Release Day Blitz for The Mystery of the Golden Cat!

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Title: The Mystery of the Golden Cat

Series: Adele Gossling Mysteries: Book 4

Author: Tam May

Genres: Historical Cozy Mystery

Release Date: January 28, 2023

For Adele Gossling, Labor Day is about giving voice to progressive reforms such as the eight-hour workday and minimum wage for women. But for business owners in Arrojo, California, Labor Day is about making money. City slickers flock to the country seeking holiday deals they can’t get in San Francisco or Sacramento. What better way to celebrate than with bargains and the community picnic?

What they don’t know is there’s a thief in town. He’s already succeeded in getting away with burglarizing business owners in neighboring towns and the county police can’t seem to get their hands on him.

Who is stealing gold trinkets from the shops in Arrojo, California? Is it the dandified Mr. Lyman? The town’s junk collector and pariah, Zephyr Brown? or is it someone or something beyond their wildest imagination?

What reviewers are saying about the series:

“Great new series!”

“Characters come alive!”

You can get your copy of the book at a special promotional price at the following online retailers.


Excerpt

Hatfield said, “I’m sure your brother told you about the reports we’ve received from my friend Sheriff Hill about thefts they’ve had in Sacramento.”

“But that’s far away from here.”

“Not far enough, Del.” Jackson folded the paper on the crease and laid it down. “Last week, we had a few thefts in some of the towns in this county.”

“Vargas was the first,” Hatfield said. “And yesterday, we received a dispatch from Wells Fargo that Rosa Gris and Blue Springs reported items missing from some of their shops.”

“That’s ghastly!” Her cup dropped to the table, missing the saucer. Tomas mumbled his dismay in soft Spanish. “No one was hurt, I hope?”

“The thief is only interested in valuables, not people,” said Jackson. “There have been no reports of violence.”

“Still — it’s horrible to think —” She took another slice of toast from the holder, feeling her hand shaking.

Hatfield drew his hand toward the edge of the table between them. Adele’s shoulders gave a quick flinch, though she knew the sheriff would never take liberties. But there was something in the man’s gaze, his mouth closed but his eyes large and almost innocent, that gave her the feeling of being in a too-intimate corner with him just then.

“Perhaps Nin and I should warn the Bridge Street merchants before Monday,” she suggested. “From one shop owner to another.”

Silence buzzed around her, muting the brilliant blue sky to gray. Even the pair of doves nesting on the gazebo hushed up their morning song. 

“We’ll be very discreet, of course,” she continued, her voice less assured. “We’ll ask to speak to them in private.”

The sheriff cleared his throat. “I’m afraid you can’t do that, Adele.”

“Why can’t we?”

“Because,” Hatfield said, “the town council refused to allow it when I suggested it.”

“Refused!”

“They want us to keep it quiet, Del,” said her brother. “We shouldn’t have even told you.”

The butter knife slipped from her hand and scraped against her empty plate. Tomas darted forward, mumbling in Spanish, glancing around to see if anything had been broken. “That’s perfectly ridiculous! Why for heaven’s sake?”

“They believe it would cause ‘unnecessary panic’ and ‘soil the potential prospects for prosperity in our good town’,” Hatfield grumbled. “Those were Mrs. Faderman’s words. They all agreed with her, of course.”

“They didn’t have much choice,” Jackson remarked. 

Adele threw down her napkin. “So that’s what you meant when you said their behavior borders on negligence! That civic pride of hers has blinded her again!”

“Not to mention made her deaf and dumb,” Hatfield said dryly.

Adele rose, pacing the veranda. “Her behavior doesn’t border on the negligent, Sheriff. It is negligent. Even criminal!”

“Really, Del,” her brother mumbled. “Must you always exaggerate?”

“What else would you call it, Jack?” She insisted. “She’s prepared to risk what could be a mess of thieves roaming in our midst.”


About the Author

As soon as Tam May started her first novel at the age of fourteen, writing became her voice. She writes engaging, fun-to-solve cozy mysteries set in the past. Her mysteries empower readers with a sense of “justice is done” for women, both dead and alive. Tam is the author of the Adele Gossling Mysteries which take place in the early 20th century and feature sassy suffragist and epistolary expert Adele Gossling. Tam has also written historical fiction about women defying the emotional and psychological confinements of their era. Although Tam left her heart in San Francisco, she lives in Texas because it’s cheaper. When she’s not writing, she’s devouring everything classic (books, films, art, music) and concocting yummy vegetarian dishes in her kitchen. 


