When L.A. Chandlar began working on her second novel in the Art Deco Mystery series from Kensington Publishing, she decided that a road trip was in order. And what better place for her mystery thriller to travel to than her Oakland County hometown.
“I learned a lot about the history of Rochester and many of the places mentioned in the book really were there in the 1930s,” says Chandlar, who grew up in the Sterling Heights-Utica area and attended Henry Ford II High School before her family moved to Rochester in 1989.
“In fact, Red Knapp’s was there just like it is today. And Sanders, which I don’t believe was there then, is in the story. My family just loves Sanders so that had to be included. And they were fun to work with in how they are mentioned in the book.”
Infused with little-known nuances of historical fact, figures and culture, Chandlar’s second Art Deco Mystery, “The Gold Pawn,” is an adventurous romp through a decadent, glittering 1930’s Manhattan to the shadowy outskirts of Detroit. In it, New York City defiantly strives towards an era of innovation, human rights and pizazz under the dynamic Mayor La Guardia – in spite of the Great Depression.
The idea for the series began shortly after Chandlar moved to New York City, just two weeks after 9-11. “I saw first-hand how a city handles profound adversity,” she says. “And it was in a surprising way. It was with a lot of art and humor and compassion and cocktails.
“When I picked up some books on the 1930s, including one on Fiorello La Guardia, who ends up being a main character in the book, I realized I had pigeonholed that era into the depression era. But there was so much art and women in the workforce and a lot of cool things happening with minorities despite the racial tensions that I really wanted to tell that side of the story.”
That side of the story wasn’t the one familiar to many – the era of soup lines and the struggles of the Great Depression – but for Manhattan’s cosmopolitan set it was a time of cocktails, music, gangsters, gun fights and romance.
“I love historical fiction and I love living in a piece of history where you are learning more than the history books often tell us,” says Chandlar, which is her pen name. “Fiorello La Guardia is a main character and he was known for a lot of publicity stunts, which he was spectacular at doing, and just very funny. All of that in the story is real, but the mystery line and the main character are fiction. We learn history in pockets, not seeing a lot of other things that are going on during that time.”
Chandlar admits that she adores Fiorello LaGuardia, New York City’s 99th mayor.
“He was indeed rude and brash, yet he had an incredibly dear heart and fought for those who couldn’t fight for themselves,” she says.
At the center of “The Gold Pawn” is Lane Sanders, the high-spirited personal aide to Mayor La Guardia, sprinting through the corridors of City Hall in her stylish red shoes. But as Lane travels back to her hometown of Rochester, Michigan to face the ghosts of her past, a high profile Manhattan missing person’s case threatens to destroy everything.
“I wanted the protagonist to be a woman,” Chandlar says. “That’s something else that surprised me about the era. Women were coming into some very prominent positions during the 1930s. Life’s Magazine first edition comes out in November of 36 and the cover photograph is taken by a female photojournalist.”
The story is told in the first-person through Lane’s voice.
“I sprinkle through the story what I call perspective chapters,” Chandlar says. “There are chapters where it’s someone else’s perspective and often it’s the villains and that’s one of the reasons why they classify this as a mystery-thriller. I found it refreshing to get someone else’s perspective.”
Through the rich history of Rochester and Detroit, a ride on the Hindenburg, a band of city urchins, a narrow escape through the seedier side of Manhattan, and many new friends who go on to become the movers and shakers of the Thirties, one peculiar thing ties the mystery of Lane’s past and La Guardia’s current debacle together: The gold pawn.
Chandlar has a three-book deal for this series with Kensington Publishing. “The Gold Pawn” is the second in the Art Deco Mystery series. The first one, “The Silver Gun,” was published last year and the third one in the series will come out next year around this time.
Chandlar, who graduated from the University of Michigan in 1993 with a double major (English Literature and Communications), also has two books that were self-published based on her talks as a motivational speaker.
For more information, visit http://www.lachandlar.com/blog/