The Body in the Ballroom
by R.J. Koreto
on Tour July 1-31, 2018
President Teddy Roosevelt’s daring daughter, Alice, leaps into action to exonerate a friend accused of poisoning a man just about everyone hated.
Alice Roosevelt, the brilliant, danger-loving daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt, has already risked an assassin’s bullet to solve one murder. She never expected to have to sleuth another, but she’d never pass up the opportunity, either. Anything to stave off boredom.
And such an opportunity presents itself when Alice is invited to a lavish ball. The high-society guests are in high spirits as they imbibe the finest wines. But one man, detested by nearly all the partygoers, quaffs a decidedly deadlier cocktail. An African-American mechanic, who also happens to be a good friend of former Rough Rider-turned-Secret Service Agent Joseph St. Clair, is suspected of the murder-by-poison, but Alice is sure he’s innocent and is back on the scene to clear his name.
From downtown betting parlors to uptown mansions, Alice and Agent St. Clair uncover forbidden romances and a financial deal that just might change the world. But neither Alice nor her would-be protector may survive the case at hand in The Body in the Ballroom, R. J. Koreto’s gripping second Alice Roosevelt mystery.
Genre: Historical Mystery
Published by: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: June 12th 2018
Number of Pages: 304
ISBN: 1683315774 (ISBN13: 9781683315773)
Series: Alice Roosevelt Mystery #2
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗
R.J. Koreto has been fascinated by turn-of-the-century New York ever since listening to his grandfather’s stories as a boy.
In his day job, he works as a business and financial journalist. Over the years, he’s been a magazine writer and editor, website manager, PR consultant, book author, and seaman in the U.S. Merchant Marine. He’s a graduate of Vassar College, and like Alice Roosevelt, he was born and raised in New York.
He is the author of the Lady Frances Ffolkes and Alice Roosevelt mysteries. He has been published in both Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. He also published a book on practice management for financial professionals.
With his wife and daughters, he divides his time between Rockland County, N.Y., and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.
Q&A with R.J. Koreto
Writing and Reading:
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
Both! This book uses real-life characters in fictional situations and even some fictional characters are based on actual historical figures. Immigration and race—very much in the news today—was also a huge issue 100 years ago. I hoped to bring some perspective to the discussions by showing Irish, Jewish and African-American New Yorkers trying to find their place in a changing America at the turn of the century.
But it’s not all serious! I have the 18-year-old Alice Roosevelt throwing some jealous hissy fits when her bodyguard, ex-Rough Rider Joseph St. Clair, starts showing an interest in a woman journalist. Alice would never admit to an attraction for the handsome cowboy, who just sees her as a little sister anyway, but that doesn’t mean she wants another woman to have him. I have a friend who had a very jealous girlfriend many years ago, so those scenes practically wrote themselves.
Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
I start with the basics of “whodunit” from the beginning. I know who committed the murder even as I write the first paragraph. It’s like erecting a scaffold, and then putting in the bricks one by one. If you don’t have a plan, you find yourself going in directions that take you nowhere.
The tricky part is adding all the people who could have done it, to keep the reader puzzled.
But I try to remain flexible, too. Sometimes when they’re down on paper, plotlines are less interesting than they were in my head, while other possibilities present themselves.
Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?
I’ve long been a journalist, and the character of society reporter Felicia Meadows was based on some journalists I’ve known over the years. The newspaper business has long been male-dominated, even many years after my book takes place, and women were often pushed into what were considered appropriate topics for women, like society gossip and fashion. So I had a lot of fun creating Miss Meadows, imaging how tough and bright she’d have to be to make it in those times as she tries to get herself a frontpage story.
Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
I usually write evening and weekends, and I don’t like it if it’s too quiet. Music or TV in the background is necessary. And soda, with lots of ice. I drink way too much diet Coke.
Tell us why we should read this book.
It really comes down to relationships. This may be too much of a blanket statement, but I think it’s largely true that although readers like a clever plot and a relatable theme, they really want engaging characters who play off his each other well. I have the 30-year-old Wyoming-native Joseph St. Clair, whose formal schooling ended at 14, and who has been a cowboy, deputy sheriff, Rough Rider, and now Secret Service agent guarding Alice Roosevelt. She, meanwhile, is only 18, born to great wealth and privilege in New York City. One reviewer commented that the two of them are continually fascinated with each other, as they try to understand each other’s way of looking at the world, and that’s the relationship that keeps the reader interested.
My model was Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe and his assistant Archie Goodwin. They are utterly different and struggle to understand each other, but you can’t imagine them without each other. They can hardly function without each other.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Such a wide range. I used to read a lot of science fiction, especially Isaac Asimov, who was capable of such breathtaking visions.
Among classic mystery stories, I like Rex Stout for his witty dialog and rich characterization; Agatha Christie for her brilliant plotting skills; and Georges Simenon, who could set a scene like nobody else.
What are you reading now?
I just finished “City of Lies,” by Victoria Thompson, an author who excels at portraying strong, independent women in historical periods. I’ve been a fan of her older “Gaslight Mystery” series and this new series is off to a terrific start. She has long been an inspiration to me.
Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
I’m very excited about my next project, which is the most ambitious book I’ve tried writing. In Victorian England, young police constable Alan Heath, in a rural village, comes across the brutally murdered body of the Earl’s daughter, a young woman he’s known his whole life. On and off for over 30 years Heath tries to solve the murder in a career that takes him to London and India and the battlefields of World War I. Only on the eve of his retirement, as a high-ranking detective at Scotland Yard in the 1920s, does Heath finally pull it all together. Over the years, we see him change, England change, and the Earl’s family decline in the war’s aftermath, as if the unsolved murder has cursed them.
Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?
That’s always a tough one! Emma Watson, who played Hermione in the Harry Potter movies, might make a good Alice. She doesn’t really resemble Alice but I think she could do a great job with Alice’s imperious tone.
For Agent St. Clair, a young Paul Newman would’ve been great. St. Clair provides a lot of humor in the book, and Newman could do comedy very well.
Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
In addition to writing, my wife and I like taking our Yellow Labrador Retriever, Rose, for long walks.
My wife makes a winter dish of pan-fried porkchops with apples. With a cold beer on the side, there’s nothing better.
Thank you for stopping by CMash Reads and spending time with us.
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ENTER TO WIN:
This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for R.J. Koreto. There will be 3 winners of three (3) Amazon.com Gift Cards. The giveaway begins on July 1, 2018 and runs through August 1, 2018. Open to U.S. addresses only. Void where prohibited.