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Gang Roundup – September 2017

And so it’s September… and I celebrate one year of my series of monthly roundups.

Can you believe it? A year already! (read the first post here)

When I started doing it was – like it seems so many years in my blogging experience – just mimicking what other bloggers do. A summary of cool finds during the month sounded like fun, and I was looking for something I could share every month, as a recurring feature. I do share this kind of content on my social media constantly, but some of you might not see it. So why not share the best here on my blog?

I’m very happy I decided on this because it has been great fun. I’m happy to see that you guys generally appreciate it.

So let’s go hunting for some more Diesel Era fun facts! It’s a roundup heavy on history this month. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

Chicago vintage L

CTA 4000 series cars

I’ve been revising the first chapters of my novel Ghostly Smell Around (because I’m once again sending it out to agents) and for the first time I realised there was a major inaccuracy in the second chapter. I don’t know how I could oversee that!
So, of course, I immediately started researching. As always, researching the details of everyday life is the worst. So many people (including who writes articles about these matters) take this for granted, and when we write historical fiction, we might just think it will go as we are accustomed to seeing it going today (which is what I did, I’m ashamed to say).
But I was finally able to straighten up Sinéad’s journey on the L. I couldn’t find all the details I was looking for, but at least I found enough to make that episode more authentic.

Here are the two links I enjoyed the most:
Hate center-facing? Take a seat on 130 years of ‘L’ trains – Chicago Tribune online
Vintage CTA Trains, Buses Offer Peek at 1920s Transit – WTTW Chicago Tonight

44 Interesting Photos of People Sitting on the Steps of Their Houses in the 1920s

People Sitting on the Steps of Their Houses in the 1920s

In the 1920s, photographer John Frank Keith who wandered and took photographs of residents of the neighbourhoods of South Philadelphia (particularly the Pennsport area) and Kensington (where Keith lived most of his life) sitting on the doorsteps of their houses.

These are pictures of common people in very prosaic surrounding, which is the kind of photos I prefer. There are awesome photos of celebrities from the 1920s (and I sure love them) but these photos of people taken in a moment of their everyday life are simply fascinating. These are truly windows on a different time, on how people like us lived back then.

‘Auxies’ – the 20th century’s first special forces

AUXIES - The Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary (ADRIC) was a paramilitary unit of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) during the Irish War of Independence. It was set up in July 1920 and made up of former British Army officers, mostly from Great Britain. Its role was to conduct counter-insurgency operations against the Irish Republican Army (IRA). It was disbanded in 1922

During the Irish War of Independence and even more so during the Civil War, the situation of the armed forces in Ireland was complex, to say the least. Many different armed forces were present on the island, some British, some Irish, some a mix of the two.

This article by author and historian Paul O’Brien looks more in detail to one of the most hated British forces, one that was closely connected and bonded to the Civil War.

Know Any Newsboys From the 1920s or ’30s?

This is another of those everyday details we don’t pay much attention to. We think we know what we’re talking about, but the activity, life and work of newsboys were unique and specific, and I discovered a few things I didn’t’ expect from this article.

The Harlem Renaissance No One Talks About

Author Yecheilyah Ysrayl has recently been a guest on this blog with an interview about her Harlem Renaissance novel. Her unusual take at the Renaissance is fascinating and sheds a different light to a very important movement of the 1920s. Since you guys seemed to appreciate that, you may want to delve a bit more into it with this article by Yecheilyah which goes even more in details.

The Folklories: The Cottingley Fairies

In 1917 two young girls produced a series of photographs that seemed to prove that fairies did exist. These photographs spread like wildfire on the media of the time and many people – including Sherlock Holmes’s author Arthur Conal Doyle – believed the photos were genuine.

THE COTTINGLEY SECRET (Hazel Gaynor) 1917… It was inexplicable, impossible, but it had to be true—didn’t it? When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, claim to have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when one of the great novelists of the time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, becomes convinced of the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a national sensation. One hundred years later, someone is still involved in that mystery

The Cottingley Secretby Hazel Gaynor

1917… It was inexplicable, impossible, but it had to be true—didn’t it? When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, claim to have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when one of the great novelists of the time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, becomes convinced of the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a national sensation, their discovery offering hope to those longing for something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war. Frances and Elsie will hide their secret for many decades. But Frances longs for the truth to be told.

