Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Author Guest Post: Deadly Plunge by Greg Messel
A trip back in time to the 1950s world of my novels “Last of the Seals” and “Deadly Plunge” is full of reminders how much the world has changed.
One of the most obvious changes is the social mores surrounding smoking. When I began my career I remember conference rooms being smoke filled with ash tray spilling over with cigarette butts and ashes. Today smokers must huddle outside of doorways to grab a cigarette outside. That’s fine with me but it has been a monumental change.
It would be considered appalling if in the middle of an office, someone lit up a cigarette.
In the 1950s, smoking was even more pronounced. My grandparents were both chain smokers and I remember as a child or a teenager, that you could actually see smoke rolling out the door when you entered their house. I was exposed to massive amounts of second hand smoke for years.
There was a transition to when there were smoking sections on airplanes, particularly. I remember being in the last row of the non smoking section which was pretty much the same as sitting in the smoking section.
In “Last of the Seals” and “Deadly Plunge” everyone smokes and pretty much non-stop–even baseball players like Sam Slater. Imagine going in to your doctor’s office and he walked into the examination room with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth.
Another noticeable difference is in the area of sexual mores.
I had one reader ask me, “why don’t Sam and Amelia just have sex and get it over with?”
The answer is that in the 1950s there was a different moral code. I realize that pre-marital sex and adultery still occurred but not to the extent that it does some 60 years later.
Amelia had a strict Catholic upbringing and as she said in “Deadly Plunge” it had been drilled into her that “weddings come before honeymoons.”
Besides I think it is much more interesting for their to be sexual tension between Sam and Amelia instead of instant gratification. There was a day when you wondered if your girl kissed on the first date--not had sex on the first date.
I remember the day when hotels and motels used to care who was checking in to their establishments. Hotel and motel proprietors were very concerned because they were “running a respectable” business.
At some of the larger hotels there were even house detectives or “house dicks” who made sure that all of the guests were behaving themselves. This meant that there was no hanky-panky going on such as extramarital affairs or trysts between unmarried people happening under their roof.
From today’s perspective it is mind boggling that motels and hotels would try to be the morality police for those checking into their establishments.
A running joke of the era was “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith” checking in was assumed to be someone who was concealing their identity.
I even remember that in the “free love” era of the late Sixties and early Seventies in the Bay Area I got skeptical looks from the check in clerk on my honeymoon. My wife was a very petite woman and even though she was 20 years old on our honeymoon, she probably looked like she was 13 or 14. My father in law suggested that I take a copy of our marriage license on our honeymoon in case there was any question about me checking into a hotel with her.
There are two plots points which revolve around the need to conceal your identity from nosy motel clerks.
Sam and Amelia who are not married, checked into a motel room together in Santa Cruz while hiding out from gangsters. Sam gave a phony name on his check in and paid cash.
Paying cash was another way to stay anonymous in the 1950s and 1960s. Motel or hotel bills were either paid by check or cash since there were no such thing as credit cards. It is amazing to recall that motels and hotels would take a check from a stranger who was traveling through.
Additionally, as part of the story in “Last of the Seals” a couple who is having an affair regularly checks into a motel in Sausalito as “Mr. and Mrs. Ellsworth” even though they are not married. They of course pay cash.
Even as late as the 1960s, desk clerks scrutinized who was checking into their hotel. Watch the great scene from the movie “The Graduate” when Dustin Hoffman is getting a hotel room to begin his affair with Mrs. Robinson.
A nervous Dustin Hoffman is asked the key question–”Are you here for an affair, sir?”
Sam Slater mysteries (last of the Seals & deadly plunge) blog Tour Information:
About the Author:
Greg Messel has written four novels and three unpublished memoirs. He published his premiere novel “Sunbreaks” in 2009, followed by Expiation in 2010 and The Illusion of Certainty in 2011. Last of the Seals is the first in a series of mysteries which are set in 1957 San Francisco. The second book in the series Deadly Plunge will be published around Christmas of 2012. Greg grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and has had a newspaper career as a columnist, sportswriter and news editor. He won a Wyoming Press Association Award as a columnist while working for a daily newspaper in Wyoming. Greg also spent many years in the corporate world as a Financial Manager. He now devotes his energies to writing at his home in Edmonds, Washington on the Puget Sound just north of Seattle, where he lives with his wife, Carol.
Visit Greg’s website at www.gregmessel.com.
About the Book:
Last of the Seals:
The year is 1957 in San Francisco. Sam Slater is a lifetime minor league baseball player for the San Francisco Seals. The Seals have just one more season left as San Francisco is about to become a major league city. The Giants are coming to town in 1958 and the Seals will be displaced. Sam has come to the end of his baseball career and is going to join the private detective agency of his best friend. When his friend is brutally murdered, Sam must go it alone and try to find out why. Along the way he is swept off of his feet by a beautiful Elvis-obsessed TWA stewardess named Amelia Ryan. Sam and Amelia try to unravel the mystery together. Sam’s best friend, Jimmy inadvertently saw something he shouldn’t have. Sam and Amelia have pictures in their possession that have crime families in San Francisco and Chicago very worried. Then a young woman Sam has been searching for is found dead on the beach. Suddenly, Sam and Amelia find themselves in danger. On dark and foggy San Francisco nights, trouble is lurking just around the next corner.
Former baseball player and newly-minted private investigator, Sam Slater is hired to find out why a rich, politically-well connected San Francisco man, Arthur Bolender, suddenly ended his life by plunging off of the Golden Gate Bridge. All those who know Arthur say unequivocally that he did not commit suicide. However, Bolender’s body was found floating in San Francisco Bay and his car was abandoned in the traffic lane of the bridge. Meanwhile, Sam’s romance with glamorous TWA stewardess Amelia Ryan continues to blossom and deepen. She is now his secret fiancee. Amelia also eagerly helps Sam solve his cases when she’s in town. The key to unraveling the mystery seems to be a strange old Victorian-style house. Bolender’s widow, a rich, seductive socialite named Maggie Bolender, was not even aware that her husband owned the house. What is really going on behind the doors of the mysterious house? Finding the answers will plunge Sam and Amelia into a dangerous world of political intrigue in the exciting sequel to “Last of the Seals.”
Book Trailer Code:
Last of the Seals:
Sam Slater Mysteries Tour Page