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becke_davis
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Libby Hellmann on The St. Valentine's Day Massacre

[ Edited ]

Today Chicago mystery author LIBBY HELLMANN has written a very timely guest blog for us on the infamous ST. VALENTINE'S DAY MASSACRE.

 

Libby Fischer Hellmann

 

Libby Fischer Hellmann

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becke_davis
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Re: Libby Hellmann on The St. Valentine's Day Massacre

[ Edited ]

 

 

Set the Night on Fire 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Someone is trying to kill Lila Hilliard.

 

During the Christmas holidays she returns from running errands to find her family home in flames, her father and brother trapped inside. Later, she is attacked by a mysterious man on a motorcycle. . . and the threats don’t end there.

 

As Lila desperately tries to piece together who is after her and why, she uncovers information about her father’s past in Chicago during the volatile days of the late 1960s . . . information he never shared with her, but now threatens to destroy her.

 

Part thriller, part historical novel, and part love story, SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE paints an unforgettable portrait of Chicago during a turbulent time: the riots at the Democratic Convention . . . the struggle for power between the Black Panthers and SDS . . . and a group of young idealists who tried to change the world.

 

Thus far, SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE has garnered some excellent reviews. Here are a few:

 

"A tremendous thriller, sweeping but intimate, elegiac but urgent, subtle but intense... this story really does set the night on fire. -- Lee Child

 

 "Set the Night on Fire is a compelling story of love, truth and redemption. This will be a break-out novel for this talented writer. Highly recommended." —Sheldon Siegel, New York Times best-selling author of Perfect Alibi

 

 "A top-rate standalone thriller that taps into the antiwar protests of the 1960s and 70s... A jazzy fusion of past and present, Hellman's insightful, politically charged whodunit explores a fascinating period in American history."—Publishers Weekly

 

 "Superior... Passion, pain, and protests emerge in vivid detail."—Chicago Tribune

 

 "Top Pick! Electric! A marvelous novel."—Romantic Times Book Reviews

 

More information is at Libby's website, including a chronology of the times, a quiz, and a book trailer with actual footage from the 1968 Democratic Convention. If you’d like to explore this further or would like a review copy, please let Libby know. 

 

Listen to Libby's interview on WGN's "The Sunday Papers with Rick Kogan"!

 

 

 

 

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becke_davis
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Re: Libby Hellmann on The St. Valentine's Day Massacre

Chicago's St. Valentine's Day Massacre


by Libby Fischer Hellmann

 

 

Happy Valentine’s Day. Or Week.

 

I’m from Chicago, and along with love, hearts, and flowers, we also celebrate the day with bullets, blood, and guts. In fact, you can’t get through February 14 without some mention of the Valentine’s Day Massacre. And since I write crime fiction, I’m always keen to revisit the event, if only to pay homage to a time in Chicago when it was ruled by the Mob.

 

As some of you may know, the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre happened on the North Side of Chicago in 1929. Prohibition was still in effect, and the stock market crash was 9 months away. Getting liquor to Chicago was the job of the Mafia, and two gangs were vying for the turf: Al Capone’s South Side Italians, and Bugsy Moran’s North Side Irish. At about 10:30 AM on February 14, five members of the Moran gang were gunned down in a garage on North Clark Street. (It’s gone now but used to be at 2122). In addition, two other men, not members, but probably associates, were killed too.

 

The hit men were either members of Capone’s gang or shooters brought in from somewhere else. Capone was looking to avenge an unsuccessful attempt by Moran to murder Capone allies and hijack some of Capone’s business. Two of the shooters were dressed like policemen, the others in trench coats. No one knows why Moran’s men were in the garage, but after the massacre, witnesses saw the “police” leading the “shooters” out of the garage at gunpoint.  The only survivor was a howling dog, which alerted the real police to the crime. It took until December of ’29 for the police to offer up indictments.

 

Both gangs – Capone’s and Moran’s – survived, but public outrage over the massacre gave the government a reason to come down hard on them. Moran lost power, and two years later Capone was in prison.

 

So, Happy Valentine’s Day, whether you live in Chicago or not!!

 

 

 

Libby Fischer Hellmann’s seventh novel is SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE, a thriller that goes back, in part, to the late Sixties in Chicago. “Blame it on my high school history teacher,” she says. “She made history so interesting and compelling that I ended up majoring in it in college.” To this day, she loves digging into the past, especially when what happened then has repercussions in the present.

