My lovely (sadly now former )editor, Jessica Gladwell, and I are in this month’s Writing Magazine talking to Dolores Gordon-Smith about my journey to publication and the Poppy Denby novels. Check it out if you get the chance.
Today is a very exciting day for me, it’s the launch of the Poppy Denby audio books! Hurrah! If you are looking for something to wile away a long journey on holiday or lounging by a pool, then why not download one now? (They are also available in audio and MP3 cds). Narrated by the fabulous Helen Keeley and published by Lamplight Audiobooks,
I am thrilled to hear Poppy and her friends brought to life. I hope you will be too. Please note, the first three books, The Jazz Files, The Kill Fee and The Death Beat are available now. The Cairo Brief will be released next month. Download your books here.
“What have we got for below the fold?” Asked Rollo.
A voice piped up: “Wimbledon. That Frenchy won again. The one with the short skirt. And Daniel’s got a luv-er-ly pic.”
On cue Daniel walked to the front of the room and presented a picture of Suzanne Lenglen to Rollo who in turn showed it to the room. It was met by wolf whistles. No one bothered apologizing to Poppy.
From The Jazz Files.
Our heroine’s first day at work on The Daily Globe was on 4 July 1920, the day after the Wimbledon Finals. The men’s singles were won by Bill Tilden who defeated Australian Gerald Patterson (2–6, 6–3, 6–2, 6–4), and was the first American to ever win the title. Tilden also became the first player to reach 10 finals at a single Grand Slam event. His record stood until 2015, when Roger Federer reached his tenth Wimbledon final. Tilden’s personal life, however, was mired in tragedy and his closet homosexuality (illegal at the time) led to scandal and turmoil, including rumoured liaisons with ball boys.
The women’s singles were won, again, by ‘the Frenchy in the short skirt’ Suzanne Lenglen, considered by many the greatest French sports woman of all time. Lenglen won every year between 1919 and 1925, apart from 1924 when she had to withdraw in the quarter finals with whooping cough. She was a fashion icon and paved the way for women to wear shorter, looser fitting clothing on court, causing a scandal at the time. She was also renowned for smoking cheroots and drinking brandy between sets. Despite this dubious diet, she won an incredible 241 titles, with a 98% winning record over her entire career. She partied as hard as she played, and, in The Jazz Files, she makes a cameo appearance at Oscars Jazz Club the same evening Charlie Chaplin arrives. She died of leukemia on 4 July 1938, after going blind. She was only 39.
For more on Wimbledon in the 1920s visit the official Wimbledon archive.
There has been a great deal of light-hearted debate on my Fiona Veitch Smith – author FB page. In book 3, Poppy and Delilah are on a cruise, travelling to New York, on the RMS Olympic. They are about to try out the on-board swimming pool and need to choose outfits. As fans of the series know, I like to dress my characters (whenever possible) in original 1920s outfits that I source from fashion museums, books and archives. So I gave people the choice between eight outfits, as seen in this original photograph, and asked them to choose an outfit for both the girls. See which ones you would put them in then scroll down to see the results! If you agree or disagree I would love to hear from you in the comments below
And now for the results: These are the top three popular choices for each of our leading ladies in descending order:
Poppy: 6, 1, 2
Delilah: 7, 2, 6
So that’s decided! Poppy will be in horizontal stripes and Delilah the floral pattern. For colours I’m going with dark green and gold for Delilah (gold flowers) and nautical blue and white stripes for Poppy. I’ll make Poppy’s slightly longer though.
Now you’ll have to wait until 2017 to see your choice in print!!!!!
Everyone had a flapulous time at the launch party at Waterstones, Newcastle on the 25 September. Here is a taste of it. You might want to view the pics to the accompaniment of the Tiger Rag by the Original Dixieland Jazzband. At the launch it was played by Yussef Nimer and Jimmy Madrell from Middlesbrough, not Dixie
I have been asked why I called the first book in the series The Jazz Files? Some people have thought it’s a book about jazz music – which it isn’t; although jazz music most definitely features and would form part of the soundtrack if it was ever made into a film.
The term ‘jazz’ came from a type of black American music that emerged in the early part of the 20th Century. However, it also became a label for the whole sub-culture birthed from that music.
In the 1920s the term ‘jazz’ was used to describe anything that pushed the boundaries and was associated with popular culture as a whole – hence it became known as the Jazz Age. So yes, there was jazz music, but there was also jazz fashion, jazz hairstyles and jazz journalism. And that’s where, in this book, the term comes in. Jazz Journalism is a defined period in the history of the media that was at its zenith in the immediate post-war period 1919 – 1924. It was the successor of ‘yellow journalism’ and a pre-cursor for what today would be known as tabloid journalism. It was not a type of journalism that simply reported on jazz music.
In some quarters ‘tabloid journalism’ is synonymous with sleaze, but originally it was a form of journalism that sought to provide news and entertainment for the masses. It was marked by an interest in society and entertainment but also social activism. This duality is represented by The Daily Globe and Poppy has to walk the tight-rope between these two worlds and the moral dilemmas they present.
The term ‘Jazz Files’ is a made-up phrase. In the novel it is used to describe files kept by The Globe on celebrity gossip. Background information and interesting tit-bits are filed away for reference purposes for future stories. So in the Poppy Denby Investigates books whenever Poppy or one of the other journalists wants some background information on a story they are working on they ask the archivist, Ivan Molanov, to dig out the Jazz Files on so-and-so. The files are labelled for example “JF: E.Dorchester”. Which stands for Jazz File on Elizabeth Dorchester.
As editor Rollo Rolandson explains:
“It stands for Jazz Files,” said Rollo.“It’s what we call any story that has a whiff of high society scandal but can’t yet be proven… you never know when a skeleton in the closet might prove useful.”
Now if you want to know what’s in the Jazz File on Elizabeth Dorchester, you’ll have to read the book!
Fiona had a flapulous time (to quote a friend) at a publicity shoot. With only three weeks to go until publication, she thought she’d get into costume and into character. She made the dress (from an original 1920s pattern designed by a Mrs Depew) and borrowed the car, a beautiful 1928 Ford Pheaton owned by the very generous Alan and Christine Simpson of Crawcrook.