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Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Tam-May/e/B01N7BQZ9Y/ 

BookBub Author Page: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/tam-may

Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16111197.Tam_May

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Civil Rights: Not Just a Mid-20th Century Phenomenon

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Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day where Americans celebrate not just the work of an extraordinary man and civil rights leader but the strides made by many who fought for civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s. 

Since I write fiction that takes place during the Progressive Era, I wondered if civil rights, like women’s rights, started earlier decade than the mid-20th century events we’re more familiar with. I did some digging and it turns out this is indeed the case. The progressives brought civil rights to the table some fifty years earlier than the word of King and others in the form of one of the instrumental organizations that worked for African American rights: the NAACP.

The NAACP (which stands for National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) began in 1908 as a response to a wave of lynchings that occurred in Lincoln’s birthplace, Springfield, Illinois. Not surprisingly, a group of progressives, outraged by the violence, organized a meeting that included some of the most well-known abolitionists of the previous era such as W.E.B. Dubois and Ida B. Wells. From this meeting emerged the roots of the NAACP, formally established in 1909. 

Photo Credit: A display featuring highlights and emblem of the NAACP at the Kraemer Family Library at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs to celebrate 100 years of the formation of the NAACP, Feb 2009: UCCS Kraemer Family Library/Flickr/CC BY NC SA 2.0 

The NAACP’s mission was to fight racial injustice and discrimination not through violence or grassroots call to action but through the democratic system already in place in America. In other words, they used the same system that oppresses African Americans and other people of color to change laws and policies to fight injustice and discrimination. This is a different approach than many of the later civil rights activists, who believed the system could never work for them and chose more direct means outside the system to achieve their goals of justice and equality. 

The NAACP won several victories in court in the early 20th century. For example, they won a case against the “Grandfather Clause,” (passed in some Southern states which made certain activities, including voting, illegal for people whose grandfathers had not served in the Confederate army). In 1917, they also won a case against racial segregation in Louisville, Kentucky where the court ruled it unconstitutional to prohibit African Americans from buying land in mainly white neighborhoods.

Prior to World War I, the NAACP didn’t see much action beyond the above-mentioned court cases. However, after the war, the organization began to gain more prominence and exposure. Their focus changed with the times such as fighting for more opportunities for African American workers during the Great Depression in the 1930s. 

The NAACP still exists today and fights for racial justice and equality. In 2000, the organization launched a campaign to encourage more African Americans to vote and succeeded in increasing the votes in that community by almost a million. They continue to fight for the African American voice in today’s issues. I think the headline on their home page, “Continuing to fight for Democracy” says it all.

If you love fun, engaging mysteries set in the past, sign up for my newsletter to receive a free book, plus news about upcoming releases, fun facts about women’s history and mystery, and more freebies! You can sign up here

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Friday the 13th: Religious, Literary, and Cultural Origins

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I’ve been fascinated by the number 13 since high school when I had a morose phase that included an obsession with Sylvia Plath’s poems. In “Doomsday”, Plath talks about “lunatic thirteens” and the idea of the number thirteen having madness hidden behind it intrigued me.

Photo Credit: Black and white photo of black cat with arched back: BlueGarou/FreeIMG/CC0 

But the legend of Friday the 13th (the day, not the movie) is more innocuous than that. Some of its roots are, interestingly, religious rather than occult. The story of the Last Supper is about a table set for thirteen. According to some sources, the last guest to arrive was Judas who, of course, betrayed Jesus, a betrayal that eventually led to the crucifixion. That led to the idea that the number thirteen is an unlucky number.

Many believe the significance of Friday the 13th is more literary. For example, many authors exploited this idea of the unlucky and even haunted thirteen throughout the years, beginning with Hesiod in 700 BC, who warned farmers not to plant their seeds on the 13th day on the month because they wouldn’t grow. Others who singled out Friday the 13th as a day to watch out for include Geoffrey Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales (1387), where Chaucer hinted trying to start a new journey on the thirteenth wasn’t a good idea, and Thomas Lawson in his novel Friday the Thirteenth (1907), where the plot combined the unluckiness of the day with Progressive Era ideals about corrupt business practices that had to go. Right now, I’m reading M. R. James (said to be the godfather of the ghost story), and one of his stories, “Number 13,” also focuses on the idea of the unlucky number and its relation to the supernatural.

