Michael Murphy and I never would have met if it weren’t for social media. We learned about five years ago (through Twitter, I believe) that we had a common interest in Woodstock. I was there, and I was using Twitter in 2009 to promote Woodstock Revisited, a book containing 50 stories written by people who had been there. My friend, John Northlake, and I both had stories in the book.
Michael noticed because he was working on a far more ambitious project, a novel called Goodbye, Emily. This story of a pilgrimage back to Yasgur’s farm is both comical and touching. Three friends make the trip back to the site of the 1969 event so one of them can scatter the ashes of his late wife, who became the love of his life during the Festival of Peace and Love (and lots of mud, but that’s another story). Michael invited me to review his book, which I did. I became a fan of his work. We both live in Phoenix, so we’ve gotten together and stay in touch.
Now he’s tackled another challenging project – The Yankee Club – and I’m delighted to see that it’s gaining lots of attention. The book is published by Alibi, a Random House imprint, so Michael has caught the eye of a big, New York City-based publishing house.
NYC also is the setting for The Yankee Club, an old-fashioned, Prohibition-era detective novel. If you love the detective movies of the 1930s and ’40s (nobody did them better than Warner Bros!), if you love Dashiell Hammett characters like Sam Spade and Nick and Nora Charles, then you’ll love The Yankee Club. (Dashiell and his long-time lover, playwright Lillian Hellman, both make an appearance in the book, but more on that in a minute.)
The book is billed as a Jake and Laura mystery. It’s the first in a series following the adventures and love affair of Jake Donovan, detective turned mystery writer, and Laura Wilson, Jake’s childhood sweetheart who has become a leading lady on Broadway.
Jake and Laura are reunited after a two-year separation caused by Jake’s fleeing to Florida after Laura once again turned down his marriage proposal. He’s back in the Big Apple to meet with his publisher. His first stop is to the Yankee Club, a speakeasy in Queens owned by another childhood pal, Gino Santoro. He enjoys some liquid refreshment with Gino then takes a walk to see his old detective-agency partner, Mickey O’Brien. While in Mickey’s office, Jake learns that Laura has gotten herself engaged to big-time banker and financier Spencer Dalrymple (of the Long Island Dalrymples).
Mickey is cagey with Jake about the case he’s working on, but it doesn’t take long for Jake to learn the stakes are high. They leave Mickey’s office to get some fresh air. While they’re walking, a gunman in a black sedan kills Mickey and shoots Jake in the leg.
Jake vows to avenge Mickey’s death and soon finds himself back in the detective business. It doesn’t take him long to uncover a conspiracy by some of the nation’s most powerful businessmen to sabotage the administration of the newly elected Franklin Roosevelt, champion of the working class.
The novel is a tale well told. One thing that makes it really fun is the assortment of famous characters who make their way to the Yankee Club or into Jake’s life – Cole Porter (who gets some help with his writer’s block); Dashiell Hammett and Lillian Hellman (whose play, The Children’s Hour, gets the extra oomph it needs from Jake); and the great Yankee himself, Babe Ruth, who gets a bit surly with Jake and company.
The Yankee Club is a fun read from start to finish. I’m looking forward to the next Jake and Laura mystery, All That Glitters, due out early next year. Thanks for a great read, Michael.