Disclaimer: I haven’t read the novels yet…)

Denitta Ward———————————-

a classic and such a great read!

Published in 1920, small town American life is critiqued in the tale of the struggles of a woman against the rigidity of a small Midwestern town, Gopher Prairie. Carol is a city-girl who marries a country doctor and optimistically sets out for a new life on the prairie. Upon settling in, she realizes that her high-faluten ideas for improving the town through the introduction of culture, town planning, and the generally sophisticated example of her own conduct are destined for rejection. She is dismayed to find that the town citizens are not only resistant to her improving influence, they are actually quite happy to wallow in their rusticity. And so begins her decline.


reveals the history, secrets, and recipes of 21 of the most popular drinks of the Roaring Twenties. For 14 years, from 1920-1933, until the 21st Amendment passed, the production, sale, and transport of liquor were banned — the rules were clear and made to be broken. The speakeasy cocktail culture flourished. From the sweet Mary Pickford to the startling Monkey Gland cocktail, these drinks all have their own unique history and embody decadence and joie de vivre of the 1920s.

The recipe book includes lots of color photos and a party planning guide with suggested 1920s appetizers, 1920s music, photo booth prop ideas, and a cocktails supply shopping list included.

Somewhere Still
by Denitta Ward

I set Somewhere Still in the Roaring ’20s, too – I write books of young women finding their resilience in times of great societal change…so the ’20s was a natural place to start. Social, cultural, racial, and economic barriers were shattering….and young women were blazing new ground together.

Chrystyna K. Lucyk-Berger———————————-

ALL OUR WORLDLY GOODS by Irene Nemirovsky

“They went through the motions of living, without truly believing they were alive.” – from ALL OUR WORLDLY GOODS

Just last weekend, my husband and I decided to re-watch Suite Francaise, a book I’d read over 10 years ago. I’d forgotten how profoundly human the story is. And it seems Nemirovksy is following me around!

Just after posting my Hemingway share, I stumbled on two reviews for Nemirovsky’s additional books: ALL OUR WORLDLY GOODS and FIRES OF AUTUMN. I think you might see that I tend towards the European areas and wartime stuff, but the fact that this Speakeasy Party was happening, I couldn’t help but share. Though Suite Francaise was written during WW2, Nemirovsky’s two books above take place between WW1 and WW2, and depict the nouveau riche, as well as the political jockeying that took place within the industrial race.

Sorry if my themes are off pointe. I’m always somehow bending the rules…

Oh, and someone else put this collage together of SUITE FRANCAISE, so I’m cheating there, too.

A FAREWELL TO ARMS – Ernest Hemingway

This was not my favorite Hemingway novel, but it was my first. And it took me about 20 years later, when re-reading it (my godson’s summer homework while we were in Italy) that I learned to appreciate it.
It is Hemingway’s simplicity with language – his precision and sparseness – that has helped to shape my own writing, has added to my own craft. He’s made me more critical than ever (sometimes detrimentally so). I’m happy to digest anything of his. I introduced my husband to him, and after watching a film about his life, he decided he wanted to be more like him.
That’s Hemingway for you.

by Chrystyna K. Lucyk-Berger

Did you know that the northern part of Italy speaks German? After WW1, the Austrian Tyrol – an autonomous province within the Hapsburg Empire – was cut in two thanks to the secret Treaty of London, signed by Italy in 1915. In the treaty, the UK, France and Russia granted Italy lands that the country’s nationalists always wanted: what is today Triest, for example, and most coveted of all: the Brenner Frontier, which was Tyrolean. If they should win. And they did.
Not even Wilson’s 14 points could help the Tyroleans. Not one single battle was fought on their land, either. It was simply handed over and annexed in 1920.
That’s where NO MAN’S LAND begins, the first part of the RESCHEN VALLEY series. A young Tyrolean woman faces becoming the sole heir to a once-prosperous farm. When she stumbles on a wounded Italian engineer on her mountain, their lives are forever entwined, and both are thrust into a labyrinth of corruption, greed, and prejudice.
If you have seen and liked the premise of the series DAMNATION on Netflix, you may want to check this out.

