Perhaps this should have come as no surprise to me, but it did: reading peaked in the 1920s. After all, radio was just getting started, television did not exist, and travel for pleasure was as rare as paved roads. What did the growing middle class do with free time? Some consider this the golden age of newspapers, with 12 daily newspapers in New York City, and two or three in other cities, even small ones. Many people ordered both a morning paper and an afternoon paper. Tabloids were all the rage, dailies or weeklies that featured murder trials, crime, celebrities, and gossip, most of it made up–like the tabloids you see in the supermarkets today. Reporters made up interviews with celebrities and even with people who were dead. One 1926 article claimed to have been written by heart-throb Rudolph Valentino from beyond the grave! Magazines were very popular. Fashion magazines and fan magazines proliferated. Reader’s Digest starting up in 1922, Time in 1023, and the New Yorker in 1925. Yet, oddly, this was also a time of very few book stores. (See my earlier post about this: HERE.)
I’ve used a good bit of this information in my second book (which we are calling Silent Murders until the publisher settles on a title) by sensationalizing or making up much of the information about the “Hollywood murders” that is reported in the newspapers, especially William Randolph Hearst’s papers. And I am presently writing the fourth in the series and have added a young character who uses the Hollywood public library to help Jessie find some information.