New York City, 1915
The Lusitania has just been sunk, and headlines about a shooting at J.P. Morgan's mansion and the Great War are splashed across the front page of every newspaper. Capability "Kitty" Weeks would love nothing more than to report on the news of the day, but she's stuck writing about fashion and society gossip over on the Ladies' Page―until a man is murdered at a high society picnic on her beat.
Determined to prove her worth as a journalist, Kitty finds herself plunged into the midst of a wartime conspiracy that threatens to derail the United States' attempt to remain neutral―and to disrupt the privileged life she has always known.
Radha Vatsal's A Front Page Affair is the first book in highly anticipated series featuring rising journalism star Kitty Weeks.
How Early Hollywood Heroines Inspired Kitty Weeks
by Radha Vatsal
Capability “Kitty” Weeks, the protagonist of A Front Page Affair, was inspired by the action-film heroines of the 1910s. During the 1910s, actresses like Pearl White, Helen Holmes, Kathlyn Williams, and many others acted in thrilling serial films with titles like The Perils of Pauline, The Exploits of Elaine, The Hazards of Helen, Lightning Raider, The Perils of Our Girl Reporters. The characters they played in these films were athletic, brave, and resourceful. They brandished guns, chased villains, and fought “bad guys” on top of moving trains. And this was all before women had the vote—when women wore their long hair in buns and ankle-length skirts!
The 1910s were an incredible decade for women—professionally, culturally, and politically—they won the right to vote in 1920. In the mid-20s and after, the number of women in professional fields actually declined and didn’t go back up again until the 1970s.
I wanted to write a story set in this amazing era, with a young woman protagonist at its center, solving mysteries and taking action ala Pearl White and her comrades. Journalism seemed like an ideal profession for her because it would allow her to go out and about in the world and ask questions—a rarity for women in those days.
In the 1910s, a woman’s place was still considered to be in the home, even though more and more women were out in the workplace trying to earn a living. Career guides provided women with advice on what professions to pursue, and in terms of working at a newspaper, women were advised to stick to the so-called “woman’s department” or “Ladies Page.” So Kitty Weeks works for the Ladies Page of the New York Sentinel, but she wants to make a splash in the world of reporting. Like Pearl, who she admires, Kitty knows she must take matters into her own hands when a man is murdered at a July Fourth party that she’s been sent to cover by her editor, Miss Helena Busby.
Kitty doesn’t fight villains on moving trains, but she pursues her case with determination. People open up to her and tell her things since she’s a young woman (she’s just nineteen), and they don’t take her seriously. Along the way, Kitty meets historical characters, women like Anne Morgan, the philanthropist and writer—and also the sister of J.P. Morgan who is shot right before the novel begins. Kitty interviews Miss Morgan about the new book she’s written, The American Girl (which was published in 1915 and is a book of advice for young women).
Kitty lives with her father on the west side of Manhattan; drives her own sporty car, a Stutz Bearcat (like Pearl!), and goes to the movies with her maid, Grace, where she watches Pearl White’s latest films on the screen. She’s inspired by Pearl’s courage and derring-do. One day, I hope she will meet her heroine in person.
A Front Page Affair is the first in the series of Kitty Weeks Mysteries set during the 1910s against the backdrop of World War I intrigue.
Radha Vatsal grew up in Mumbai, India, and came to the United States to attend boarding school when she was sixteen. She has stayed here ever since. Her fascination with the 1910s began when she studied women filmmakers and action-film heroines of silent cinema at Duke University, where she earned her Ph.D. from the English Department. A Front Page Affair is her first novel. Radha lives with her husband and two daughters in New York City.
You can find Radha on Facebook and the World of Kitty Weeks Tumblr.