I am a fan of good historical fiction. That is, where the author has woven the story into the fabric of history without damaging the original cloth. So many times I have read a great story in historical fiction except that the author played fast and loose with the real history, and to me that destroys a great deal of enjoyment. So when I embarked on writing The Roaring Road I determined to not mutilate history. In fact, early on I moved the action part of the story up an entire year because more historical events fit better. I delved into everything and when it was time to send my MCs (Main Characters) to Hollywood, I researched many of my favorite silent era movie stars to see what they were doing during the time in question. Douglas Fairbanks, Colleen Moore, Myrna Loy, Alice White all joined the story. Wallace Reid was another of my favorites and his unfortunate saga ended in 1921, so I split the story against the conventional wisdom to make him a part of my story, driving in an automobile race.
One of my biggest favorites, W.C. Fields was transitioning from vaudeville to the flickers and to my great amazement had made a movie (It's The Old Army Game) with none other than Louise Brooks. It was directed by Edward Sutherland who went on to convince Brooks to marry him in 1926, just the right timing for my book. It was as if I had written history to suit my story line! It also fit in with the first (1926) The Great Gatsby film, although none of my favorite stars were in it I was able to insert one of my MCs (Laure) into a bit part as a dancer in the big party scenes. I have Herbert Brenon (Gatsby director) and Billie Dove (actress) in bit parts. Famous Players-Lasky eventually became Paramount.
As it turned out, Reid, Dove, Fairbanks, Fields and Brooks worked in Lasky productions at various times. The 1926 Gatsby film, Herbert Brenon directing was also a Lasky production. So I had a rich mixture of stars who would have worked together and known each other before or during 1926 and I was able to place them all at a Hollywood party. Throw interesting people together at a party, add Louise Brooks, my MCs, and various interesting things happen!
I paid the same attention to detail in my research of automobiles and railroads, including steam locomotives to see what was in use by certain railroads at the time. Duesenberg and Doble automobiles are featured along with the more commonplace marques of the day. I inspected old railroad maps to see where interchanges were. For one of the most important scenes I discovered The Alton Limited, the fast Chicago-St. Louis passenger express service, including its red with gold trim livery, which is featured on one of the book covers. I also found the Indianapolis newspaper report of the 1919 automobile vs. express train race from Chicago to Indianapolis, which is the opening chapter of Book 1.
Same for aeroplanes of the day. I needed a larger plane but the Ford TriMotor wasn't in service yet, but the Fokker trimotor was just coming into the United States.
I researched such things as vacuum cleaners, typewriters, radio stations, auto repair shops and dealerships and restaurants. I researched the United States Marines and my MCs were invited to the first Marine Ball. I researched Yosemite and Grand Canyon National Parks, and the first motels. I researched railroad stations that hosted Harvey House restaurants. And of course I researched speakeasies aka blind pigs. Although it is not a story about organized crime, it does play a part in how and why certain things happened, so I checked into that, mostly in Chicago. By the time I finished, I had spent more time on research than I did on writing, but that's OK, I love history.
There are other historical characters, some as cameos and some have roles. Louise Brooks has a major role to play. She is a very interesting and unique individual. The next blog will describe why Louise Brooks is in The Roaring Road and what she does and why she does it. Prohibition in the Napa/Sonoma Wine Country is also featured and I'll have a blog on that soon as well. So stay tuned!
Thank you for visiting The Roaring Road website.
Johann C.M. Laesecke, author