Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel by Linda Bennett Pennell Genre: Historical, Contemporary Suspense
Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel tells a story of lives unfolding in different centuries, but linked and irrevocably altered by a series of murders in 1930. Lake City, Florida, June, 1930: Al Capone checks in for an unusually long stay at the Blanche Hotel, a nice enough joint for an insignificant little whistle stop. The following night, young Jack Blevins witnesses a body being dumped heralding the summer of violence to come. One-by- one, people controlling county vice activities swing from KKK ropes. No moonshine distributor, gaming operator, or brothel madam, black or white, is safe from the Klan’s self-righteous vigilantism. Jack’s older sister Meg, a waitress at the Blanche, and her fiancé, a sheriff’s deputy, discover reasons to believe the lynchings are cover for a much larger ambition than simply ridding the county of vice. Someone, possibly backed by Capone, has secret plans for filling the voids created by the killings. But as the body count grows and crosses burn, they come to realize this knowledge may get all of them killed. Gainesville, Florida, August, 2011: Liz Reams, an up and coming young academic specializing in the history of American crime, impulsively moves across the continent to follow a man who convinces her of his devotion yet refuses to say the three simple words “I love you”. Despite the entreaties of friends and family, she is attracted to edginess and a certain type of glamour in her men, both living and historical. Her personal life is an emotional roller coaster, but her career options suddenly blossom beyond all expectation, creating a very different type of stress. To deal with it all, Liz loses herself in her professional passion, original research into the life and times of her favorite bad boy, Al Capone. What she discovers about 1930’s summer of violence, and herself in the process, leaves her reeling at first and then changed forever. Goodreads * Amazon
Miami Days, Havana Nights by Linda Bennett Pennell Genre: Historical, Contemporary Suspense
A follow up to Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel, Miami Days Havana Nights tells the story of 1920-1960’s gangsters and the young female history professor determined to suss out their secrets. Sometimes our biggest debts have nothing to do with money. 1926. When seventeen-year-old Sam Ackerman witnesses a mob hit, he is hustled out of New York under the protection of Moshe Toblinsky, A.K.A., the mob’s bookkeeper. Arriving in Miami with no money, no friends, and no place to hide, Sam’s only choice is to do as the gangster demands. Forced into bootlegging, Sam’s misery is compounded when he falls in love. Amazingly, the beautiful, devout Rebecca wants only him, but he cannot give her the life she deserves. When Prohibition ends, Sam begs the mobster to set him free. The price? A debt, as Toblinsky puts it, of friendship. A debt that will one day come due. Present Day. History of American Crime professor Liz Reams has it all—early success, a tantalizing lead on new info about Moshe Toblinsky, and a wonderful man to love. Life is perfect. So what’s keeping her from accepting her guy’s marriage proposals? Confronting a long-standing personal debt sets her on a journey of self-discovery. While she delves ever deeper into Sam’s and Toblinsky’s relationship, her understanding of her own relationships increases as well, but the revelations come at a price. The emotional and physical dangers of her dual journeys may prove too big to handle. Goodreads * Amazon
I have been in love with the past for as long as I can remember. Anything with a history, whether shabby or majestic, recent or ancient, instantly draws me in. I suppose it comes from being part of a large extended family that spanned several generations. Long summer afternoons on my grandmother’s porch or winter evenings gathered around her fireplace were filled with stories both entertaining and poignant. Of course being set in the American South, those stories were also peopled by some very interesting characters, some of whom have found their way into my work. As for my venture in writing, it has allowed me to reinvent myself. We humans are truly multifaceted creatures, but unfortunately we tend to sort and categorize each other into neat, easily understood packages that rarely reveal the whole person. Perhaps you, too, want to step out of the box in which you find yourself. I encourage you to look at the possibilities and imagine. Be filled with childlike wonder in your mental wanderings. Envision what might be, not simply what is. Let us never forget, all good fiction begins when someone says to her or himself, “Let’s pretend.” I reside in the Houston area with one sweet husband and one adorable German Shorthaired Pointer who is quite certain she’s a little girl. “History is filled with the sound of silken slippers going downstairs and wooden shoes coming up.” Voltaire Website * Blog * Newsletter * Facebook * Twitter Pinterest * Bookbub * Amazon * Goodreads
June 14, 1930
Jack jammed a finger into each ear and swallowed hard.
