I'm so excited to be a host on the tour of
SWELL TIME FOR A SWING DANCE
Book 2 in the Tracy Truworth, Apprentice P.I.,
1940s Homefront Mysteries
December 31, 1941. Young Houston socialite Tracy Truworth, Apprentice P.I., can't imagine a better way to send off the old year and ring in the new than by dancing through the night with her fella, Pete Stalwart. But a swell evening soon takes a terrible turn when a fellow dancer with moves like Fred Astaire ends up dead on the dance floor. And before the hands on the clock can point to midnight, a finger is pointed at Pete, accusing him of murdering the young man.
Then after Pete is hauled away in handcuffs, the night goes from bad to worse . . . and Tracy's sweet grandmother is accused of stealing an ancient artifact from the museum. Now Tracy must team up with her boss and mentor, Sammy Falcone, in order to find the stolen statuette, unmask the real murderer, and restore the reputations of those she loves the most.
Yet as America becomes embroiled in another world war, the risks and sacrifices intensify--even on the homefront. And Tracy soon finds her own home invaded by a near parade of questionable characters, while unsavory suspects lurk in the shadows, and a ruthless reporter makes her life miserable. With time ticking against her, Tracy must be willing to swing past the setbacks and hop through the hazards if she hopes to solve a mystery that involves a lot of dancing . . . and a lot more danger.
from Swell Time for a Swing Dance
Detective Denton fixed one of his cold, steely gazes on me as he strode closer. “Well, well, well. Fancy meeting you here, girlie. Let me guess, you just happened to stumble over another dead body. You’re racking up quite the numbers when it comes to corpses. We should send you over to fight the Germans. You could be Uncle Sam’s best-kept secret.”
His words succeeded in getting my hackles up. “Excuse me? But this is only the second dead body I have found. In a month. That hardly makes it some kind of pattern. And frankly, I had nothing to do with either death.”
“Yeah, right, little missy. You looked suspicious then and you’re not looking any better now. In fact, I’d say this is getting to be a whole new pastime for you. So how did you meet this poor slob?”
“I was dancing with him.”
To which the detective snorted. “Of course you were. And then wouldn’t ya know it, but the guy drops dead. So what did you do, dance him to death?”
I crossed my arms and tapped my foot. “No, but he practically tried to dance me to death. Or into the hospital, at least.”
“Miss Truworth is right,” Sammy said, taking a step toward Detective Denton. “I’ve looked at the body and near as I can tell . . .”
But Denton wouldn’t even let Sammy finish his sentence. “Oh, who do we have here? Sammy Falcone. My least favorite Sam Spade look-alike. Well, let me tell you something, bub! I’m a real detective and I don’t need any help from some two-bit phony gumshoe like you.”
Sammy chuckled under his breath. “Then by all means, don’t let me stand in your way. But if you try to pull a fast one and do something outlandish like accuse one of my young friends here of murder, then you’ll be dealing with the full force of the Falcone and Archez Detective Agency.”
“Falcone and Archez? Whatever happened to your old partner, anyway? Somebody kill him, too? Maybe you unleashed your girl Friday here on him.” He smirked in my direction.
Sammy’s dark eyes practically burned holes through Denton’s skull. “Last I heard, Abe Archez is still alive and getting three squares a day, compliments of Uncle Sam’s Army. He’s just waiting for his company to ship out so he can go fight in the Pacific.”
His words silenced Denton. Nasty as Detective Denton could be, at least he had the decency to respect the men who’d given up their livelihoods and signed up to fight the Japanese and the Germans.
Ethel, on the other hand, had no intention of staying silent. “Aren’t you going to arrest somebody?” she hollered in a voice that did not need a megaphone. “The girl didn’t kill him! It was her beau!” With another huge flourish of her arm, she aimed her index finger directly at Pete again, just as he walked up to join us. I almost got the feeling she had practiced the movement in front of her mirror.
“Him!” she shouted. “That man, there! He’s the killer. He was jealous of the other young man who was dancing with his girl. I saw it all with my own eyes,” she repeated.
I took a step closer to Ethel. “And so did I. Pete didn’t lay a hand on Freddy.”
Denton squinted at me. “There’s something about this whole mess that stinks to high heaven. Especially since you were right in the middle of it.”
