Joyce T. Strand, Author
The Reporter’s Story
“The thing that most attracts me to historical fiction is taking the factual record as far as it is known, using that as scaffolding, and then letting imagination build the structure that fills in those things we can never find out for sure.” -Geraldine Brooks
We readers of mysteries enjoy the challenge of solving the whodunit puzzle along with—or even before—the amateur sleuth or professional detective. We thrive on sorting out the red herrings. We relish the suspense to identify and capture the villain. We might even appreciate a little romance.
So, why set a mystery in the past?
Simply because the historical setting can add a unique perspective that compounds the puzzle, enhances the characters, intensifies the villains, and foments suspense.
For me, however, first comes the protagonist. I was convinced that a female reporter in the early 20th century would make a compelling sleuth.
So I looked to history to offer me a real live example and discovered Marjorie C. Driscoll, who originally worked as a reporter for publisher William Randolph Hearst and then in 1921 for Hearst’s competitor, the San Francisco Chronicle. She eventually moved south to the Los Angeles Times where she became a well-known front-page contributor.
What was most valuable about Driscoll’s life to me was that she documented her approach to reporting, giving me the perspective I needed for my protagonist as a female reporter in this time period. A graduate of Stanford University in 1913, Driscoll wrote an article in The Stanford Illustrated Review in 1920, titled “In the Newspaper Field” that describes the features of a successful reporter, including the mantra “know a little of everything.”
Emma Matheson, my protagonist in The Reporter’s Story, follows Driscoll’s values and recommendations of a reporter as she solves a mystery on her quest to become a world-class front-page reporter (Driscoll’s article is available on-line at: http://bit.ly/1Rw0VCv p. 194)
I drew additional information about the life of a female reporter in the early twentieth century from Ladies of the Press: The Story of Women in Journalism by an Insider by Ishbel Ross, published in 1936. The author is particularly helpful at describing the trends, expectations, and noteworthy female reporters of the era.
Once I had developed my protagonist’s biography, I looked to the most intriguing city and most galvanizing year to produce the mystery. I wanted a time and place where Emma’s strengths and weaknesses would best be portrayed in a likely manner as she solved the mystery on her way to achieving her goals.
I settled on 1912 in San Francisco—a time of accomplishment following the rebuilding of the city after the devastating 1906 earthquake and fire. It provided a backdrop of intrigue and murder with the infamous tongs and a reputation for the unruly days of the Barbary Coast that accompanied the Gold Rush. It was a time of transition as the automobile was beginning to replace the horse and buggy, planes were in the air when they weren’t crashing, and electricity and phones were starting to be common.
Even more relevant was that San Francisco is the city where one of the most famous newspaper men of all times helped to re-make the world of reporting: William Randolph Hearst.
There just wasn’t a more perfect city to tell The Reporter’s Story.
“San Francisco is a breathtakingly beautiful city, with lots of great contrasts between dark and light, often overlapping each other.
“It’s a great setting for a horror story.”
About The Reporter’s Story
A house burglary in 1912 San Francisco that the victim denies happening piques Emma Matheson’s reporter instincts. Why would a not-so-wealthy businessman deny that recovered loot was his and forego collecting his $8,000 worth of stolen jewelry? Why did he fire his maid and butler who originally reported the theft? The more she pursues the burglary that wasn’t a burglary, the more she sees it as a major story, involving murder, intrigue, and smuggling. Can she solve it and write the story that could project her to become the world-famous reporter she so covets? Or will she become one of its victims?
Additional info about Emma: Emma Matheson is a young woman determined to be a star front-page reporter despite the bias against women in her day.Her mother died when she was born. She was reared by her father who runs a newspaper in Sacramento. She grew up learning about the newspaper business. Her father valued education and insisted she attend university before starting her career. She is bright, determined, a great writer — but a bit naive.
About Joyce Strand:
Joyce T. Strand is the author of who-done-it contemporary and historical mysteries set in California. All of her published six novels are inspired by actual events and/or real people, although they are definitely fictionalized.
Her first three contemporary mysteries feature protagonist Jillian Hillcrest, a public relations executive who encounters murder and mayhem at her Silicon Valley company. Jillian’s boss, Brynn Bancroft, solves the next two mysteries when she leaves her position as Chief Financial Officer to run a winery in Sonoma.
In Strand’s first historical mystery, a Superior Court Judge strives to discover the truth behind the mystery of a robbery-murder in a small California town in 1939. In her newest mystery, THE REPORTER’S STORY, a house burglary in 1912 San Francisco piques a young reporter’s instincts that leads to intrigue and murder.
Strand headed corporate communications at several biotech and high-tech companies in California's Silicon Valley for more than 25 years. Unlike Jillian, however, she did not encounter murder in her career. Strand lives with her two cats and collection of cow statuary in Southern California, and enjoys exploring and writing about the growing wine region in the Ramona Valley near San Diego.
Emma Matheson is a reporter for the San Francisco Gazette in 1912, when it is rare that a woman is a reporter in the first place. Emma's role in the newspaper to write pieces that pertain to women's interests. She loves what she does but would love to do more than write fluff stories. She wants to be a reporter who not only writes articles but also investigates them.
Emma is told not to investigate further for her own safety but Emma is very tenacious and persistent so she goes against the police orders and continues to investigate. What she finds is corruption, drugs and people who she thought she could trust but can't. Trying to get past the women belong in the home way of thinking she must prove what she thinks happened and try to stay alive at the same time.
Joyce Strand's books are always a pleasure to read and this is another to add to the TBR pile is you like a good mystery and strong female characters, this one is for you!
I received a copy of this book for review purposes.