 

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Distinguished Wordsmith
Fricka
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Re: Libby Hellmann on The St. Valentine's Day Massacre

Thanks for that interesting and timely blog on the Valentine's Day Massacre, Libby.

It's great to know that you also had a great history teacher in high school--a teacher who is passionate about his/her subject matter and makes a subject like history, which many students usually find boring because of all the dates to memorize by rote, is a rare gem.

" A murder mystery is the normal recreation of the noble mind."--Sister Carol Anne O' Marie
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dulcinea3
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Re: Libby Hellmann on The St. Valentine's Day Massacre

Yes, thanks, Libby; that was interesting!  Whenever I hear about the St. Valentine's Day massacre, I think of the beginning of Some Like It Hot.  I think that was supposed to be the actual Massacre that they witnessed, or maybe it was only similar (because the crime bosses later in the movie were different), but of course that was the reason that Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon had to dress in drag and flee the city!

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becke_davis
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Re: Libby Hellmann on The St. Valentine's Day Massacre

I'm glad you liked Libby's blog! I asked her to write it after reading her latest book, which is set (in part) at the time of Chicago's Democratic Convention in the 1960s. That subject interested me because I was there, a witness to the violence even though I was not hurt when everything went to hell in a handbasket.

 

Even though the St. Valentine's Day Massacre isn't a very cheerful subject, I thought you mystery fans would be interested in this infamous part of Chicago's history.

 

Thanks, Libby, for refreshing my memory about the details of this event!

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LibbyfhLH
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Re: Libby Hellmann on The St. Valentine's Day Massacre

[ Edited ]

It's my pleasure, Becke and all.

 

I only wish I knew more of Chicago's history. I moved here in 1978, so I'm okay after then, but so much happened in the 19th and early 20th century. Happily, there's a fellow here who knows where ALL the bodies are buried. Literally. He's an expert on true crime in Chicago, and he's amazing.

 

If any of you are interested, his website is: http://www.richardlindberg.net/

 

Meanwhile, if you'd like to read an excerpt of SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE, you can find the first few chapters of the historical segment (the backstory) at my website: http://libbyhellmann.com

 

Happy V-Day to all!

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becke_davis
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Re: Libby Hellmann on The St. Valentine's Day Massacre

Libby - Thank you so much for this guest blog - I really enjoyed it!

 

 

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eadieburke
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Re: Libby Hellmann on The St. Valentine's Day Massacre

 

I will definitely be checking out SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE! Looks really good!
LibbyfhLH wrote:

It's my pleasure, Becke and all.

 

I only wish I knew more of Chicago's history. I moved here in 1978, so I'm okay after then, but so much happened in the 19th and early 20th century. Happily, there's a fellow here who knows where ALL the bodies are buried. Literally. He's an expert on true crime in Chicago, and he's amazing.

 

If any of you are interested, his website is: http://www.richardlindberg.net/

 

Meanwhile, if you'd like to read an excerpt of SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE, you can find the first few chapters of the historical segment (the backstory) at my website: http://libbyhellmann.com

 

Happy V-Day to all!


 

Eadie - A day out-of-doors, someone I loved to talk with, a good book and some simple food and music -- that would be rest. - Eleanor Roosevelt
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Re: Libby Hellmann on The St. Valentine's Day Massacre

Thank you Libby for that wonderful blog about the St. Valentine's Massacre. I do remember in history class being taught about the two mobs and the massacre. I guess it is more remembered in Chicago than anywhere else.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep - Robert Frost
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Re: Libby Hellmann on The St. Valentine's Day Massacre

Hi, all. I've just released a new police procedural thriller called TOXICITY, which turned out to be a prequel to my Georgia Davis series. Here's more info:

 

Here’s a very highly rated bargain  book  by Libby Fischer Hellmann has an outstanding 4.8 star rating and is only 99 cents! If you haven’t read any of Libby Hellmann’s books yet, make sure to check this one out – her books are always popular among ENT readers.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect, but was blown away once I began reading. The author’s style is fast paced and exciting. I literally couldn’t put the book down.” F.M. –  Reviewer


Libby Fischer Hellmann
Rating: 4.8 Stars
Genre: Thriller
Price: $0.99

 

