July 20, 2021

Chris Holcombe Presents 1926 New York LGBTQ+ Style

Chris Holcombe Presents 1926 New York LGBTQ+ Style

Ep:093 Chris Holcombe is an author of LGBTQ+ historical crime fiction. The Double Vice is the first novel in his Hidden Gotham series, which showcases New York’s lively but criminally under-represented queer world of the 1920s. He is also an award-winning songwriter, winning “Best Folk Song” at the 2009 Hollywood Music in Media Awards, as well as an accomplished brand strategist in marketing and advertising. He lives with his husband in New York, where he is hard at work on the next Hidden Gotham novel The Blind Tiger.

Due to unavoidable circumstances, the live episode announced for Saturday,  July 24th is cancelled. The show will be back on its normal schedule with its next release on Tuesday, July 27th.

Donate: Buy me a Cup of Coffee

Chris Holcombe's Website

The Double Vice by Chris Holcombe on Amazon

Chris on Instagram

The Hanged Man by A.R. Fiano

Paul Rudd Video of the Week

Brad Shreve's Website


Transcript
Brad Shreve :

In this episode, hear what rating Justene gives to her recommendation, a novel that includes Nazis and the occult. And Chris Holcombe is my guest who talks about The Double Vice a novel that will transport you into 1920s, Greenwich Village, and Harlem. I'm Brad Shreve and you're listening to Queer Writers of Crime featuring LGBTQ authors of mystery, suspense, and thriller novels. Before we begin, I wanted to let you all know that Justene is such a trooper. I don't think she's ever missed a recording session She has a lot going on and I told her, don't worry, I'll wing it. And despite everything going on. She is here.

Justene :

Hi, Brad. You know, I don't like to let people down.

Brad Shreve :

And you didn't let me down. I'm grateful to see you here,

Justene :

Well at least hear me. Yes. I didn't want to let the listeners down either. I like to believe people want me on here.

Brad Shreve :

Trust me based on the emails and such, they do. Yes.

Justene :

Oh, good. See, I fished for that compliment and it came here.

Brad Shreve :

I got an, a quick announcement before we get to your recommendation.

Justene :

Okay.

Brad Shreve :

This Saturday, July 24th, we are going to be live for the very first time. It's a loose network of queer podcast, called Pride48. And there will be a live shows all weekend. Big Gay Fiction podcast is part of the network, but they won't be on live. Unfortunately. But our friends, Mike and Kyle over Gayish will be, they're going to have a live show that weekend. Our show Queer Writers of Crime will be on Saturday, July 24th, 3:00 PM. Eastern time 12 noon Pacific time.

Justene :

Well, you know, Brad, when it's live, I can't really run it around my schedule. I, I won't actually show up that week, but I think that the surprise group placement will really please people

Brad Shreve :

I think so too. In fact, I'm going to tell him when Justine told me, there's no way she could do this live episode. She said, this is the person who's going to. And it wasn't like a, this is the person I want to do it. It was, this is the person that's going to do it. So you'll see next Saturday listening. And you'll find out who the guest book recommendation-dur is. guess that's a word.

Justene :

Yeah, Yeah

Brad Shreve :

it has now. It is now. And don't worry. We'll will be back on again next Tuesday as well. Got some different things going on then.

Justene :

but you can tell him who the guests on the live performance.

Brad Shreve :

Yes, it's going to be Marko Realmonte

Justene :

Yes,

Brad Shreve :

He is back. Is this, is this the second time he's been on or the third?

Justene :

this is the second time he's been on, but it's, what's his third book.

Brad Shreve :

Okay. It's the second time he's been on. And I will tell you this. He has some big news.

Justene :

Well, there's a lot of teasing with this episode people, you know, and I gotta say the people should not think we're over-hyping and I think people are going to be very pleased on both the accounts.

Brad Shreve :

Let me just say one thing you'll listen on Tune-in Radio, which they have an app, also a website. I will leave the link in the show notes. I probably could have not said that they would have figured it out on their own, please listen in It's your turn, Justene, go for it.

Justene :

All right. So I have been looking for this series for a long time. Um, I mean, I remembered enough about it and how great it was, but I couldn't quite come up with the author or the, or the name of the series. and I have finally found that I went back so far in my Kindle history that I have finally found the series and. This series started in May 22nd, 2012, and it has four books in it. And the last one came out on March 5th, 2016. So I bought the first book on March 21st, 2016, and I bought the fourth book on March 22nd, 2016. and I bought them as I finished them. So you can see just how much I loved this series.

Brad Shreve :

Yeah, it sounds like you liked it. Okay.

Justene :

Yeah, I liked it. Okay. But this author, unfortunately, I haven't found anything he's written since then. which is too bad. I don't know if he really has put stuff out under another pen name or not, but, it's an excellent series. Well, let me tell you about it. It's

Brad Shreve :

well, who is the author?

Justene :

