Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Blog Tour Guest Post: The Babe Ruth Deception by David O. Stewart

Please join me in welcoming David O. Stewart to Let Them Read Books! David is touring the blogosphere with his latest historical mystery, The Babe Ruth Deception, and he's here today with a guest post about the tools he uses when writing a historical novel. Read on and enter to win a copy of The Babe Ruth Deception!

As the Roaring Twenties get under way, corruption seems everywhere–from the bootleggers flouting Prohibition to the cherished heroes of the American Pastime now tarnished by scandal. Swept up in the maelstrom are Dr. Jamie Fraser and Speed Cook…

Babe Ruth, the Sultan of Swat, is having a record-breaking season in his first year as a New York Yankee. In 1920, he will hit more home runs than any other team in the American League. Larger than life on the ball field and off, Ruth is about to discover what the Chicago White Sox players accused of throwing the 1919 World Series are learning–baseball heroes are not invulnerable to scandal. With suspicion in the air, Ruth’s 1918 World Series win for the Boston Red Sox is now being questioned. Under scrutiny by the new baseball commissioner and enmeshed with gambling kingpin Arnold Rothstein, Ruth turns for help to Speed Cook–a former professional ballplayer himself before the game was segregated and now a promoter of Negro baseball–who’s familiar with the dirty underside of the sport.

Cook in turn enlists the help of Dr. Jamie Fraser, whose wife Eliza is coproducing a silent film starring the Yankee outfielder. Restraint does not come easily to the reckless Ruth, but the Frasers try to keep him in line while Cook digs around.

As all this plays out, Cook’s son Joshua and Fraser’s daughter Violet are brought together by a shocking tragedy. But an interracial relationship in 1920 feels as dangerous as a public scandal–even more so because Joshua is heavily involved in bootlegging. Trying to protect Ruth and their own children, Fraser and Cook find themselves playing a dangerous game.

Once again masterfully blending fact and fiction, David O. Stewart delivers a nail-biting historical mystery that captures an era unlike any America has seen before or since in all its moral complexity and dizzying excitement.

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Tools of Historical Fiction
By David O. Stewart

Through the three historical mysteries in my “Deception” series – # 3, The Babe Ruth Deception emerged in paperback last month – I’ve turned to some unexpected tools for grounding each story in the proper time-and-place.  

Because the books range from 1900 (The Lincoln Deception) to 1921 (Babe Ruth), and take place variously in small-town Ohio, Washington, Paris, and New York, each one has involved different challenges.  If readers don’t believe the book’s version of the era and the location, the story doesn’t have a chance.  Happily, some tools work in any situation.


These are invaluable guides to personal clothing (how uncomfortable were they?), hair styles, and deportment (how formal did people wish to appear?).  Photos of cities reveal how they looked a century ago:  the traffic, the buildings, the commercial offerings.  Photos of Manhattan streetscapes in the early 1900s showed a surprising (to me) lack of women who were out and about.  All were escorted by men.  

When it comes to landscapes and vistas, even current photos may be helpful.

Finally, photographs are essential for any real historical figures who appear in the story (say, Babe Ruth or President Woodrow Wilson in The Wilson Deception).  The Babe’s disarming grin, Wilson’s triumphantly erect posture – these come through powerfully in photos.  The story has to portray historical figures as they were, and as they’re known.  I have distilled this inarguable point: you can make up a lot, but Abe Lincoln HAS to be tall.

Films and audio recordings

For my first novel, set in 1900, there were no films available, but I could see film of Woodrow Wilson and hear his voice on tape.  Watching a person move can reveal much, including the impact that person may have on others; the same is true of hearing his voice, cadence, and speech patterns.  

For Babe Ruth, I hit the jackpot.  Not only are there many recordings of his voice, but the Babe made his own silent movie in 1920, Headin’ Home (you can watch all of it online here).  It’s a pretty bad movie, but it offers a great look at the 25-year-old Babe, before he put on weight and suffered the dings and aches that come with age and an athletic career.  The movie also gave me a key plot line for the novel, since one of New York’s most notorious gangsters financed the film, then was indicted for bribing eight members of the Chicago White Sox to throw the 1919 World Series . . . but I shouldn’t give away the story!


Being at the actual location of the story can give an immediacy – the sounds and light around a place, or the impact of a building’s design on the eye.  For The Babe Ruth Deception, I visited the Wall Street shrine of J.P. Morgan Co., where a terrorist bombing took place in 1920, and also the Ansonia Hotel on Broadway in Manhattan (below, now deluxe condos), where the Babe lived in arriviste splendor.


For the writer of historical fiction, one puzzle is everyday speech:  what words people used, what kinds of slang was current, and how they put words together.  To get a feel for such things, I like to read novels written during the period.  To learn about 1920 speech patterns, I turned to Main Street by Sinclair Lewis and This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Having the story in 1920 gave me a small advantage.  My mother, born in 1917, had a virtually inexhaustible supply of sayings, slang and piquant phrases. If I was tempted to put into a colloquial phrase into a character’s mouth, I tried to imagine my mother saying it.  If I could hear her it in her voice, I used it.  

A final point.  Though I rely on historical research (and always include an Author’s Note to explain what events in the story are real) it’s important not to overdo it.  It’s fiction, after all.  Novelists use their imaginations, and so do readers.  Edgar Rice Burroughs made a fortune with his Tarzan books, yet never set foot in Africa, while Frank Herbert wrote six novels about the universe of Dune without ever visiting that planet. 

Prolific novelist Lawrence Block captured this idea in his book Writing the Novel:  
All our stories are nothing but a pack of lies.  Research is one of the tools we use to veil this deception . . .but this is not to say that the purpose of research is to make our stories real.  It’s to make them look real, and there’s a big difference.

About the Author:

David O. Stewart, formerly a lawyer, writes fiction and history. His first historical work told the story of the writing of the Constitution (“The Summer of 1787”). It was a Washington Post Bestseller and won the Washington Writing Prize for Best Book of 2007. His second book (“Impeached”), grew from a judicial impeachment trial he defended before the United States Senate in 1989. “American Emperor: Aaron Burr’s Challenge to Jefferson’s America” explored Burr’s astounding Western expedition of 1805-07 and his treason trial before Chief Justice John Marshall. “Madison’s Gift: Five Partnerships That Built America” debuted in February 2015. He has received the 2013 History Award of the Society of the Cincinnati and the 2016 William Prescott Award for History Writing from the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America.

Stewart’s fiction career began with the release of “The Lincoln Deception,” an historical novel exploring the John Wilkes Booth conspiracy. “The Wilson Deception,” the sequel, is set at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. “The Babe Ruth Deception” occurs during the Babe’s first two years with the Yankees while he remade baseball and America began the modern era with Prohibition, bootlegging, and terrrorism.

Stewart lives with his wife in Maryland. Visit his website at


During the Blog Tour we will be giving away two paperback copies of The Babe Ruth Deception! To enter, please see the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules:

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 27th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents in the US & Canada only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.
The Babe Ruth Deception

The Babe Ruth Deception is on a blog tour!


  1. Thank you so much for hosting David's guest post & blog tour, Jenny! Good luck to all who enter the giveaway.

    HF Virtual Book Tours

  2. I really enjoyed reading the post and about the research David has done for his books. I will look forward to reading The Babe Ruth Deception.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com


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