The Death Beat launch party – no Prohibition here!

Last week I held a 1920s-themed launch party for the release of the third book in my Poppy Denby Investigates series, The Death Beat. Intrepid reporter sleuth Poppy and her friends would have felt right at home at Blackwell’s Bookshop in Newcastle, with live jazz and wine freely flowing. Although snow threatened to scupper the launch – with the band getting stuck somewhere en route – the party got off to a delayed but warm start. Former ITV journalist Mychaela Stephenson interviewed me about the latest book set in New York and then the guests were treated to a reading set in a speakeasy, where Poppy and her friends flout Prohibition. Thanks to everyone who braved the weather and helped make it such a fun evening.

Me channeling Lady Cora Crawley. And yes, that is an original 1922 Remington typewriter. Gorgeous, isn’t it?
No this isn’t a cast call for Peaky Blinders. Friends Ben and Diana really looked the part.
Fun, fun, fun! Jack & Alex playing some fab 20s Jazz and friends Becca (left) and Helen (right) breaking Prohibition.
My beautiful family: husband Rod and daughter Megan. Doesn’t she look flapulous?
Mychaela Stephenson interviewing me about The Death Beat
Bookshops make the world go round. Thanks to Mariana from Blackwell’s Newcastle for hosting the launch.

Travelling 1920s style

I’ve just updated the Poppy Denby website with information on, and fabulous original photos of, the various trains, boats and automobiles Poppy and her friends use in London, Paris and New York. For readers who have already read the books, you can now see if your imagination matches up to reality. For those who haven’t, don’t worry, there are no plot spoilers as to whodunnit. Although book 3 is not quite out yet, I have included information on that too as a little taster (you can pre-order The Death Beat here). To go straight to the Transport page click here.

Model T Ford

First woman statue in Parliament Square

Next year, 2018, will be the 100 year anniversary of the Representation of the People Act, which gave women in the United Kingdom, over the age of 30, who owned property, the right to vote. It took another 10 years for all women over the age of 21, regardless of their economic status, to be able to vote; but at least the 1918 act was a start. It was the culmination of many years of struggle of brave women (and some notable men), one of whom was Millicent Fawcett. Millicent was the chairperson of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. She adhered to a strict code of non-violence (in contrast to the Pankhursts and the Women’s Suffrage and Political Union who feature in The Jazz Files). She retired in 1919 after achieving her goal and died in 1929. She is now going to be honoured by a statue in Parliament Square, London. Incredibly, it will be the first statue of a woman to be erected there; a reminder, perhaps, that the battle for the recognition of women as equal contributors to society still has a way to go. Nonetheless, Aunt Dot and her friends would be delighted to hear that Millicent is finally getting some attention. I hope to be in London next year for the unveiling.

Millicent Fawcett

Millicent Fawcett 2

Publishers’ Weekly reviews The Kill Fee

Smith (The Jazz Files) returns to formidable and spunky Poppy Denby, arts and entertainment editor for the Daily Globe, in this inspirational whodunit set in post-WWI London. As Poppy goes from covering a Russian art exhibit to looking for a murderer and a missing Fabergé egg, she takes on charming and possibly nefarious Andrei Nogovski of the Russian embassy. With help from Rollo Rolandson, her boss; fellow reporter Ike Garfield; aunt and suffragette Dot Denby; and best friend Delilah Marconi, Poppy follows leads and discovers that people aren’t always what they seem. Interspersed with Poppy’s story are flashbacks that center on a young Russian aristocrat and the nanny who saves her from the fate of the rest of her family. The audience follows them as they cross the Russian landscape and wait to see how their story intersects with Poppy’s mystery. The complicated plot, involving a myriad of both White and Red Russians, is offset by the list of characters at the beginning, reminding readers of numerous important names and their allegiances. Smith weaves together a diverse cast, including both male and female characters in positions of power, and depicting a variety of ethnicities and abilities without resorting to stereotypes. Embark with upstanding, uplifting Poppy and her friends on a mystery involving jewel thieves, Russian royalty, murders, sword fights, car chases, and secret tunnel. Full review here.

CWA Dagger Awards

Me and editor Jessica Tinker in our flapulous 1920s gear.
Me and editor Jessica Tinker in our flapulous 1920s gear.
Illustrious company. The Jazz Files alongside fellow nominees AJ Wright’s Striking Murder (wonderful book) and David Young’s Stasi Child (a worthy winner).
Illustrious company. The Jazz Files alongside fellow nominees AJ Wright’s Striking Murder (wonderful book) and David Young’s Stasi Child (a worthy winner).

As slick as Brillantine

As fans of Poppy Denby know I spend lots of time researching fashion trends of the 1920s. Usually this is women’s fashion. But today I’m looking at men’s hairstyles and products. In Poppy Denby 3 one of the characters has a handsome new admirer (you’ll have to wait until the book comes out to find out who!) and he has beautiful auburn hair which he slicks down with Brillantine.

Hands up those of you whose mothers, aunts or grandmothers used to (or still do!) have crocheted doillies draped along the back of their sofas and armchairs? These were first introduced to stop the Brillantine and other hair oils staining the upholstery.

Here is screen heartthrob Rudolf Valentino (who makes a cameo appearance in Poppy Denby 3) and a vintage bottle of Brillantine that would have given him that slick look.

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Happy publication day for The Kill Fee!

champagneThere is lots of celebration here in Poppydenbyland as Poppy’s latest adventure, The Kill Fee, is published today in the UK. Friends of Poppy in the USA will sadly have to wait until November – or order today from the UK site!

In this adventure Poppy is hot on the trail of a jewel thief and gets caught up in a murderous plot to kill off White Russian aristocrats. Dark secrets from the Russian Revolution surface in the jazz clubs and theatres of London 1920. Can Poppy track down the culprit before more more people die?

The Kill Fee is the second book in the Poppy Denby Investigates series. Book 1, The Jazz Files, has been nominated as one of the best historical crime novels published in the UK in 2015/16 and is up for the CWA Endeavour Historical Dagger Award.

Lovereading.uk have described the book as:

‘An atmospheric, lively romp through 1920 in this wonderfully blended mix of crime fiction and historical fact […]The Kill Fee, full of the dastardly and dazzling, just roars along; it is a thoroughly captivating and entertaining read.’

Click here to get your paws on The Kill Fee.

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Poppy Denby investigates