the author is Alex Fiano. The first book in the series was put out and, or a A.R. Fianno. It is extremely well-written. It's getting my glowing recommendation. Gabriel's World is the name of the series. The first book is called The Hanged Man, The Hanged Man, H A N G E D man. And It's tied in with the taro. The hanged man is a tarot card and each of the chapters starts out with a description of an applicable tarot card. Gabriel is a private investigator. The book starts with him having just gotten out of jail. He was arrested for attacking a Reverend and this I'm sure this fictional Reverend I'm sure will be familiar to many. The Reverend led a church who, was protesting that the funeral of one of Gabriel's friends. So this was a military veteran and the church members showed up and were protesting outside her funeral, calling her a dyke and he left the funeral, came over and punched the Reverend. It was a highly well covered in the press, rather famous incident in this book. And, he is, let out with the, and there's a called ACD and that part of the country, where if you stay out of trouble for six months, they'll drop the charges. So he's really trying to stay out of trouble, um, which means he's, he doesn't want to get caught being in trouble. he's still causing trouble. A lawyer picks him up, from, you know, picks him up in a limo from his, the courthouse steps and drives him back to New York. And along the way the lawyer says he wants to hire him. The lawyer is on the board of a foundation, a Jewish studies foundation, and he wants to hire him because one of the board members cause connected to a Nazi and while the lawyer knows this, the lawyer has no proof. Um, and wants Gabriel to find the proof About an hour after the lawyer drops him off the lawyer disappears there's video of the lawyer having coffee with some man in a cap and dark glasses, Raymond gets sick. The lawyer gets sick. The, the, the skies man takes them out of there. And the next time Raymond is seen, he is found in his bed at his apartment. apparently dead by auto fixation, accident, which Gabriel can see a stage. And Gabriel, has, has broken into the lawyers apartment while the lawyer has been missing. And he knows the lawyer wasn't in there and he knows the lawyer hasn't been there for three days dead. the police of course suspect him of the crime. that's part of why he has to investigate. Raymond who's the lawyer, his partner has hired, Gabriel to prove that it was a homicide because his partner wants to, take away the reputation damaging of the suicide or the accident of auto erotic fixation. So he's, he's got some money to follow this up. He's got money for experts in the law. his investigation takes him into Nazi secret societies and it takes him into, the small, cult organizations that were involved with the Nazi secret societies. And he gets in tangled in a variety of conspiracy theories. He likes conspiracty theories. trait I share with him. He doesn't believe most of them. But this conspiracy theory, has a basis, in fact, so they spent a lot of time researching. He ends up hooking up with a, news reporter, a highly refined, Indian gentlemen, and also on the scene is his former boyfriend who. Shows up at just the right time to give him just the right help and also to try to seduce him again into the relationship. So he's got a lot going on. There's a lot of competing threads in this book. all of them are well-developed all of them. They fit together like puzzle pieces. There's nothing left hanging ever. and it's so, and it's a wild, wild ride. Very well-written has the glowing recommendation. And I think people will really, really like this series. There's no paranormal in it. It's just an exploration of the, organizations that were researching the occult and trying to use the occult to help the Nazis It's a great book and it's a great series. I read it in literally a day and a half. and it's stuck with me this whole time. And I finally dug far enough back that I could pull it out for people and I've, re-read the first book in it and it holds up as well as I remember.

Brad Shreve :

And I think you have some stuff from ReQueered Tales today.

Justene :

I do. We are publishing our first original book. It is by Felice, Picano it is called Betrothal at Usk.. It's a science fiction book. It is the second book in the trilogy, which Drylands End was published back in. nineties, we republished it earlier this year, and this one of his most critically acclaimed books and people who read it, I've always asked him to, you know, when is he going to publish the sequel? And it's finally found a home at ReQueered Tales. It's our first original book and is now available for pre-order. It's called The Betrothal at Usk. U S K.

Brad Shreve :

Good job to y'all for getting a first published book. That's awesome.

Justene :

it is awesome. It's terrific.

Brad Shreve :

I think it will be the first of many.

Justene :

Well, let me just say first published books are a lot harder to, to get out then republished books. So

Brad Shreve :

Well, let me just say it's the first of many, if that's what you want.

Justene :

well, uh, you know, we we've, we've got more on the line and I think people will enjoy them. And when it comes to republish books, we're releasing the, the next book in a Lev Raphael's Nick Hoffman series. And that's going to be on pre-order in the next week or two,

Brad Shreve :

Sounds great. thank you Justine. And I will talk to you next week and thank you. Thank you for making it in your schedule.

Justene :

all right. Good to see you again, Brad.

Brad Shreve :

So Chris, are you all Jake for the interview?

Chris Holcombe :

I am all Jake for the interview?

Brad Shreve :

one thing I loved about your novel. The Double Vice of idioms and slangs from the 1920s. And I have this thing writers like to sometimes someone will be speaking in a foreign language. you don't know what they're talking about. It's just this sentence there to try and make it sound authentic or they'll use slang from a time period where you have no clue as to what they're saying. And what I really liked about your book is the way the word is used in your sentences. You know exactly what they're talking about. I guess, Jake is common still in Australia. I had to look it up, but It's definitely fallen out of favor in the United States. So I read it and I knew right away, it meant everything's cool or everything's fine. The blurb for The Double Vice says, it's the shadowy world of drag queens, caberet performances, gangsters,mob molls,, lesbian lawyers, and a mysterious but dangerous baroness of business. And if that's not enough, I don't know what it is, and that is not a lie. It's all in there. Let's go ahead. And with your introduction, Chris Holcomb is an author of LGBTQ plus historical crime fiction. The Double Vice it's, the first novel in his Hidden Gotham Series, which showcases new York's lively, but criminally under representative queer world of the 1920s. He is also an award winning songwriter, winning Best Folk Song at the 2009 Hollywood music in media awards, as well as an accomplished brand strategist in marketing and advertising. He lives with his husband in New York. I'm going to get away from the book for a second here because something just jumped out at me. So you won an award for a song. And you are a brand strategist and marketing and advertising any chance that you've written jingles?

Chris Holcombe :

I wish, you know, the jingles are no longer in fashion, hardly anymore, which is so sad to me. because I would have loved to write like, you know, for Double mint, you remember the Double Mint commercials and, and whatnot. but I, funny enough, my undergrad was Berkeley college. And I did take jingle writing, with a guy named John Aldridge who wrote all the jingles. I think he wrote, mostly for McDonald's. Um, so I did study it. I never got a chance to, uh, pull it through sadly, but you know, if there's an opportunity to write a jingle, I will do it.