Libby Fischer Hellmann’s thriller TOXICITY is as gritty as it is spellbinding. Populated with fully-realized characters, TOXICITY introduces us to Hellmann’s signature heroine, Georgia Davis. But we meet Georgia ten years earlier, when she is a young and determined rookie on a Chicago police force. In Georgia’s debut, we see her tenacity and strength, but also her vulnerability: the seeds sown for the woman she will become. TOXICITY works on all levels, drawing the reader inexorably into a web of deceit, heart-crushing loss, and righteous fury. This wicked brew explodes in a stunning and satisfying conclusion that answers every question. Hellmann pulls no punches.
—J. Carson Black, best-selling author of THE SHOP and DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN

Ten years before EASY INNOCENCE, PI Georgia Davis was a police officer on the force in a Chicago suburb. And while homicides are rare on the North Shore, three bodies turn up in quick succession—all of them dumped in waste disposal dumpsters or landfills. The investigations into the murders test the mettle and professionalism of a combined police task force. Along the way, they also test the strength of Georgia’s relationship with one of the detectives working the case. While Georgia, her detective boyfriend Matt, and his sometime partner John Stone pit their skills against those of an inventive killer, the daughter of a real estate mogul– who just happens to have her eye on Matt — complicates matters. A dark police procedural and thriller, TOXICITY is a prequel to the Georgia Davis PI series (EASY INNOCENCE and DOUBLEBACK).

And here's the Nook link

 

 

Hope you'll check it out!



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Re: Libby Hellmann on The St. Valentine's Day Massacre

Toxicity 

Toxicity   (NookBook)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ten years ago PI Georgia Davis was a police officer in a Chicago suburb. And while homicides are rare on the North Shore, three bodies turn up in quick succession—all of them dumped in waste disposal dumpsters or landfills. The investigations into the murders test the mettle and professionalism of a combined police task force. Along the way, they also test the strength of Georgia's relationship with one of the detectives working the case. While Georgia, her detective boyfriend Matt, and his sometime partner John Stone pit their skills against those of an inventive killer, the daughter of a real estate mogul—who just happens to have her eye on Matt—complicates matters even more. A dark police procedural and thriller, Toxicity is a prequel to the Georgia Davis PI series (Easy Innocence and Doubleback).

Excerpt

1998

Prologue

It wasn't supposed to be this easy, watching life seep out of a body. Knowing you were the cause of it. Standing in the motel room, fingers against the carotid, feeling the pulse dwindle to a weak, irregular tremor. Smiling, as his skin became translucent, a bluish tinge to his lips. Not so hard, now, to understand that doctor who helped people die. And sometimes stuck around to watch. Hadn't someone said at the moment of death, he'd shout at his patients, imploring them to tell him what it was like?

The man on the bed wheezed softly. Not long ago, he'd been writhing, clutching his middle.

"Call an ambulance," he'd gasped, the words barely audible. When there was no response, he struggled feebly for the phone.

Tying him down to the bed. Seeing comprehension dawn in his face. Telling him everything. Who knew how much he understood through his agony? But he did shudder, and he pursed his lips trying to spit. A final, futile attempt at resistance. Understandable. Who could blame him?

Waiting, light splashing across his face, as the convulsions wracked his body and his eyes bugged out until he stopped thrashing.

Easy. It had all been so easy. His face turned blue, and, like a gentle breeze that barely ripples the air, he was gone.

A quick shower, cleaning up with towels brought from home, wiping down surfaces. It didn't take long.

A light tap on the door. The door swung open.

"You're right on time."

"Is it over?"

"Just like we planned."

He hesitated, hanging back.

"Come on. He's not going to bite."

He stepped across the threshold, into the room, and together they dragged the body out. Following the dead man's car, circling back. Dumping the car and the body and then heading back north.

Easy.

 

Chapter One

The driver, still working off a Sunday night six-pack, wasn't sure whether he heard it or felt it. A muffled thump, a fleshy noise that rose above the tinny, grinding sound of the gears. He released the clamps that locked the high school dumpster to the back of the truck. Blade's probably chewing through a bag of meat, he thought.

Then everything slowed down.

Shit. Truck's acting up again. That's the problem when companies get too big too fast. No attention to maintenance. He couldn't complain too much, though. RDM, Regional Disposal Management, had been pretty good to him. He made good money driving those big blue trucks. Especially since they'd locked up most of the contracts on the North Shore. It beat working on the line like he used to, assuming you could even find a place that wasn't overrun by wetbacks.

Another thud. **bleep**ing teenagers. Too good for the food in the cafeteria. Plenty of people would be grateful for a square meal, but they didn't live on the North Shore of Chicago. He threw the machine's gears into neutral and was climbing out of the cab when the stench assailed him. Garbage was always rancid, especially rotten meat. But this was different. Pinching his nose closed, he moved to the bed of the truck and opened up the hopper. Hooking his arm over the edge, he stepped up and peered in. Then he retched.

