Saturday 21 October 2017

Guest Blog - Fiona Veitch Smith

At Harrogate in summer I was pleased to meet, at a gathering of fellow Northern crime writers, Fiona Veitch Smith. Fiona is based in the north east, and I'm glad to welcome her to this blog. She's written a guest post about her new book, The Death Beat, which is published by Lion:

"Synchronicity (noun): The simultaneous occurrence of events which appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.

Origin: 1950s. Coined by psychoanalyst CG Jung (who has a cameo in The Death Beat)

I began researching The Death Beat in November 2015.  Set in 1921, I planned to send Poppy, a young London journalist, to New York for three months, with her editor, Rollo. I intended to reveal Rollo’s back story, thrust Poppy into the world of speakeasies, early radio and cinema, and explore the contrast between wealthy and poor immigrants. At the time, the tragedy of the Syrian civil war was all over the media, and the debate in western nations about how many refugees to let in was reaching fever pitch. This was a useful parallel for my poor Jewish immigrant characters, Mimi and Estie, who were fleeing the Russian civil war. I was intrigued to read about the 1921 US Immigration Restriction Act which placed restrictions on immigrants from certain ethnic, religious and national groups.

But what hadn’t happened yet was Donald Trump. All I knew back then was that he was a reality TV star who questioned Barack Obama’s place of birth. It never crossed my mind that in just over a year, Americans would elect this unlikely candidate to the presidency.

But come November 2016 they did just that. By then The Death Beat was finished and, for a few months forgotten, as I started work on the next book. However, in the spring of 2017 the first edits arrived and I re-engaged with it; but this time with the new reality show on the TV every single night. I was startled by the parallels. The policies and attitudes of nearly a century ago were being played out again. In 1921 it was the Jews who were seen as being of the wrong religion, and the darker-skinned Italians who were suspected of being rapists and gangsters. Instead of ‘terrorists’ there were ‘anarchists’; with Eastern Europeans and their socialist leanings declared a threat to national security.

In October 2017, with the release date only two weeks away, synchronicity struck again. One of my unsympathetic characters is a man called Archie Weinstein, created 18 months before the name became infamous. But if that isn’t enough, another character is a Hollywood film producer. Pure coincidence, but an odd one. Now I wait to see how it will all be received…"

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