Brad Shreve :

it's funny that it's fallen out of favor because they definitely stuck in your head.

Chris Holcombe :

Oh, yeah, absolutely. They totally worked. but yeah, it's, it's funny how things kind of worked out, but

Brad Shreve :

I hope you get the day to write that jingle.

Chris Holcombe :

Me too.

Brad Shreve :

I gotta say I really tried hard not to get overly excited when I'm talking to an author, because I just like to talk about the book and I. don't want to make one guest, feel more welcomed than the other, I'm going to do it. There's I'm a break. My rule this time. I love The Double Vice. Justene did a book recommendation for it. And when I told her you are going to be on the show, I sometimes I don't tell her who the guest is. Just not to keep it a secret. We just don't talk about it. By mentioned you are going beyond. And she said, I loved this book and now I know why.

Chris Holcombe :

well, thank you so much.

Brad Shreve :

Well, you're very welcome. And a huge part of it is I love him. I'm a big history nut, but I'm not a history nut in a sense. I could care less about all the wars and the battles and the royalty. I want to know what everyday folks were doing as a general rule. And that's really what you got into you got into, as you said, uh, Part of history. That's not represented enough for not told enough. And, and that's the kind of history I'm really into. I studied two years and this was on my own time. It wasn't for, for college or anything for two years, I did an in-depth study on the settling of the Midwest and the city planning and real estate scams that were going on. that's how much I liked those everyday occurrences, more than. The big ones that you read about in the history books. So you took me there And I'm going to say, I'll read a book. I enjoy reading it, but I know I'm reading a novel about that era and I've read novels about the Victorian era and the sixties and the fifties. And you're novel takes place in 1926. And I wasn't reading a novel about 1926. You took me in to 1926. Like I felt like a participant,

Chris Holcombe :

Well, Thank you. I've worked really hard at that. I worked really hard on that because, um, one of the things that I've actually not a big historical crime fiction reader myself, um, I actually read more, present day. Although some of the stuff I read now is like take place in the eighties and early nineties. So I guess it could be historical fiction nowadays.

Brad Shreve :

Yeah.

Chris Holcombe :

But I wanted it to read, like it was written in present day. that was kind of my approach. So all I did was when I was on a certain day and a certain scene, I would read, articles in the New York times from that day, articles from that week of the new Yorker, which I've got access to all the archives that go all the way back to the 1920s. And that was it. And I didn't want to put in. Yeah, wink, wink, nudge, nudge irony about, we know what's going to happen a hundred years from now. I didn't want to do that. I wanted it to feel very present. So I'm very pleased to hear that from you, that I took you in there. Cause that was my intent. I wanted it to feel not like you were reading something historical, but that you were reading something as if it was happening right now in the sense of you were in that narrative. So, that was, that was my intent and I'm glad that I pulled it off.

Brad Shreve :

I really liked the way you. made it fit in that I didn't have to wonder what they meant, but I will tell you, it threw me out of the story at times, because I was like, wow, I've never heard that term before. And I knew exactly what we're talking about, but I'm like, I want to find out the background of that, so I quickly got on the computer and I'd look it up and find out, when it started and how long it lasted and where it came from. Um, it's obvious you did a lot of that research.

Chris Holcombe :

Yeah. Yeah. absolutely. I I've had a lot of different slang dictionaries. I even found a slang. That was written by Cab Calloway, that talked about, so you could learn how to talk hep as it were, which I guess would mean hip nowadays, but, uh, but it was, it was really fun to look at and, and find some of these terms. I actually, on my Instagram, I feature a word Wednesday where we go through a couple of series of words or phrases, just kind of like show it off and educated some of the more, Uh, out there ones that I wouldn't necessarily put in the book, because it would take you too far out of the story where you'd go, what in the world is that? So there are some really interesting ones, but I was surprised at how much of the slang that was developed in the twenties we still use today. It's really interesting to see how some things kind of carried over into present. I think bee's knees lasted for a long time, um, before it quickly kind of fell out of fashion, but it lasted for awhile, And a couple of others, but, I think. like dime notes And nickel notes.

Brad Shreve :

I think people still know bee's knees, but it's more in a kind of a joking man that they'll say it. Not

Chris Holcombe :

Yeah.

Brad Shreve :

you as back in the past,

Chris Holcombe :

That's that's true. That's very true.

Brad Shreve :

we're going To talk about your book, and we're going to talk about your protagonist Dash Parker, but I want to start from the very beginning of the book. You had notes from the author and in it, you kind of wanted to explain the slang terms you were going to be using. and that were commonly used at the time. And, and you mentioned that. Heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual word, not terms used then. And that terms that today would be offensive like fairies and pansies weren't necessarily offensive back then. Can you speak a little on that side? Cause you, you said you were, you kind of used, I think it was fairies that said, you said was you as much more than you did in the book because he didn't want to. be offensive, but

Chris Holcombe :

Yeah.

Brad Shreve :

talk a little bit more about that.