Beside him, Ethel stomped her foot. “Arrest and incarcerate that man,” she screeched at an octave that I’ve only heard coming from an air-raid warden’s whistle.
“What the heck,” Denton said. “I’m game. Let’s sort this out at the station.” He reached for his handcuffs and grabbed one of Pete’s arms. “I’m taking you downtown for questioning, chump. In the meantime, I want everyone away from the body. Until my boys have had a chance to do their work.”
Then before I knew it, a bunch of uniformed officers swarmed in and took over the scene, while Detective Denton slapped his cuffs on my fella and began to haul him away.
I could hardly believe my eyes.
Time to get “in the mood” with a fun 1940s-themed giveaway! Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter for a chance to win a pewter ornament from The National WWII Museum, a Glenn Miller CD, and paperback copies of the first two books in the Tracy Truworth series: Bad Day for a Bombshell and Swell Time for a Swing Dance. Due to shipping costs and varying international laws, this giveaway is open to US residents (age 18 or older) only. Good luck!
LKBR: Thank you, Cindy for being here today!
CV: Thank you so much, Lisa, for hosting me on your wonderful blog! And congratulations on being one of the top 50 mystery blogs. That’s quite an accomplishment!
LKBR: Please tell us a bit about your book/series.
CV: The Tracy Truworth novels are cozy mysteries that are set in the early days of WWII in Houston, TX. People often ask me, “Why Houston?” After all, it seems most modern fiction writers who set their stories in the 1940s choose cities like New York or Boston, or maybe somewhere in California. But I wanted to do something different. And since I live in Houston, this is also where I began my WWII research. Once I started digging into things, I could hardly believe what I found. It turns out that Houston was just teeming with wartime activities—from shipbuilding to pilot training to oil production. And, we had German U-boats right there in the Gulf of Mexico. Naturally, this was all great material for my mystery series.
And while I certainly have included the war as almost another character in these books, I still added a sense of fun and adventure to the mystery, to make things lighter. So this series is sort of an updated flair of the mystery novels and movies of the late 1930s and 40s. It was a colorful time before modern forensics, when fictional detectives and amateur sleuths had to rely on their intuition and people skills to uncover the identity of a killer. Much like the lead character in this book, Tracy Truworth, the protagonists of those days were larger-than-life, the stories were not quite so gory, and the crimes weren't shown with such blood-and-guts imagery. When you entered the world of a mystery in those days, you knew you were stepping into a fictitious place for the moment, and you could escape reality, rather than feel like you were involved in something that might be shown on the 6:00 news.
LKBR: How did you come up with the concept?
CV: I’ve long been a fan of the old mysteries, those that were actually written in the 1930s and 40s. Top that off with a love of vintage clothing (I’ve been a collector for a couple of decades), and a love of swing dance and big band music . . . and well, I just knew that someday I’d write a 1940s/WWII mystery novel. I’m surprised that it took me this long to get to it, but I had too many other projects going before this one.
Originally, I had planned for my lead character, Tracy Truworth, to be a newspaper reporter. Yet the more I developed my heroine, the more I saw that she needed a different occupation to suit her personality. Especially after I decided that she would have been the type of girl who absolutely loved mystery novels, with her favorite being the Katie McClue series (my own invention and not a real series), who was also a larger-than-life type character. Naturally, as such a fan of mysteries, Tracy would have been absolutely itching to solve a case of her own, so much so that she might even see a mystery where there was none. So I gave her the dream of being a Private Investigator instead, with her starting out as an Apprentice P.I. The series follows Tracy as she navigates a world at war, and at a time when huge numbers of women entered the workforce, generally for the very first time, as the men shipped out.
LKBR: What are your future plans for this series? Any hints or spoilers you can give us about the next book?
CV: Ha! I have so much material for this series that I’ll probably be writing these books for decades. Of course, the romance between Pete and Tracy will continue to grow as the series goes along. Pete still plans to enlist, so he and Tracy will be involved in lots of letter writing, much like the rest of their generation. And Tracy will have to cope with having a boyfriend who has gone to war and is probably in constant danger.
As for the next mystery itself, Tracy is about to get a call from her old friend, Olive, who is in big trouble and needs the help of Tracy’s agency.
