July 26, 2023

The Noble Experiment?

That's apparently what some folks called Prohibition, that (allegedly) dry time in the 1920s when America went without legal hooch. That period is the inspiration for a short story collection that comes out in September. "Prohibition Peepers: Private Eyes During the Noble Experiment" has a great lineup of crime writers and I'm honored to be included.

Cover of Prohibition Peepers

When editor Michael Bracken invited me to contribute, I immediately thought of my hometown neighborhood of Phoebus, tucked into the southern corner of Hampton, Virginia. Phoebus was a rough-and-tumble place back in the day, known for its bars and brothels. It even earned the nickname Little Chicago.

My story is set in a fictional Virginia town called Harrison's Cove, named in honor of Harrison Phoebus, who helped build my little neck of the woods. Harrison's Cove is nestled in northeast Virginia along the Potomac River. Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division is there now, but my story takes place in 1920. All of America went dry that year, but Virginia had effectively given up alcohol four years earlier.

The private investigator in my story, Yeats Foley, still has nightmares from his service in World War I. He's settled into the small town of Harrison's Cove to solve small problem. Someone steals a pig. The reverend is fooling around with his flock. That sort of thing.

His fortunes turn south when he finds a murdered Black woman who ran a speakeasy. But Dottie Barnes was more than that. Yeats loved her. He wanted to settle down with her and have a good life. But she once told him, "Setting up housekeeping in Harrison’s Cove behind a white picket fence and going out for dinner on Saturday night is nothing but a dream.”

His determination to find her killer forms the basis for "Cloths of Heaven." I hope you enjoy it. And if not, I hope it drives you drink.

Get the collection

"Prohibition Peepers: Private Eyes During the Noble Experiment" is out now from Down and Out Books.