Chris Holcombe :

Sure, absolutely. So, you know, one of the things when you're looking at, um, and we're talking about the terms that the homosexual community or the queer community, excuse me, would be referred to. and have referred to themselves as, and back then a lot of that identity or a lot of those terms were based upon gender appearance. And so I wanted to make sure that people understood that because nowadays obviously, you know, with the conversation about like, with non-binary and gender nonconforming and gender queer, you know, this is, this is going to be a little bit alien, I think, um, to, to newer types of readers. So I wanted to let them give them a heads up that that was occurring. But then I also wanted to make sure that I didn't. Use terms that would be wildly offensive today, even if they weren't offensive back then. because I didn't want to take the reader out of the story and I didn't want them to, get hurt by it. that's something that I didn't want to do at the end of the day. I'm an entertainer. and I wanted people to be entertained while reading the book. So I that's, when I kind of made the distinction between, the terms fairy versus pansy, cause pansy is not even really used a lot nowadays. I don't think I've ever really heard it in a long, long time. Um, except, you know, reference to the flowers. and by the way, they're tough flowers. I, I think it's ironic that, you know, pansy was, later in the forties and fifties used disparagingly, but really they are. They are toughest health flowers, to be honest. So I find that really funny, but you know, but you know, uh, drag Queens back then, if they were referred to in newspapers. so if you read the back issues of the New York times, you'll see them referred to as female impersonators are male impersonators. So we're talking about drag Queens And drag Kings, colloquially, uh, they would be referred to as bull daggers or b ulls, for the women. And there were also referred to as fairies or pansies. In terms of the men. And so I figured since fairy still used today as a slur, in some respects, um, I wanted to do downplay that word and kind of dial up pansy and I could justify it historically because in the thirties, that was what was going to be rising to prominence in terms of the pansy craze, before the moralists came in and, kind of wiped it out.

Brad Shreve :

Yeah, well, I think fairy is one of those things where two gay men can call each other a fairy and book straight people referred to as normals. They're not allowed to cause fairies. It's a very big difference.

Chris Holcombe :

a big difference.

Brad Shreve :

Any word, it really comes down to how it's used. That makes the difference.

Chris Holcombe :

absolutely.

Brad Shreve :

so a lot of this stuff I really want again too, because there's so much history, in this novel that I just found a lot of fun. Let's just go ahead and start with the story. Uh, should we talk about the story or should we start talking about Dash.

Chris Holcombe :

Yeah, absolutely. Dash Parker, is our hero. He is a fallen Manhattan socialite. he grew up in privilege. He grew up in. The, uh, the gilded townhouses, and the early 19 hundreds. and he is an unusual character for the time because, uh, he recognized his sexuality as being something different. he actually fell in love with his family's tailor. Um, uh, Spanish Taylor. Oh my what, what a, what a controversy? actually, excuse me, he was Catalin not Spanish Catalin um, I would get smacked. Um, but for the differences, but yeah, he, he fell in love and he, was inspired by his, younger sister, um, who died in the 1918 flu epidemic back then. and, uh, his sister had recognized who he was, I think long before Dash. did and said you should live your life your way. And so spurred on by the death of his sister, he decided to go down to the village Greenwich village, which was a Queer Haven at the time still is. and, uh, he was going to try to live his life that way. And, a couple of twists and turns have happened and he's opened up a speakeasy behind, uh, the tailor shop, called pinstripes because we can't, we gotta love a good pun we in the queer community love our puns. So I had to bring that through, um, and, uh, he's opened the speakeasy and, uh, trying to live a life of good music, good gin, and good men.

Brad Shreve :

I love the speakeasy behind the tailor shop. I thought that was awesome. the only thing I've ever seen from that era that I can think of is I, for a short time, I worked for a real estate agent. He would have like two opening houses at the same time. And I would work one of them while he worked the other. And one was in a mansion in an area here called Los Feliz which a lot of people outside LA I've never heard of. It's there, there's some beautiful mansions there. And one was this mansion. That was absolutely incredible. And you go down to the basement. And everything's normal, but then all of a sudden can turn these, things around and there's this hidden door and open up the wall and you have a bar actual bartender behind the bar. And I was thinking of that house the whole time I'm reading about this speakeasy and having to get in. So that was a lot of fun. So tell us Dash, he's running this speakeasy, but that's not what all the stories about what happens here.

Chris Holcombe :

We open with, uh, an outsider has found his way into the club and by outside or meeting someone who is not Queer very obviously. and during this time period, it wasn't illegal. the law was a degenerate disorderly conduct, and that was passed around, I believe, 19 24, 19 25. Um, so, dash could not only be arrested for running a speakeasy, which. Was against, uh, the, uh, the Volstead act, uh, commonly known as prohibition, but he could also be arrested for, this degeneracy. and so there's this one who is this man who is in the tennis club, looking for a drag queen. He is looking specifically for a drag queen that it's very obvious that he does not have good intentions. And so Dash is going to try to find a way to kind of protect, uh, this person. And it turns out that this person is as looking for the drag queen to get to his brother, his brother named Karl um, Karl Mueller is, uh, the boy who was in the club, Walter Mueller is the outsider or the bluenose, someone who is a Teetotaller believes in prohibition. and Dash is going to try to hide Karl from Walter because he has been there. he feels a kinship with Karl as someone who was a young queer man who is, you know, trying to live his life and is trying to get out from under a very oppressive family. And, so he tries to hide them. He hides them with a friend of his, in Harlem. And so dash is, uh, Very unique for the time period. He is friends with people of different races. He is friends with someone who was an African-American woman, who was a performer in Harlem, and he tries to hide Carl up there. And of course it all goes wrong. Cause this is a crime story. So nothing ever goes right in a straight line, quite in a straight line. and unfortunately, Carl is, murdered. And so now we've got a situation where Dashville is very guilty, um, because he tried to protect this boy and he couldn't. Um, but then Walter comes back around the brother. And blackmails him and his friends to find the drag queen that he was originally looking for. because he's going to enact a little bit of vengeance. And so now we've got, uh, dual sided story where we want to one figure out what happens to Carl cause Dashville is responsible, but then we've also got to get out from underneath Walter, this blackmailer. So it's a, the reluctant detective times too, and trying to figure out a way around this, and, following, The path of Carlos' life and figuring out who was in his life and all the people involved and, people are not quite what they seem as we find out, um, in several parts of this story.