Culture also had a hand in determining the number thirteen as an unlucky number. There are superstitions surrounding the idea of “the thirteenth guest”. There’s even a classic pre-code film by that name that stars a non-dancing Ginger Rogers you can watch on YouTube here. Agatha Christie’s book Lord Edgeware Dies, renamed Thirteen for Dinner when made for TV in 1985, carries this idea of the unlucky thirteen. One of the characters at the dinner mentioned above reminds Hercule Poirot about the superstition that bad things happen to the first person who gets up from a table set for thirteen. When Poirot asks him who did get up first, the young man grins and says, “Me.” Since the story is a murder mystery, you can guess what happens to this dinner guest in the film!

While Friday the 13th doesn’t have its day (no pun intended) in my upcoming release, The Mystery of the Golden Cat, there are plenty of unlucky things that happen on another important day of the year: Labor Day. To read all about it, you can preorder the book here.  

If you love fun, engaging mysteries set in the past, you’ll enjoy The Missing Ruby Necklace! It’s available exclusively to newsletter subscribers here. By signing up, you’ll also get news about upcoming releases, fun facts about women’s history, classic true-crime tidbits, and more!

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For Richer or Poorer: The Gold Standard in America

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As of this writing, America is experiencing the highest inflation rate in 40 years. Inflation shot up from 1.7% in 2020 to about 7% in 2021 and 2022, with the highest rate in 2022 being 9.1% in June! In spite of the fact that we’re shelling out more money at the grocery store (a friend of mine recently reported she spent over $100 on baking supplies for the holidays), the 7% this year is peanuts compared to 1920, when the nation had almost 24% inflation, or after the American Revolution in 1778 when inflation was 30%.

But there is one way to fight inflation: create a gold standard. This is exactly what people in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era did, though the results weren’t favorable to all. The concept of the gold standard is very difficult to explain and for people to wrap their heads around, so bear with me while I try to outline what it is and why it failed.

In 1900, Congress passed the Gold Standard Act which meant the value of American money was tied to the value of gold. Until then, the currency exchange was based on bimetallism (gold and silver). That meant people were able to buy gold or silver coins with paper money, which was to their advantage because these precious metals were much more stable in their value over time, whereas the value of paper money was basically determined by what federal or state officials determined it to be worth. It was also not an international currency (just as today when we can’t use British pounds to do our Walmart shopping in Cleveland) and it wasn’t even always, at that time, transferable from state to state, since states had their own paper money. So if you moved from Vermont to California and tried to cash a $20 Vermont bill in a California bank, you weren’t guaranteed to get the full $20 value of that bill in exchange.

The gold standard also meant silver was no longer an accepted exchange for paper money. People could only buy gold coins. There were a few problems with this. First, gold coins were in limited supply. Second, since gold was valued at the time at about $22.00 an ounce, people needed to shell out $22 in paper money for one ounce of gold ($1 bought them about 25 grams worth of gold). 

Why did people even want to buy gold coins when they paid much more for them with paper money? Why didn’t they just keep the paper money? Because at that time, paper money was very unreliable in terms of value, as I explained above. Also, gold and silver were precious metals and scarce compared to paper money so they were worth more and their worth didn’t fluctuate as much.

The gold standard was such a hot-button issue that this campaign poster for the Republican party (with William McKinley as the presidential nominee and Theodore Roosevelt as the vice-presidential nominee) put the party’s support of the gold standard as the top political issue on their party’s agenda during the campaign.

Photo Credit: Headshots of William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt against the American flag for a Republican party campaign poster during the 1900 elections, Library of Congress: Picryl/Public Domain

The gold standard became a major political issue in the Progressive Era because it was tied to class. The poor and working class were usually paid in paper money and used paper money to buy their goods, and since the value of paper money was now tied to the gold standard, they had to pay more for their purchases. For example, if something cost $2 gold coins, they would have to pay $44 in paper money for it. 

Hence, the Populist movement was born. This movement largely consisted of farmers and poor people who wanted to convince congress to go back to the bimetal standard (because silver was valued less than gold and they were able to secure silver coins more easily than gold.) In 1896, the Populists merged with the Democratic party, as the two shared several items on their political agenda such as limiting the number of terms a president could serve and advocating an eight-hour work day, as well as the call for bimetallism. This accumulated in Democratic candidate William Jennings Bryan’s moving and rallying “Cross of Gold” speech.  

Bryan ran for president in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era with bimetallism as one of his main themes three times and lost three times. But then, so did the gold standard, eventually. It was withdrawn in the early 1930s by FDR in an effort to combat the Great Depression. From the post-World War II era to the 1970s, the gold standard did make a comeback, but in 1971 Nixon abolished it, both to combat the inflation at the time and to keep foreign governments from buying up American gold supply with their dollars. 