Any other time, he wouldn’t even notice the stupid sound.
The river always sorta slurped just before it pulled stuff
His stomach heaved again. Maybe he shouldn’t look
either, but he couldn’t tear his eyes away from the
circling current. When the head slipped under the water,
the toe end lifted up. Slowly the tarpaulin wrapped body,
at least that’s what it sure looked like, went completely
vertical. It bobbed around a few times and finally gurgled
its way down the sinkhole. Then everything went quiet . . .
peaceful . . . crazily normal. Crickets sawed away again.
An ole granddaddy bullfrog croaked his lonesomeness into
the sultry midnight air.
Crouched in the shelter of a large palmetto clump,
Jack’s muscles quivered and sweat rolled into his eyes, but
he remained stock-still. His heart hammered like he had
just finished the fifty yard dash, but that was nothing to
what Zeke was probably feeling. He was still just a little
kid in lots of ways.
When creeping damp warmed the soles of Jack’s bare
feet, he grimaced and glanced sideways. Zeke looked back
with eyes the size of saucers and mouthed the words I’m
sorry. Jack shook his head then wrinkled his nose as the
odor of ammonia and damp earth drifted up. He’d always
heard that fear produced its own peculiar odor, but nobody
ever said how close you had to be to actually smell it. He
prayed you had to be real close; otherwise, he and Zeke
were in big trouble.
The stranger standing on the riverbank stared out over
the water for so long Jack wondered if the man thought the
body might suddenly come flying up out of the sinkhole and
float back upriver against the current. Funny, the things
that popped into your head when you were scared witless.
The man removed a rag from his pocket and mopped his
face. He paused, looked upstream, then turned and stared
into the surrounding forest. As his gaze swept over their
hiding place, Jack held his breath and prayed, but he could
feel Zeke’s chest rising and falling in ragged jerks so he
slipped his hand onto Zeke’s arm. Under the gentle pressure
of Jack’s fingers, Zeke’s muscles trembled and jumped
beneath his soft ebony skin. When Zeke licked his lips and
parted them like he was about to yell out, Jack clapped a
hand over the open mouth and wrapped his other arm around
Zeke’s upper body, pulling him close and holding him tight.
Zeke’s heart pounded against the bib of his overalls like
it might jump clean out of his chest.
With one final look ‘round at the river and forest,
the stranger strode to the hand crank of a Model T. The
engine caught momentarily, then spluttered and died. A
stream of profanity split the quiet night. The crank handle
jerked from its shaft and slammed back into place. More
grinding and more swearing followed until the thing finally
coughed to life for good and a car door slammed. Only then
did Jack relax his hold on Zeke.
“I want outta here. I wanna go home,” Zeke whispered
Lucky Zeke. Before Meg left home to move into town,
Jack would have felt the same way. Now he didn’t care if he
ever went home.
Jack cocked an ear in the Ford’s direction. “Hush so I
can listen. I think he’s gone, but we’re gonna belly crawl
in the opposite direction just to be sure we ain’t seen.”
“Through that briar patch? I ain’t got on no shoes or
“Me neither. Come on. Don’t be such a baby.”
“I ain’t no baby,” Zeke hissed as he scrambled after
When the pine forest thinned out, Jack raised up on
his knees for a look around. Without a word, Zeke jumped to
his feet and started toward the road. Jack grabbed a strap
on Zeke’s overalls and snatched him back onto his bottom.
“You taken complete leave of your senses?” Wiping
sweat out of his eyes, Jack pushed his shaggy blonde hair
to one side. “Check it out before you go bustin’ into the
“Why you so bossy all the time? I ain’t stupid, ya
know. Just cause you turned twelve don’t make you all
Zeke’s lower lip stuck out, trembling a little.
Whether it was from fear or anger, Jack wasn’t sure.
Probably both. Peering into the night, he strained for the
flash of headlights. Nothing but bright moonlight
illuminated the road’s deep white sand. Finally confident
that no vehicles were abroad, he grabbed Zeke’s hand and
pulled him to his feet. With one final glance left, then
right, they leapt onto the single lane track and ran like
the devil was on their tails.