Brad Shreve :

Well, one thing I found interesting about pinstripe since we're specifically talking about dash right now, is that was brought up that, well, actually, let me go back one step back. You talked about Carl or Walter while looking for his brother. Said he was looking for a pansy, not a drag queen.

Chris Holcombe :

Yeah, that's correct

Brad Shreve :

You said he was looking for a drag queen? No, he wasn't. He was looking for a pansy.

Chris Holcombe :

for a pansy.

Brad Shreve :

So again, you stayed there true to the time, but now going back to her, what I was about to say is. Pinstripes. What I found interesting is it had a lot of things, morally reprehensible about it. First of all, it was a speakeasy to begin with. Second of all, it happened to be a club for queer folk at that time. And then it was brought up that the other thing that was immoral and illegal was that the band that played. They were black.

Chris Holcombe :

Yeah. Highly,

Brad Shreve :

I want to hear a little bit of more about that. As you know, we always think of the south as being prejudice. And I lived in North Carolina and trust me, there were a lot of class members I went to school with that were in the Klan. So it's, it is very prevalent in the south, but people think it never happens in the north or never did. Can you talk about that during that era?

Chris Holcombe :

Sure, absolutely. I mean, this is like a lot of American cities at that time for it were still somewhat segregated. So, you know, you had Harlem, which was where a good majority of the black population lived as well as the Italian population and, other nationalities as well. But, for example, The time squares, Broadway theaters, black patrons can only be in the balcony. They could never be on the floor. So the audiences could not mix the cotton club, which is a famous Harlem, nightclub that I'm sure a lot of your listeners have heard of. the performers were all, people of color, but the audience was all white. And the club that you know was, being drawn in, you know, for like Louis Armstrong and duke Ellington. So there was a lot of segregation and a lot of laws against it. I believe. the cabaret act, was something that was passed that really kind of put the kibosh on a lot of interracial mixing. Now, what was interesting about prohibition is that. It drove a lot of things underground. And so people started do a little mixing and matching as it were. Um, and so a lot of, whites that were called downtowners would go up to Harlem because it was, the kind of taboo thing to do. they actually called it. You would go slumming up there. and so you w you would actually kind of sell tickets to kind of do that, so they could go to certain clubs, but there were clubs that would start to mix audiences. and, uh, there were clubs that also started to mix band members. You know, I think what was here, but was really illegal, was not only was, the band, black, but actually two members. If I remember right, it was a male. Of white and black and that certainly wasn't. On the stage. So, you know, it's really interesting. I think, it's surprised a lot of people, a lot of readers have commented on that, that they didn't recognize that even though it was New York city and it was the north that segregation still occurred. Right. and was not necessarily as violent as the south was. you know, especially during the twenties, we got the rise of the KKK. We had the rise of the Jim Crow laws and everything, but Yeah, it, it wasn't, um, it wasn't the utopia that most people would, would think of. And so actually a lot of the great migration that, occurred. a lot of blacks were really disappointed when they got here because they still face depression. They still face lower wages. Harlem, believe it or not was, predominantly white before, the, the African-American community started moving, moving in. And so all the whites fled and the buildings which were owned predominantly by white landlords, jacked the rent. So that way people had to cram in more, then it's into the buildings, then the white tenants have done it. And then of course, people spun it and go, we'll see, it's the slum, but yet it's the slum because of the white landlords who basically break the system. So. There was a lot of that still going on in that day. So I wanted to try to kind of capture how it was still taboo and to show kind of what a boundary breaker dash Parker is and the fact that he was willing to kind of look beyond the norms of his day. not just in terms of his own sexuality, but also in terms of race.

Brad Shreve :

Yeah, it's really surprising to me to hear that Los Angelesduring that era was very conservative. Hollywood was an ultra conservative neighborhood. In fact, the Hollywood sign, the history behind the Hollywood sign. It used to be, say Hollywood land. And I think a lot of people know that it used to be Hollywood land and Hollywood land was at the bottom of the hill, a housing development for whites only. And I've seen the ads for Hollywood land. Yeah. Without saying it, it was not hidden it basically said you'll get away from the Mexicans and the black folk without really saying that it was just blatantly obvious that that's what they were talking about. So I have gotten used to living in Los Angeles is as long as I have at this point, I've gotten used to realizing that this was it pretty conservative city? The state itself is pretty conservative, but I wasn't expecting that with New York. You know, I think of the cabarets and, and you, you hear so much, and it was surprising to me.

Chris Holcombe :

Well, what's interesting is that there were different sections of Harlem and there were. Uh, wealthy immigrants and there were also wealthy, African-American populations as well. so in west Harlem, and particularly there were a lot of mansions, you know, it's, it's kinda hard to imagine Manhattan if you see it now, because it's, it just feels like it's row after row, after row of buildings. But, you know, there was a point where, uptown, or, you know, Northern Manhattan, Wilderness or it looks more like the suburbs and it doesn't look like the urban center that it is today. And there were a lot of mansions up there and the mansions were built around the late 18 hundreds, um, about early 19 hundreds. and so when some of the white citizens of those mansions left, uh, there were some, wealthy African-Americans who could move in. and, uh, they would have, parties and what have you, and, lived in these gorgeous matches and some of them are still around today. I actually made a fictionalized version based off of, to kind of, a mishmash of the two. The architecture is just wonderful and beautiful. So there were like these kind of two different types of Harlem's, you know, you had, the wealthy Harlem you had the poor Harlem. you also had at the time, like the nightclub culture and the cabaret culture, right. There was a lot of blues clubs and the blues were, extremely clear back then. and a lot of the recordings, were done by a lot of, uh, uh, queer women and lesbian women, so we're talking more rainy here. And of course, Gladys Bentley, who I based a, a character off of which I'm sure we'll get to El train in a minute. but, uh, so it was, it was interesting to have that kind of, we are a culture that was there and of course, you know, Langston Hughes was, was part of the queer community, um, and a bunch of other poets and writers, but then you also had this other fraction of Harlem, um, which I didn't delve too much into this book, but we'll be, and some of the other books coming up. Where they wanted it to be seen as respectable. So they, they did not like the nightlife of Harlem. They especially did not like the pre-population of Harlem. They didn't want them to get pressed. They didn't want them to get attention because they wanted to be seen as, you know, fine upstanding citizens who didn't click the law. So it was a really interesting time period. you saw this in other neighborhoods as well, where there's this kind of push pull between kind of progressive attitudes. Um, and more traditional attitudes. And I felt like, um, that was kind of a nice, uh, uh, not allegory, but a nice parallel to kind of what's happening now. Uh, and it's interesting to see how in American history we've always had that this sense of Progressive's wanting to push the envelope, push what is acceptable and people kind of backlashing against it. Um, but yeah. there were definitely two sets apart lumps and it, and it was great to see, you know, to learn about it because it just makes it multi-dimension. And unlike what we learned in history, we seem to seem to kind of look at things in a very flat way and not seeing as something that's a bit more dimensional and a bit more complicated than what's been presented to us