***

Glenbrook Detective Matt Singer folded his tallis and carefully slid it in the velvet bag Georgia bought him for his birthday. He should have gone to morning prayers but he'd drifted back to sleep after Georgia left, so he did them at home. He placed the bag on the shelf in the closet. Before closing the door, he ran his hand over Georgia's clothes. Strange to see skirts and dresses next to the few things he needed to hang up. But not unpleasant. When he pressed his face against the purple dress she'd worn last night and inhaled her musky scent, he hardened. Smiling, he shuffled into the bathroom.

He turned on the shower, then stepped in. The jets of water loosened his neck muscles, and as he lathered the soap into foamy white bubbles, he realized he was humming. Afterwards he toweled off and wiped the steam off the mirror. He was shaving when the call came in.

***

In the neighboring village of Northview, Detective Sergeant John Stone poured a cup of coffee. The lunchroom in the village police station wasn't much of a room—a cramped windowless space with cinderblock walls and a couple of vending machines, but that's where the guys on the force hung out. Two officers lounged at a table while a third read aloud from the morning newspaper.

"Two Chicago tactical officers were shot and killed last night as they intercepted a drug sale on the west side. Members of the Gangster Disciples are suspected..."

Stone dumped three packs of sugar into his coffee. Why did cops abuse themselves by reading the paper? The reporters always got it wrong—who did what to who and why. And that "special" relationship between cops and journalists? The few times the reporters did get it right, their arrogance was insufferable.

"Bunch of **bleep**ing cowboys." One of the uniforms said, pointing at the paper.

The cop who'd been reading out loud looked up. "At least someone's still out on the street."

 "Not for long, if these yo-yos keep screwing up," the second officer said.

Stone bit back a reply. Northview was a bedroom suburb of Chicago, and the cops in the lunchroom were young, green, and cocky. Twenty years on the West Side would cure them. Still, they had a point. Chicago had been plagued with so many bad cops and scams in recent years even the Chief of Police had been forced to resign. Those who survived were either running for cover or trying to be super-heroes. Stone was glad he was out of it. Not much happened in the suburbs. That was good.

The crisp sound of leather heels clacking down the hall cut through his thoughts. Stone knew it had to be brass—the rest of the world wore Nikes. Seconds later, Hank Phillips ducked his tall frame through the door.

"Stone. I was just coming to see you." 

"What's up, Hank?" Phillips was the kind of boss who would find you rather than make you cool your heels in his office. Unusual for a Chief of Police. Even in the suburbs.

"You know the Feldman construction site?"

Stone nodded. Stuart G. Feldman, a successful developer, had bought one of the last unimproved tracts in the village. His plans to build a retail center, which everyone knew was a euphemism for a mall, had unleashed a storm of resistance that was gathering force. Village residents didn't need the tax revenues, didn't care about the amenities, and didn't want the congestion.

 Phillips poured coffee into a plastic cup. "Well, a few weeks ago, some of the good citizens formed a coalition to fight the project. They're calling themselves CEASE."

"How's that?"

"'Citizens' Effort Against Senseless Expansion.' Supposed to have some ties to those preservationists over in the next village."

Stone couldn't suppress a smile. They should have saved their energy. Ultimately the project would go forward. They always did. Especially when Feldman was involved. He had clout. Not to mention his hands in the right pockets.

Phillips shrugged as if he knew what Stone was thinking. "We got a report of vandalism over at the site. Normally, I wouldn't waste your time, but it's Feldman. We gotta check it out."

"What happened?"

"Someone smeared dog shit all over their sign and left a pile of it underneath." Phillips spread his hands. "What can I tell you?"

 Stone grunted. Such were the perks of working in the village. Chicago cops dealt with rape, drugs, and murder. He got to run down dog shit.

 

Chapter Two

In Glenbrook Georgia Davis stretched yellow tape around as much of the parking lot as she could. A squad car blocked the entrance, but dozens of Blazers, Jeeps, and compacts managed to pull in around it. A cool October morning, condensation coated the windshields, but a bright sun hinted at the warmth to come. Word had spread quickly, and students, ignoring the bell that marked the start of classes, gathered in knots to gawk.

At the edge of the crowd, Robby Parker, her partner, wore a worried look. About a dozen kids were massed and pushing against the tape. If they broke through, they'd contaminate the scene. Georgia sprinted back to her cruiser and pulled a megaphone out of the trunk. Moving back over, she yelled into the crowd.

