Shakespeare a la 1920s

47702_smallI spent this past Friday night in Staunton, VA, at the historic Stonewall Jackson Hotel ( and the Blackfriars Theater (, watching A Midsummer’s Night Dream. What does this have to do with the Roaring  Twenties? Nothing that I was prepared to see. Was I surprised!

The imaginative production of this familiar Shakespeare play included a rip-roaring intermission they called vaudeville–and it was exactly like a vaudeville show of the Twenties, only shorter. There were several acts, including jugglers, a tap dance, and others, with performers dressed in flapper dresses and Twenties male attire. The music, too, was spot on. Absolutely charming! The talent was terrific. And the beautifully restored hotel dates from 1924. 

exterior-pm-62001For a $218 package, a couple can stay in a lovely room in the historic hotel, enjoy a nice buffet breakfast and parking, plus two tickets to the Blackfriars Theater next door. An amazing bargain–top quality accommodations, great food, and some of the most energetic Shakespeare I’ve ever seen. I encourage you to look into this and consider a weekend in Staunton, VA (other outstanding museums include the Woodrow Wilson birthplace, just a block away (remember–Wilson was president in the Twenties), and the Frontier Culture Museum). There are always several plays on the schedule, so we plan to go back this coming winter. 1311324_6_b

Mary Miley on Tour (Blog Tour, that is)

428255_323596564366286_1483893728_nMy talented friend, Eleanor Kuhns (a writer whose hugely popular Will Rees mystery series–set in the early Federal period with a Shaker backdrop–won the 2011 Mystery Writers of America Best First Crime Novel award, just as my book won the 2012 award–see her at, has passed the baton to me for a blog tour. I’m up next–must answer 4 questions, then hand off to 2 of my favorite mystery authors. So here goes–

What are you working on?

I’m finishing revisions to the third book in my Roaring Twenties mystery series, Renting Silence, where Jessie gets caught up in blackmail, bootlegging, and murder. “You don’t buy silence,” says one silent film star, “you only rent it, and the rent keeps going up.” I’m nearly done with the first draft of the fourth in the series, as yet untitled. I try not to look at the pile on the table to my left, where I have another mystery, this one a stand-alone set in France in 1928, waiting to be revised so it can be sent to the publisher, and 3 magazine articles to write.

View More: do you write what you do?

As a historian, I find the past pulls me much more than the present or the future. I get as much enjoyment out of research as I do writing. My secret weapon is silent movies: I learn so much watching them! Like what offices looked like, and train stations, and hospitals, not to mention clothing, police uniforms, children’s outfits, etc.

I chose to write mysteries, rather than, say, science fiction or romance, because mysteries are what I most like to read. The first “real” books I ever read were the Nancy Drew books. I discovered them when I was 8 years old. I think they cost $1.25 back then, and I remember getting one for Christmas and one for my birthday each year. Libraries didn’t carry them then–I think they were considered “trash.” The day the older girl across the street went off to college and bequeathed her set of Nancy Drews to me was one of the highlights of my life! I graduated to Agatha Christie and romantic suspense writers, and more recently to authors like Laurie King and Lindsey Davis. I read widely, but still get the most pleasure out of mysteries.

How does your work differ from others in your genre?

Oddly enough, there are very few mysteries set in America’s Roaring Twenties. I believe that’s odd because it is hands down the most fascinating decade in American history. No other decade can match the Twenties for murder and mayhem, and it marks the real beginning of the women’s movement, when women were finally liberated from their corsets and most societal restrictions–and after almost a century of effort, they got the vote. Just look at television (Boardwalk Empire, Downton Abbey, Ken Burn’s miniseries on Prohibition), and movies (the Academy-award-winning film, The Artist and Midnight in Paris, The Great Gatsby) to see how much that era is attracting the public’s notice. Yet most historical mysteries are set in medieval times, ancient Rome, or the 19th century.

What is your writing process?

I have been a writer (nonfiction books and articles) for 35 years, so I am used to working all day, every day. To keep from becoming attached to my computer, I take regular breaks to run to the grocery store, throw another load in the laundry, or do household errands, but I pretty much write whenever I’m not doing chores. I still write a lot of historical nonfiction, so my day is spent juggling research, interviews, and speaking events, and trying to squeeze in more writing time. For the past couple of years, I’ve traveled a lot, mostly along the eastern seaboard, to speak at conferences, book clubs, museums, and book & author events. This is fun, but it cuts hugely into the writing process, so I’m glad that two of my nonfiction books are winding down in that regard. I am probably most productive in the late afternoon when I pour a glass of wine and escape into the world of vaudeville, bootleggers, and silent movies.

And now, let me introduce you to two other talented friends, who are also published mystery writers.

1458657_10201373214552949_146939451_nMaggie King‘s debut mystery, Murder at the Book Group, comes out December 2, 2014 from Simon and Schuster. She contributed the short story, “A Not So Genteel Murder,” to the new Sisters in Crime anthology Virginia is for Mysteries. Maggie has worked as a software developer, retail sales manager, and customer service supervisor. She did a stint as an administrator at the Kent-Valentine House in Richmond, Virginia, which she used as the setting for her short story. Maggie graduated from Elizabeth Seton College and earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology. She has called New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California home. These days she lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Glen, and cats, Morris and Olive.

1780804_10202421690158052_815100728_nHeather Baker Weidner is originally from Virginia Beach ( She has been a mystery fan since Scooby Doo and Nancy Drew. A member of Sisters in Crime, she is finishing her first full-length novel, and is one of the authors of Virginia is for Mysteries ( ) In addition to mysteries, she writes a blog, Crazy for Words ( Heather lives in Central Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers.

Visit these ladies and see what they are doing!

Published in: on April 26, 2014 at 7:22 am  Leave a Comment