Brad Shreve :

you mentioned L train. You mentioned who she's based after, which was a question I was going to ask you now, I want you to elaborate a little further. I want you to explain to folks who L train is and who you base based on

Chris Holcombe :

Absolutely L train is one of my favorite characters. I love her

Brad Shreve :

mine too.

Chris Holcombe :

She's so wonderful. Um, she's, she's going to have a, more of a starring role in the, in the books to come, because she's just such a big personality. So L train is a performer at the oyster house, which is up in one 33rd, and like, in Harlem and she plays the piano and she is a big, broad shouldered. Bush, African-American woman, and she dresses in men's tuxedos, complete with the tails and the top hats. And, uh, she will perform in this cabaret, which is, uh, a bit of a Queer cabaret, which also has an interracial audience. So I really controversial. And, uh, she will vulgarize. Popular cabaret songs. and she took a little Diddy, which was written in 1919 called Alice blue gown, which was about Alice Roosevelt's famous blue dress. And, uh, I won't spoil it, but she makes it about something completely different and something that you can't repeat in front of your mother.

Brad Shreve :

I can assure you people. We're not playing that on the Victrolas, cause you, the lyrics are in the book and yeah, it

Chris Holcombe :

But, uh, it's actually

Brad Shreve :

played to my.

Chris Holcombe :

yeah, it's actually based off of a song that Gladys Bentley did, um, actuate. So, the last versus actually a verbatim what she performed. it was actually written down, and in a book. So I found it but I had to elaborate on some of the other verses, But, yeah, so she's based off of Gladys Bentley. As I mentioned before, and Gladys Bentley, was, you know, same, physical build, same stage demeanor. She wore men's tuxedos, complete with the top hat. Um, and she would perform at the clam house. Uh, so the oyster house is my. fictionalized version of the clam house. Um, that was also in heart. And, uh, fi uh, we play a piano. She had this big, booming voice. Um, she would vulgarize popular cabaret songs, but then she would also make you cry and she would do a version of St. James infirmary, blues that would just make you weak. Um, and so she was very famous in the 1920s. she actually had her own club in Harlem, in the 1930s called the club a club Uganda. and she would perform with a full band. She would also perform with the, uh, chorus of pansies or drag Queens behind her. she, uh, performed all over the country. She went out to LA, and she was a, a personality. There are some recordings of her, of that are available actually on, on streaming us number for twenties are, uh, recordings.

Brad Shreve :

I want to get now to the other neighborhood in the story that you brought up a little earlier, and that was Greenwich village. And you brought up that that was a gay community. I think of it as a very popular gay community in the sixties and seventies. And you're saying it was at that time as well. W the way you described it, it reminded me of Paris during that era, uh, with the impressionist painters and that sort of thing. Am I right? That it was very similar in that sense. And can tell us about that.

Chris Holcombe :

Yeah. Yeah. it was very similar. It was called Bohemia, back in the day. And that was where all the artists, would go. And so you had your painters, you had your. Poets, you had to writers, you know, your sculptors and what have you. and, uh, they, they all kind of congregated around the village. and then within that, there was a lot of, uh, Queer and LGBTQ plus culture that was occurring. so there were lesbian tea rooms, um, as well as queer and gay speakers. Greenwich village was a, an artistic center. Um, it was called Bohemia was known as Bohemia amongst a lot of new Yorkers. Again, very similarly to when white downtowners would go up to Harlem, they were summit. If you went down to the village, you were also slumming it. Um, it was a big immigrant neighborhood as well. So we had lots of, Irish and lots of Italians there. Um, not so much Germans, although they actually started off, down there and then moved. Uh, a little bit more to the, to the upper east side. but yes, it was a, it was kind of a, a mix of cultures, um, as well as a mix of, uh, professions. So you had, you know, the artistic step, but then you also have the dock workers who were there. Um, and it was, uh, a bit of a rough and tumble neighborhood. there was one bar, that was a real speakeasy that had saw dust on the floor. and it also had, an actual stuffed, I remember this right. A stuffed monkey behind the bar, who was a famous circus monkey that traveled around the name escapes me, but I'll, I'll, I'll, I'll let you know when I remember. but it was there behind the Bard. It was, uh, a rough kind of bar. Uh, it was, you know, you went in there and you didn't mess around. And so, you know, if you, if you did, you, you would, you would be shown. Fairly quickly. I believe that part was called the golden goose. There was a golden goose out front of it, but yeah, so there was a building, a lot of it still today, I just a car crash of different types of cultures and different types of people and different types of professions. Um, and so. I wanted to try to reflect all of that. In some ways, your performance also your political anarchists were there, your socialists were there, people who were not fans of the capitalists and what have you. So, one of the things that I've found just investigating this time period is a hundred years later, we're arguing about the same. So we're arguing about the role of women, you know, at, you know, may shock some of your younger, listeners, but, you know, women got to vote, you know, a scant six years, five and a half years before the story starts and there were voting and oh my God, they're going to vote. And what, what was going to happen to our political system? And what was the role of women? And should they be working? Why are they working? Where do they want to work for? You know, and you know, the, the immigrants people coming in, you know, we just fought this world war where we don't want. The immigrants who were leaving Europe, that we pass the immigrant immigration act of 1924, which basically, unless you were British, you weren't getting into country. we were arguing about, the role of work, the role of millionaire. Harding and Coolidge were very much pro millionaire. Everyone else was against the millionaires. So I just look at what we are arguing about and talking about now. Um, and it's pretty much very similar in terms of subject matter, in terms of tone, the details, may have changed, but we're still arguing about things, stuff, which on one hand is kind of depressing, but in a hundred years, we're still there. but it is kind of fascinating to see how, This again, push Paul, you know, it's like three steps forward, two steps back, three steps forward, two steps back. And that's just kind of the history of America in a nutshell. but Yeah, the village was a very vocal place, and a very interesting place, artistic place diverse place.