One hundred years later… When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript in her late grandfather’s bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story it tells of two young girls who mystified the world. But it is the discovery of an old photograph that leads her to realize how the fairy girls’ lives intertwine with hers, connecting past to present, and blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, can Olivia find a way to believe in herself?

Get the book

THE PAYING GUESTS (Sarah Waters) The “volcanically sexy” (USA Today) bestseller about a widow and her daughter who take a young couple into their home in 1920s London.

I Feel Like I’m On the Cusp

Margot Kingberg was so kind as to reference my review of The Mysterious Affari at Styles on her blog. Then she proceeded to do something really nasty (I mean, Margot!): she listed a series of novels of mystery novels all set in the 1920s… which of course I had to put on my TBR list. Couldn’t pass that on.

The one that intrigues me the most is this one by Sarah Waters. I heard many good reviews about this one.

It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa—a large, silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants—life is about to be transformed, as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.

With the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the “clerk class,” the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways.

Get the book

The Importance of Historical Novels

This is actually not focusing on any time of the Diesel Era (late 1910s – early 1950s), but I’d like to share it because it’s a deep examination of what historical fiction should be about, how we should go about writing and how we should approach reading it. It’s a great article.

Sarah Plugues Her Stuff

Only two links this month and I have to thank C.P. Lesley for both of them.

Books We Loved, Aug. 2017

Where you’ll find a lovely review of my novella Give in to the Feeling.

Interview with Sarah Zama

Which, as someone has pointed out, is probably the more in-depth interview I’ve done about Give in to the Feeling. I loved writing the interview. It gave me the opportunity to speak a bit more about my characters… which is always a pleasure. But I hope you’ll like it too if you feel like reading it.

NOTE: This blog contains affiliate links (including Amazon links) to the book I independently review. When you click on a link and make a purchase, I may receive a commission for advertising the product (at no extra cost to you).


  • Margot Kinberg
    Posted September 5, 2017 at 13:28

    Thanks very much for the kind mention, Sarah. Thanks, too, for the helpful roundup. So much that’s interesting, and lots to explore. When you do get to it, I hope you’ll like The Paying Guests.

    • Post Author
      Posted September 6, 2017 at 17:51

      I’ve heard lots of good things about Sarah Waters. I’m really eager to read her.

  • Steve
    Posted September 5, 2017 at 14:01

    Congratulations on the anniversary of your monthly roundup, Sarah. Like Margot, I enjoy what I learn. It is interesting.

    My father was a newsboy in this period. He had some fun stories of the speakeasy in the small town where he grew up. Thanks for that link.

    • Post Author
      Posted September 6, 2017 at 17:52

      Oh, Steve, I’d loe to hear a few of those stories! 🙂

  • J.Gi Federizo
    Posted September 6, 2017 at 04:56

    Interesting stuff! Most interesting for me is the book THE COTTINGLEY SECRET. I’v eknown about the fairy hoax, but I find the premise of the book interesting. The newsies article was rather interesting as well. I knew there were newsies before, but was not aware of how things really were for them then.

    • Post Author
      Posted September 6, 2017 at 17:55

      Ms Gaynor is the author of a coupele of books I want to read, both set in the 1920s. The Cottingley Secret is really intersting. The historical facts are fascinating. There are some theories about why so many people believed the girls, in that particular historical moment (after such horrible war, you know). Really worth looking into it a bit more in depth.

      I didn’t know about the newsboys either. Of course, I generally knew who they were, but didnt’ know anything specific about their job and lives.

  • Hilary Melton-Butcher
    Posted September 6, 2017 at 08:57

    Hi Sara – fascinating research material here. I’ve seen/noted the fascinating with the fairies – one day perhaps I’ll read up more about it. But I’ll be back to listen to your interview …and Margot is great with her detective mysteries … so well done on a year’s worth for us to get our teeth into – congratulations on the round up. Cheers Hilary

    • Post Author
      Posted September 9, 2017 at 21:33

      Everything about the Cottingley Fairies is fascinating, don’t you think. I want to learn more about it myself.

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