Two of my short stories were published this month. In the “The Velvet Slippers”, housekeeper Mildred Munz plots a solution to intolerable work conditions.
Liam Barrett, first generation Irish American and a police officer, makes his debut in “The Cattle Raid of Adams”. Liam has set aside his personal ambition and taken on the responsibility of supporting his widowed mother and siblings following the death of his father. He must solve the riddle of a disappearing bull while dealing with a headstrong younger brother.
These two short stories are set during the Gilded Age in Adams and North Adams, Massachusetts. Located in the northern Berkshires, this is the place where my Irish ancestors settled after immigrating in the 1860’s. During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s it was home to the cotton mills where Lewis Hines photographed working children, bringing national attention to child labor and the adoption of child labor laws.
During a genealogy-research trip to Adams a few years ago, I was struck by the charm of the two towns, and their proximity to Pittsfield and Lenox. At the same time children were laboring in cotton mills, the nouveau riche and at least one robber baron lived in “summer cottages” just a few miles away.
By the time Hines took this photo in North Adams, circa 1911, my family no longer worked in the mills although in the previous century, most of the Gannon and Barrett children went to work when they were fourteen years old. By the time this photo was taken, my family, still in Adams, owned bars, dress shops and farms. One of my grandfather’s cousins built the Barrett hotel now the Barrett House, across the street from the railway station, where it still stands today.
It was these conditions that led to the rise of unions, the Molly Maguires and the Pinkertons. You can imagine how the proximity of these two populations, the robber barons next door to the immigrant laborers, was fraught with tension and ripe with inspiration. This summer, I will be working on Book I in the Liam Barrett series.
Mysteristas: what are you summer writing plans?