LKBR: What sort of research do you do for your books? Is it more computer based or hands on?
CV: Some of both. But amazingly, some of the best resources I’ve found have come as a result of scouring antique stores. Not only did I find old magazines and books that were published just before or during the war, but I have also found a wide range of books on the war that were published in the 1970s. Apparently, WWII was a very popular topic in the 70s, probably because enough time had passed to let people come to terms with what had happened. Yet many people still had memories of the events, so the sources for interviews and information was likely plentiful. Anyway, I now have a couple of bookshelves just brimming with books on WWII. It’s actually turned into an amazing resource library.
Another great resource has proven to be old Life magazines. Not only can an author see actual images and photographs of the time, but the articles are also very enlightening. I’ve also found the National WWII Museum in New Orleans to be a very valuable and reliable source of information. We frequently visit, and I learn something new each time we go! (In fact, one of the giveaway items in this blog tour came from that very museum.)
LKBR: What is your writing process? Place, time of day, by the hour or word count?
CV: That’s an interesting question! Long before I actually type in the words “Chapter One,” I’ve written down my characters, clues, motivations, and plot-points on the four white boards on the hallway to my office door. This is usually while I’m still finishing up another book.
Then, once I get started and have gotten the first few chapters firmly under my feet, the book tends to take hold of me, and even when I’m not writing, I’m writing. Meaning, I may have just finished a certain page count for the day, or maybe I spent a certain amount of hours burning rubber on the keyboard, but when I’ve quit for the day, in my brain, I’m still inside the story. I may be brushing my teeth and getting ready for bed, but mentally I’m already constructing the next scene. I’ve even had dreams about my characters. When I’m back at my computer, I just try to get it all written out as quickly as I can. Typing in the words “The End” is always bittersweet for me—I’m glad to be finished, but always sad to leave the world of my characters. Maybe that’s why I prefer to write a series, so I never really leave my characters behind!
LKBR: What are 3 things readers may not know about you?
CV: I once figure-skated with Scott Hamilton. Okay, let me clarify this, because it sounds loftier than it was! I was in my early thirties and took skating lessons at a nearby rink, when my husband and I lived in Colorado. One day, a few friends and I took a day off and went skating in the middle of the afternoon. We were barely lacing up our skates in the outer room when we looked through the plexiglass window at the rink. There we saw someone jumping and spinning with so much speed and grace that our jaws dropped. Yup, it was Scott Hamilton out there practicing before an ice show that night. We joined him on the ice, though we barely managed to remain upright, since we were so mesmerized by his skating. There were only seven of us out there, and I watched him do three backflips right in front of me. I was in awe, especially when we chatted with him, and found out he was a really nice guy.
Okay, now for a few less “exciting” things . . . I am a Christmas-o-holic. Kids will come to the door trick-or-treating, and find me putting up my nine foot tree. My husband and I turn our house into a winter wonderland, inside and out. We put up three large trees on the inside and well, the outside looks like Vegas, thanks to four controller boxes connected to a computer. You know those fanatical Christmas people you see on TV? Those are my people. J
I also love to do art quilting. And I do mean “love.” When it comes to art quilting, the sky’s the limit. There is no right or wrong—it’s simply a matter of creating whatever kind of image or quilt that you feel like creating. Then you can stitch it with thread—thread painting—until you feel like your wall hanging or your artwork is complete. It’s amazing what a person can create with fabric and thread. Here’s one that I made years ago that hangs on the wall of my office.
LKBR: Where can readers go to learn more about you and your books?
LKBR: Thank you so much for letting us get to know you better, Cindy!
CV: Thank you, Lisa, for hosting me here today. It’s been a pleasure to be here, and I wish you all the best with your blog! And don’t forget to enter the giveaway—bloggers can enter, too!
CINDY VINCENT, M.A. Ed., was born in Calgary, Alberta, and has lived all around the US and Canada. She is the creator of the Mysteries by Vincent murder mystery party games and the Daisy Diamond Detective Series games for girls. She is also the award-winning author of the Buckley and Bogey Cat Detective Caper novels and the Daisy Diamond Detective series. She lives in Houston, Texas with her husband and an assortment of fantastic felines.
As always, please leave a comment and