Brad Shreve :

but it, isn't also kind of hip and trendy. I'm sure I, everywhere in New York is expensive, but I know it is skyrocketed. I think it's the place to live. Am I right?

Chris Holcombe :

Yeah. And you know, what's interesting is, before, when it was just the Bohemians, it was kind of dirt cheap. And then, the wealthy people started to move in towards Washington square park, um, and around that area and it was starting to drive the rents up, which of course. Vexed the Bohemians to no end, and how they were just like, why are you making it more expensive to live here? again, it's nothing new under the sun, but when I read the letter sections of the new Yorker or, uh, uh, the New York times, The New York residents were so complaining about the same stuff. The subway doesn't run. The buses are awful. The rent is too expensive and we hate the landlords. And again, a hundred years later, it's the same, it's the same thing over and over again. You know, we're pushing a real new Yorkers out for these fake new Yorkers to move in. So, you know, in the village, there was a lot of ire against the wealthy coming in because they're like, Okay. you're just pretending to be able humans because it's the hip thing to do. But you're not one of us and you're driving the real people out of it. So, that, by the way is the same thing. Now in New York, you know, we've got basically, uh, a lot of, uh, international, wealthy money coming in, forcing the real new Yorkers out. whereas like, great, you have a tax write off in a home. You're here three weeks out of the year. The rest of us have to now live off the island, same stuff, nothing new, nothing new under this.

Brad Shreve :

And it's very similar out here, the Castro and west Hollywood, while the Castro was, it wasn't a rundown area, but it wasn't, exquisite and, gay folks moved in and, started building up a community and cleaning up these beautiful, absolutely gorgeous homes. And all of a sudden those homes are worth a fortune and the Castro is dying. Yeah. I have so many friends that have left the Castro and moved to Palm Springs. Uh, one it's just too expensive and too, it's not the same. Now, if you're in the Castro, you know, you're in the gay community, don't get me wrong, but it's not as solid as it used to be. And it's very similar with west Hollywood. I forget. I forget what west Hollywood's name used to be. It was at the edge of, Los Angeles and it's its own separate town, but. Kind of, because it was at the edge of the county, they could get away with things and, yeah. Then it developed into west Hollywood is what we know as the Garia and the same thing's happening there. I used to spend a lot of time in west Hollywood now I'm live quite a ways away. And my husband and I drove through it and we're like, where did all these condos come from? And all these, straight people with their strollers and you know, what's going on here? It's, we're seeing that happen everywhere. And I'm curious, it sounds like that same thing is happening to Harlem. it's redeveloping.

Chris Holcombe :

Yeah, that is correct. Yeah. There's a lot of gentrification happening. Um, and it's, uh, it's a big topic here in New York. Harlem Is definitely being gentrified. Brooklyn areas of Brooklyn are being gentrified. and so it's pushing a lot of those kinds of communities out. So there's a conversation happening about, well, On one hand, we all like economics prosperity. But on the other hand though, like if we just homogenize everything, like you lose the flavor of what make those, what made those neighborhoods so special and so wonderful. And also those people who have lived there before, like where, you know, why do they have to get pushed out of their homes? And that's their home, you know? So there's a great, a lot of conversation. I won't say a great conversation. It's a tense conversation and I, but I think it's a needed one, to be like, Okay. how do we find the balance? because it can't be this extreme of, you know, we've put in a pottery barn and Starbucks and everything is just too expensive and only one. group of people can live there, you know, of a, of a certain economic class like that doesn't seem to be a, a good thing. So, but it's, it's definitely happening here and I'm hoping that we can find some solution because to me. New York is a very unique city. It's a, it's a very diverse city. Um, and I mean, every culture in the world is practically here, but you know, if we go and replace it with TGI Friday's, then it's just going to be a really over expensive suburb and who, the hell wants to add. Um, so, I would love New York to stay in New York and I want it to stay weird and wonderful and diverse. And so I'm, I'm hoping that, we can find some sort of solution. I mean, this city really is fabulous. I've lived in, in a couple of different towns and this is by far one of my things. and for anyone who wants to visit, visit, but please don't go to time square. That's not New York. That's for tourists out. Email me. I'll tell you where to go. So you can support new Yorkers and support New York neighborhoods.