"Back up. Show's over. Get to class."

A collective grumble went up from the crowd. Most of the students dispersed, but a couple of rowdy types made a fast break. Robby grabbed one by the elbow, and Georgia barreled her shoulder into the other. Falling back, one of them clutched his chest, muttering something about police brutality.

"You think that's brutality pal," she said, "stick around."

The boy eyeballed her but slunk off.

She sighed. She'd probably hear about it later.

A black Honda Accord swung around the corner and stopped a few yards away. Matt cut the engine and climbed out of the car, leaving the blinking light revolving on top—a beacon of sorts for the medical examiner, Georgia guessed.

At five ten, with powerful, well-defined muscles, Matt was compact but strong. Curly dark hair framed an angular face, and his long narrow nose looked like it had been broken more than once. Behind his rimless glasses, though, his large brown eyes were kind and gentle, and Georgia was a sucker for kindness.

He moved to the bed of the truck and climbed up. He covered his eyes for a moment, then dropped his hand and waved her over.

"Georgia, I need you to confirm that techs are on their way. And make sure they have plenty of gloves and Vicks. Call around if you have to. This is a hell of a mess."

She nodded. She'd taken a quick look earlier. The bed of the truck was covered with garbage but she could make out bits of white bone and bloodstained flesh mixed in. Patches of tattered plaid material made a colorful addition. In a corner, under a layer of half-eaten lunches and homework papers, was a body minus an arm and leg. It was covered by the same tattered plaid. Another lump of flesh covered with blood lay in the opposite corner. A missing limb. Or part of it. In her three years on the job, Georgia had never seen anything like it. She'd blown out short bursts of air that vaporized in the morning chill.

Matt went over to the driver, who had situated himself as far away from the truck as he could. As Matt spoke to him, the guy started to nod, and his body language relaxed. That was Matt. Making you feel you were the only person in the world who mattered.

A Jeep Cherokee entered the parking lot and pulled up to Matt's Honda. A young Asian woman climbed out. Jenny Lee, an evidence tech from the state crime lab. Village cops usually did their own tech work. If Matt had called Jenny, this was big.

Jenny dug latex gloves out of her pocket and walked over to the truck. Hoisting herself up, she studied the bed of the truck. Then she jumped down, and beckoned to Matt, the photographer, and the Medical Examiner, who had just arrived. Georgia heard them discuss how to break down the scene. Jenny suggested a square grid pattern, with the torso in the truck as the focal point.

Matt made some quick sketches of the scene, then nodded. "Go ahead. There's a lot to sift through." He turned to Jenny. "We've got extra hands, too, if we need 'em."

Meaning her and Robby.

Jenny was good at her job, they said. As she made way for the photographer, Matt asked her something, and Georgia saw her hand him a jar of Vicks. He rubbed some under his nose—he liked to work crime scenes along with the techs. Kept him honest, he said. Then he went over to Georgia.

"Great way to start the day, huh?" He gently punched her in the shoulder. Before she could answer, he turned around to rejoin Jenny at the truck.

She watched him go, impressed by how well he could compartmentalize. Whether it was work, prayer, or sex, his mind placed everything in its assigned cubicle, filing the appropriate emotions until needed. She couldn't do that. She knew she should be more professional and focused—like Jenny. But she couldn't. She knew they were in the middle of an ugly death scene. She knew it was not a time for her mind to wander. But, Christ, all she could think about was the way Matt made her feel last night in bed.

***

Six hours later a local funeral home sent a hearse for the remains. The ME followed it to the morgue where he would determine cause of death. Or try to, he said. They had bagged the body and collected the missing limbs, but the ME said there wasn't as much blood in the truck as he expected for someone who'd been through a meat grinder, and most of it was dark and viscous. Maybe the victim was already dead before they went into the dumpster. Matt dispatched Detective Pete Brewster down to the morgue.

By mid-afternoon, an officer, foraging in the bed of the truck, found most of a red purse under a layer of garbage. Cards inside the wallet identified its owner as Julia Rose Romano. Georgia checked with the high school. Romano taught math but she hadn't shown up this morning. The secretary checked her file, and her blue Saturn, its doors locked, was found not far from the dumpster. Matt instructed the techs to go over it from bumper to bumper and told Georgia and Robby to tag all the cars nearby. An early-bird student or teacher might have seen something.

An hour later Brewster called with a positive ID.

 

All content © Libby Fischer Hellmann.