Sarah Zama———————————-


This is always one of the title that comes to my mind when I’m asked what kind of books I like to read. And to think that I stumbled upon it by mere chance and I almost didn’t read it. Today is one of my favourite books.

This is the story of Anna, a twelve-year-old Greek refugee living in 1920s Oxford. But don’t let the age of the main character fool you, this is not at all a YA book. Anna is too young to understand it fully, but through her eye we see her father’s struggle to keep their identity in a foreign land. Though to her father this seems to be far harder than to her, who feels to be both Greek and British and feels no contradiction in it. She remembers everything of her country, including her mother, who died as they fled the sack of Smyrna, and all the stories and history her father told her. But she also feels comfortable in Britain, where things are moving fast and changing.

Parallel to this historical thread there is another which is fantasy but mingles beautifully and extremely naturally with the historical one. It’s very soft fantasy – the kind I prefer – that brings atmospheres and legendary characters into a modern setting. I really really loved it.

And – this was a huge plus for a Tolkien fan like me – there were lots of references to Tolkien’s stories while C.S. Lewis (author of Narnia and a friend of Tolkien’s) appears as a supporting character.

NINE LESSONS by Nicola Upson

First off, this is the seventh novel in the Josephine Tey series and the reason why I read this first is because… well, I stumbled upon it on NetGalley and read it, just to taste the author.
She is a-we-some!!!!!

I understand Josephine Tey is an historical person, a writer, if I understand correctly, and in this series, she has an instinct for mysteries. The story are set in or near Cambridge in the early 1930s.

Let me tell you that everything about this novel is fantastic. The characters are so complex and so real that the story doesn’t need to rely on drama to make them interesting. They have lives, and pasts, and desires and secrets and everything mingles and what comes out is difficult decisions for everyone.
I read from the edge of my seat from beginning to end, not only because of the mystery, but also because of the character’s conflicts.

Even if this is the seventh novel in the series – and you can tell it, because the relationships between the recurring characters are so complex and entangles – I had no problem following what was happening. And this is the mark of great storytelling.

The mysteries are very well-constructed too and very realistic and plausible… which is not always the case with mysteries.
And the historical setting is vivid. It comes alive in a way that I’ve seldom experienced even in other well executed novels. It’s like being there, not just in the place, but in the time, among those people. We experience what they experience and we understand what it is like.

SUSIE - "I love jazz.. Why? I don't know" - GIVE IN TO THE FEELING by Sarah Zama (dieselpunk novella)

by Sarah Zama

I only have one story published at the moment. The title is Give in to the Feeling, though I will change it soon, together with the cover.

It’s set in Chicago in 1924 and the main character is a young Chinese immigrant, who finds herself the doll of a gangter.
She embraces the life of the new woman willingly, as she thinks the nice clothes, the daring make up, the dances and the booze is freedom, a freedom she never had in her homeland.
But one night she meets a man in her lover’s speakeasy… and she discoveres that life – and reality – are far mor eocmplicated and that one has to fight for her freedom and for her free choices.


The 1920s Book Club - A Facebook book club for readers who love stories set in the 1920s and adjiacent decades

The 1920s Novel Speakeasy Party was hels by the FB group 1920s Book Club and was menat to share recommendations of books set or written in or around the 1920s. Some great recommendation ensued. Watch!

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  • Margot Kinberg
    Posted March 12, 2018 at 02:17

    Such a wonderful selection of books here!! And I love that they explore all aspects of the 1920s. The culture, the life, the whole thing. It sounds as though you have some fabulous reading ahead of you!

    • Post Author
      Posted March 12, 2018 at 10:37

      The party was really fun. I’m happy many people took part, because they suggested such diversity of stories.
      I’m planning to do it again, maybe next summer 🙂

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