In my upcoming new release, The Mystery of the Golden Cat, the Gold Standard Act is in full force (the book takes place in 1904) and not everyone is happy about it. For one person, it leads indirectly to crime. Though the book comes out at the end of this month, it’s at a special preorder price now, so don’t wait to snag your copy!

If you love fun, engaging mysteries set in the past, sign up for my newsletter to receive a free book, plus news about upcoming releases, fun facts about women’s history and mystery, and more freebies! You can sign up here

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The Theft Made the Mona Lisa Notorious

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The Mona Lisa has been scrutinized and poeticized and theorized for decades, even centuries. It’s probably one of the most famous paintings in all the world, if not the most famous painting. And yet, before the 1910s, it wasn’t that big a deal. Thousands of people had been through the Louvre and caught a glimpse of it in a row with other paintings of similar size. 

It might be a little hard to tell here, but the space on the wall is where the Mona Lisa was discovered missing after the theft. As you can see, the painting was hardly a standout among other paintings at that time. It sat below the massive painting of Paolo Veronese’s The Feast in the House of Simon the Pharisee (a painting, ironically, that was seized by Napoleon and his men illegally during the Napoleonic wars), which got top billing in the display.

Photo Credit: The Mona Lisa’s vacant place in the Salon Carre after it was stolen in 1911, unknown author, Century Magazine, 1914 February, The Century Company: Meidosensei/Wikimedia Commons/PD anon expired 

So what happened to make the Mona Lisa warrant a wall of her own with a heavy wooden railing and bulletproof glass to protect her? In a word: theft.

Many people aren’t aware the Mona Lisa was stolen in 1911. And not by some world-renowned professional gang of thieves or a highly skilled and experienced cat burglar either. It was a working man, an everyday house painter, who walked off with the Mona Lisa.

An Italian immigrant working in France by the name of Vincenzo Peruggia stole the Mona Lisa. He had been arrested twice before, once for theft (though he claimed it was a misunderstanding) and once for not having his immigration papers on him. He was highly suspicious of the French, who showed a lot of xenophobia at that time, especially against the Italians, who were the largest immigrant group at that time. There are theories he was psychologically unbalanced due to lead poisoning from the paint he used in his job as a house painter. Yet, he managed to steal the Mona Lisa (painting only – he left the frame on the service stairs of the Louvre) and keep it hidden for two years.

Why he stole it is still a mystery. One theory is that it was an act of patriotism. Tensions were heating up in Europe, especially between France and Germany, and Italy, tensions that would eventually cause the outbreak of WWI in 1914. Peruggia, as mentioned earlier, had been subject to a lot of ridicule and prejudice in France for being Italian. His coworkers had nicknamed him “Macaroni” and he vowed one day to show them just who was a “macaroni.” In addition, the Mona Lisa was painted by an Italian — Leonardo da Vinci — and it was believed at the time France acquired it illegally during the Napoleonic wars when it was known Napoleon and his army would loot a conquered city of its precious artifacts and ship them to France. This story turned out to be untrue (da Vinci left all his works to his assistant, who later sold them to representatives of European monarchs, including the King of France) but maybe Peruggia wanted to believe it to have a reason to steal the painting.

Others surmise it was purely for money. Though the Mona Lisa didn’t have the notoriety it has today, it was still pretty famous and could fetch a cool $5 million at that time by some estimates (today the Mona Lisa is estimated to be worth more than a quarter of a billion dollars.) 

Whatever the reason, this relatively small painting (roughly, 2 1/2 x 2 feet – compare with the Last Supper, which is roughly 15 x 29 feet) became a celebrity of its own after it was discovered missing. Media mayhem ensued and a frantic international search began, though it lasted only a few months. After that, all became quiet until 1913, when the painting showed up and Peruggia was apprehended.

Want the full details of this fascinating crime that didn’t involve murder? I’ll be doing a series of newsletters next month where I’ll be exploring all the ins and outs to celebrate the release of Book 4 of my Adele Gossling Mysteries (which is also about the theft of precious items, though none as precious as the Mona Lisa) on January 28, 2023. If you’re not a subscriber of my newsletter, now is a great time to join and find out all about the Mona Lisa heist. And you’ll get a free book when you do!

And if you’re into thieves and golden cats, check out Book 4, which is now at a special preorder price, here

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