Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Blog Tour Guest Post: Innocence Lost by Sherilyn Decter

Please join me in welcoming Sherilyn Decter to Let Them Read Books! Sherilyn is touring the blogosphere with her debut historical novel, Innocence Lost, first book in the Bootleggers' Chronicles! I'm thrilled to have her here today with an insightful post about how she used research to shape her characters, weave her story around historical events, and bring the Roaring Twenties to colorful life. Read on and enter to win a prize pack!

In a city of bootleggers and crime, one woman must rely on a long-dead lawman to hunt down justice…

Philadelphia, 1924. Maggie Barnes doesn’t have much left. After the death of her husband, she finds herself all alone to care for her young son and look after their rundown house. As if that weren’t bad enough, Prohibition has turned her neighborhood into a bootlegger’s playground. To keep the shoddy roof over their heads, she has no choice but to take on boarders with questionable ties…

When her son’s friend disappears, Maggie suspects the worst. And local politicians and police don’t seem to have any interest in an investigation. With a child’s life on the line, Maggie takes the case and risks angering the enemy living right under her nose…

Maggie’s one advantage may be her new found friend: the ghost of a Victorian-era cop. With his help, can she find justice in a lawless city?

Innocence Lost is the first novel in the Bootleggers’ Chronicles, a series of historical fiction tales. If you like headstrong heroines, Prohibition-era criminal underworlds, and just a touch of the paranormal, then you’ll love Sherilyn Decter’s gripping tale.

Which Comes First: The Research or the Story?
by Sherilyn Decter

In every author of historical fiction lies the beating heart of a passionate researcher. It’s one of my favorite parts of writing. While I include real people, real events, and real settings into the Bootleggers’ Chronicles series, they are fictionalized to help drive the story further.

There are numerous books, articles, and online resources available for researchers looking to learn more about the 1920s in America. It was a tumultuous time. The destruction and brutality of World War One and the entrepreneurial opportunities created through Prohibition set the stage for significant change.

I try to have the characters in my novels be ‘of their time.’ Often I have to wrestle with timing--a great event won’t fit neatly into the timeline of the plot. There is the recurring question of how to incorporate authentic attitudes toward people who are different, toward women, that sometimes grate on our modern ear. And don’t get me started on the different standards of personal hygiene!

Maggie Barnes, the main character of Innocence Lost, is a woman of her time. She’s mistrustful of the immigrants that have poured into Philadelphia because of the Great War, families from other countries that are there because of the economic opportunities or fear of what’s happening back in their home countries. She struggles as she learns to share her city and her neighborhood with these strangers.

I found the sections where Maggie battles often and loudly with her mother--a woman born in a different century--about hair length, skirt length, women’s independence, and language amusing to write. Ah, the ‘younger generation’ is always with us.

Keeping Innocence Lost as authentic as possible, I had great fun poking my nose into how people lived in the 1920s. It’s the beginning of the modern era, so familiar to us from stories told around our own dinner tables by older family members, and yet a hundred years ago. What would Maggie’s laundry day look like? How and where would she buy groceries? What did flappers wear under all that fringe?

Pictures, movies, books, oral histories are all valuable and entertaining sources. I learned that my habit of doing laundry on a Monday comes from these earlier times, and I learned why. I learned that one pair of underwear a week is just not sufficient. I learned that all the advice that Maggie’s mother gave her about deportment and men somehow made it into my mouth as I raise my own three daughters.

Accuracy is satisfying, but it is also cruel. Favorite tunes of mine from the Jazz Age were included in the book and then taken out because they didn’t fit the timeline. I desperately wanted Cab Calloway to be playing "Minnie the Moocher" at the New Year’s Eve party in 1924, except that he couldn’t.  My scene was six years too early--oh, banana oil!

My villain, Mickey Duffy, was actually King of the Bootleggers in Philly. I took him right out of the history books, newspaper headlines, and police archives. Early in the series, I wanted to bump him off, but fortunately for Mickey, he lived until 1931. There was lots of information in police and city archives about his criminal exploits, but not so much about the man himself. The parts of him that are fictionalized had to sit comfortably with the factual aspects of his life. Many of the criminals around him were also real. While a writer needs to make any character two-dimensional, reports from the time are very one-dimensional. Bad men. Evil men. They never explain why, or what happened when they got out of bed that morning. What did they like to eat for breakfast? What kept them awake at night? What was the dream that drove them forward?

So very carefully, I began to knit fictional garments to clothe the naked bodies of the factual people. It has to fit, but maybe I’ll add a pom-pom or other embellishment along the way. To make it more interesting.

And it wasn’t just people that were challenging. I also wanted a certain authenticity to the settings as well, whether it was a living room in the Northern Liberties district of Philadelphia or the marquee lights of Broad Street itself. Thank goodness for the Internet as I could look at old photos from the time, call up Google maps to see if Maggie could walk from her house to the store, check trolley routes from 1924, and get excited when the line was extended in 1926 and ran closer to her son’s school.

Big events for the nation and the city are in the Bootleggers’ Chronicles, but so are the smaller events. Maggie’s first electric refrigerator, her first car, her first bank loan.

Archivists at universities, schools, churches, and hospitals in the area were very helpful, Passing me along until I landed in the lap(top) of resident historians. Photos and stories were generously shared, and I wove them into the story of Philadelphia and Maggie in the Roaring Twenties.

I look forward to hearing from all the readers out there who love history, too. I’d love to share ideas about how you would write a scene or bring out the nuance of the times. It doesn’t just take a village to raise a child; it also takes one to write a book.

INNOCENCE LOST will be a Kindle Freebie on February 21st!

About the Author:

Sherilyn Decter is a writer, researcher, and lover of historical fiction. Her work is set in the Roaring Twenties and if you like feisty and determined heroines, complex cover-ups, Prohibition stories about criminal underworlds, police and political corruption, then you’re going to love Sherilyn’s grand gangster tales.

For more information, please visit Sherilyn Decter’s website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitterInstagram,
Goodreads and Pinterest.

Innocence Lost is on a blog tour!


During the Blog Tour we will be giving away two prize packs of a copy of the book, a set of Paper Dolls, and a Jazz Age Fashion Coloring Book! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.

Giveaway Rules:

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on February 22nd. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open internationally.
– 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. Innocence Lost


  1. Thanks so much for hosting, Jenny! I appreciate your support!

    HF Virtual Book Tours

  2. I'd love to be able to repost this on my website. Would you consider that? Thanks, Sherilyn


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