Brad Shreve :

if you go to Hawaii and only stay in hunter, Lulu, what the hell you might as well go to Miami.

Chris Holcombe :

Yeah.

Brad Shreve :

But what you're talking about happening in Harlem is, you know, I think it's happening in every city. the area that I mentioned earlier about Westland. Had the park is actually now called MacArthur park, that area. And it's where, because the rent was so low, it's a lot of, first-generation immigrants that lived there. But all of a sudden now we're seeing condos being built. And I have no doubt in my mind, that's pretty much what it's going to be in 10 years. And what's going to happen to those other folks, where are they going to go? And it concerns me. I hope it's not the street. Because it's not cheap to live in LA. It's not cheap to live in LA. Well, I could go on and on about this, we could do, I could just make this, the history show, which I've actually considered as a podcast. If I ever do that, I'll have you back on. Well, I have may have back on anyway, when your next book comes out and I do want to talk about that. You have another one coming up that you're working on and I see the blind title. Is going to be the next hidden Gotham novel. When can we expect that?

Chris Holcombe :

Um, we're expecting it and December, so that's, that's our, that's our, our, our date so fairly fast. but the reason for that? is because actually in writing the double vice, uh, when I first started it, it was actually three books in one. Um, I realized I had, I had too much. Because there was so much to play with and so much to work with. And so actually The Double Vice is one-third and so the, uh, The Blind Tiger is going to be the second, third, and then there's going to be another book that will be The third, third. So, um, so hence the speed on it, but, um, It Raymond for Christmas. So it'd be a great stocking stuffer. and I'm looking forward to it. Uh, I'm about neck deep in it. but it's going to be a little bit of a different story. So dash Parker is still going to be, our hero, but here we're getting into the world of poisoned, booze and chemists. And something that I've teased in this book that, you know, I'm going to fully flesh out and the blind tiger and, uh, um, really kind of delve into more of the prohibition side of it and actually dealing with the, the medical examiners office. So, I am going to start talking about Charles Norris, who was, our, coroner and, New York at Bellevue hospital. And he and his partner, Alexander Gettler actually created the processes that would actually become, forensic medicine and, and in crime solving. and so it was that office. I read a great book called the Poisoner's handbook by Deborah Bluhm. Leave him saying her last name correctly. If I'm not, I'm sorry, Deborah, but it's a great book. And I believe it was made into a, mini series that just talks about how they discovered, How human beings died in the city. Cause back then coroners were paid by the body and everyone was corrupt shocker. So, you know, the coroners would be like, yeah, just pay me whatever. And now I'll just process the body. So they'd be like, yeah, this person died, you know, falling out of a window and he was shot, you know, like, so there was there, wasn't a lot of ethical considerations going on. not to derail a little bit, but uh, we're going to be dealing with them and that's a fascinating history in and of itself. So I can't wait to talk about that a little bit later when that book comes out. But so yeah, we're going to be dealing with, unfortunately, some dead flappers, um, some, some poison booze. Where is it coming from? Um, and how do we, stop it? So that's, that's coming up in December.

Brad Shreve :

December, 2021. And of course I can't let you go before we do awkward questions, authors, get, I can't believe I almost forgot. That,

Chris Holcombe :

Yeah, no, I have, I have, I I'm I'm I'm ready for my awkward. author question. I can't wait.

Brad Shreve :

okay, so step back, I'm going to spin the wheel here and we're going to find your question. Okay, Chris, I've got your question. When are you going to write a New York times? Best seller.

Chris Holcombe :

Oh, gosh, I hope I've already done. So, um, uh, that's a great question. Um, Yeah. Sure the next one, the blind tiger. That's the one that's going to hit the charts. That's the one's going to hit the charts cause you're all are going to buy it for Christmas. It's going to make a great gift, um, especially for your conservative aunts and uncles. Um, You know, it's funny about this, uh, the author questions, awkward author questions because I used to be a musician, obviously, um, uh, uh, uh, uh, wanted award, uh, for a song. I didn't make a dime off that song, but I won an award. So I'm going to champion it. Every every chance I get, but we would always get, like, we would always compare like the awkward, singer songwriter questions you'd get, you know, and some of the stuff that they would ask you at club owners, do you know? And, um, I think one of the last authors you interviewed on the show, what was it like, have you written anything that I heard of? I've gotten that one, in a music section. Have you done anything I've heard of have done anything I've seen? You're like good grief. Okay. Um, yes. That's why I'm playing your dive bar, which has 15 drunks in it. Yes, that's exactly why I'm here.

Brad Shreve :

It's like, oh yeah. I think my next book I'll write a New York by times. So it's about time. I did one of those.

Chris Holcombe :

Hey, by the time I did one of those. Well, if I did, I'd probably want to, I probably have to set it in world war II because world war II sells like hotcakes. So I'll be like done. We'll write about Nazis. That seems to be the, the, the, does your forced or crime fiction, best sellers.

Brad Shreve :

Okay. Chris Holcomb, his first novel is The Double Vice I highly recommended It's available now. And thank you, Chris. And for being on the show and folks, you know what it's going to be, it's all going to be on their show notes to his website and to buy the book. And thank you very much, Chris, for being on this.

Chris Holcombe :

Yeah, thank you very much for having me. And thank you Justene for finding my book. I don't know how she it did, but I'm still glad she did. Cause then we got introduced. So this. has been an absolute honor.

Brad Shreve :

Lord only knows where she finds these things. And one last reminder to the listeners next Saturday, July 24th, 3:00 PM. Eastern time, 12 noon Pacific time. Queer Writers of Crime is going to be locked. For the first time, on Tune In Radio, part of the Pride48 network. And as I said before, we're going to have a special guest reviewer because Justene can't make it. And Marko Realmonte will be on with some very special news.