"A Treat" - DEVIL BY THE TAIL by Jeanne Matthews - Interview
We are pleased to introduce you to Jeanne Matthews as we put the spotlight on her historical mystery novel, Devil by the Tail. With an intriguing title like that, you'd better keep on reading!
Devil by the Tail
What’s a 20-something Union war widow to do in 1867? Start up her own detective agency with a former Reb P.O.W. of course!
Quinn Sinclair, who uses the name Mrs. Paschal professionally, and her wryly observant partner Garnick get two cases on the same day - one to help a man prove he didn't kill his wife, another to help a lawyer find reasonable doubt that his client killed her ex-lover's new bride. As the detectives dig deeper, they unearth facts that tie the cases together in disturbing ways.
This tantalizing tale of 19th Century Chicago comes complete with corrupt politicians, yellow-press reporters, gambling parlors, and colorful bawdyhouse madams. At every turn in the investigation, Quinn discovers more suspects and more secret motives for murder.
Not least among her worries, someone seems intent on murdering her!
Q&A with Author
What has been your greatest pleasure in writing Devil by the Tail?
In a word, learning. I had no intention of writing an historical novel, but inspiration came when I accidentally discovered that an army of battle-hardened Irish veterans of the American Civil War invaded Canada in 1866. Say what? It’s true. Not just once, but five times. The idea was to hold the territory hostage until England granted independence to Ireland. The plan failed, of course, but I’d become curious. Further research revealed that this radical organization, known as the Fenian Brotherhood, had its roots in Chicago, a post-war boom town crackling with excitement. It had everything a mystery novelist could possibly desire – plotting Irish fanatics, displaced Confederate prisoners of war, Allan Pinkerton’s newly established detective agency, a burgeoning population of immigrants and industrialists, corrupt politicians, rampant crime, and hundreds of saloons, gambling dens, and bawdy houses to provide the newspapers with outrageous stories of murder and all manner of immorality.
Do you remember the moment when you first considered yourself a writer?
In third grade, my teacher assigned her class of eight-year-olds the task of writing their autobiography. I tackled the project with enthusiasm. Life experience at that stage of my career was a little thin, but I made up for it with a string of invented episodes in a kind of precocious gonzo style. I don’t remember what grade the teacher gave me, but she scrawled across the top of my paper, “You’ve got flair!” I didn’t know what “flair” was, but when I looked it up it sounded like the beginnings of a writer.
What is your favorite quote?
Either Flannery O’Connor stole the line from E.M. Forster or Forster stole it from Flannery, but it sums up my writing process perfectly. “I don’t know what I think until I see what I say.” It answers another question. Do I work from an outline or just wait to see where an idea takes me? I wait for the surprise. I have the characters in mind. I know the time and the place. In Devil by the Tail, it’s 1867 Chicago and my two protagonists couldn’t be more different. Quinn Sinclair is the young widow of a Union soldier whose failure to leave a will has left her in the lurch. She wants to be independent of her condescending in-laws and she needs an income. Having worked briefly in the female bureau of the Pinkerton Detective Agency, she has developed a craving for adventure. Gabe Garnick is an unvarnished ex-Confederate POW haunted by all the death he saw in the war. His wife died of typhoid while he was interned. As he says, he’s “on his own hook,” no reason to return home and no plans for the future. Quinn persuades him to join her and start their own detective agency. When these two walked onto the page and began to react to each other, I waited to see what happened. The tension they generated kept me writing for almost 300 pages and already I’m contemplating a sequel.
What story are you working on next and what inspired it?
Another scourge of the 19th Century was “resurrectionists.” Medical schools needed cadavers in order to study the human anatomy and the public, especially those with strong religious beliefs, remained squeamish. Where there’s a need, there will always be opportunists to fill it and the business of body snatching sprang up across the country. Cemeteries erected gates and often hired armed guards to protect the graves. I thought Garnick & Paschal’s next case might begin when they are hired to apprehend a group of grave robbers who’ve been digging up bodies in Chicago’s famous Oak Woods Cemetery. I don’t know what they’ll unearth. See answer to 3, above.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Two. I worked for litigators for twenty years and seldom a day went by that I didn’t fantasize about murder. When I retired, I wrote a blood-curdler in which I bumped off a lawyer on almost every page, each one killed by an ever more gruesome method. It was wonderful therapy, satisfying in the extreme, but the body count was just too high. Agents who read the manuscript registered fear and alarm. My novel of revenge against the legal profession seems destined to remain locked in a desk drawer, but the experience exorcised my demons. I went on to write five travel-related mysteries featuring Dinah Pelerin, each book set in a different country and chock-full of local lore. Then I got hooked on the story of those hapless Irish revolutionaries hell-bent on freeing Ireland and wrote my second so-far unpublished book.
I say “so far” because it may become the prequel to Devil by the Tail. It tells the back story of how Quinn and Garnick met and solved her father’s murder by outwitting the Fenians, a spy sent from England to infiltrate the Fenians, the Pinkertons who were investigating the Fenians on behalf of the Canadian government, the emissary of the American president who secretly approved the Fenian raids, and the arms smugglers who betrayed the Fenians. Whew! That’s a lot to fit between the covers of one book. I may have to cut a few chapters. Like they say, too many Fenians spoil the broth.
Jeanne Matthews graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in Journalism and has worked as a copywriter, a high school English and Drama teacher, and a paralegal. An avid traveler and crime fiction reader, she is the author of the Dinah Pelerin international mystery series. She currently lives in Washington State with her husband, who is a law professor, and a Norwich terrier named Jack Reacher.
Genre: Historical Mystery
Release: July 20, 2021
Publisher: D. X. Varos, Ltd.
Content Rating: PG-13 (Non-Descriptive Sex; Some Violence)
Enter to win a paperback copy of Devil by the Tail by Jeanne Matthews! We have 2 copies up for grabs!
The giveaway is open to US residents only and ends July 30, 2021. You must be 18 or older to enter. Void where prohibited by law. This giveaway is sponsored by the author and hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.
Thank you for visiting and reading!
Feel inspired? Want others to experience the book magic? We hope you'll support this author by sharing with your friends. Have you read the book? Let us know your thoughts!