Thank you to Jen for hosting today and thanks to your many followers for giving me this chance to make a pitch for my new book, A Long Way from Clare. I chose an excerpt from Chapter Three. Conor Dolan, a young Irish born lawyer is winding down his first full day in 1903 Chicago. It’s been a busy one. Instead of a brother, he’s found a mystery and secrets. But the young man has found a boardinghouse and a local saloon, indispensable necessities in the great city by the lake. As sits down to his first dinner with the boardinghouse guests, he wonders what’s next. Where will the journey lead him? How long will he stay and what will he find? He is resolved to see this through, for it is not his first existential journey…
A Long Way from Clare
Author: Robert W. Smith
Publisher: Meryton Press
Release Date: January 18, 2023
Genre: Historical Mystery
Even as a child in Springfield, Conor was not easily intimidated. It was another useful life tool attributable to his brother and traceable to that harrowing journey from Ireland on the coffin ship, the one Kevin once described as “a grand voyage on a beautiful ship.” Not once during the voyage did little Conor feel the sting of fear or the horror of human misery because he fell asleep in Kevin’s arms each night and walked every step in Kevin’s armor-plated shadow. For one hour every morning, they sent the steerage passengers up to walk the aft deck where Kevin would regale his little brother with colorful stories of cowboys and Indians or the great Irish king, Brian Boru. Conor looked forward to the walks every day.
Sounds of violence often punctuated the damp, cold darkness, followed by bodies carried from the hole in bags to the accompaniment of mournful wailing. It all happened mostly in the blackness of night but always involving others. In the safety of Kevin’s arms, the darkness became a shelter for the seven-year-old boy, a tiny haven in which he became invisible there on the dirty cot under his brother’s protective shield.
Thus, he never feared the darkness while growing up in Springfield but embraced it as a source of strength and invulnerability. It made him different from the other boys. He was different in other ways too as these bullies might soon learn if they pushed him. Paradoxically, he remembered the voyage as more of a great adventure than a tragic necessity, just as Kevin planned.
He suddenly realized, in all the excitement of the long day, that he had forgotten dinner. If he were late, Mrs. Kaplan would surely have her petticoat in a tangle.
Rebecca Fletcher was a widow from New York, a buyer for a New York garment manufacturing concern and seated permanently beside him by Mrs. Kaplan’s arrangement. A Raven-haired matron of about forty she was, with imperious chocolate brown eyes and toned skin that bestowed an air of mystery to her face. Though slightly on the plump side, Rebecca emitted a sensual presence, an air, despite her prudish Edwardian ensemble. The hair was balanced and pinned high atop her hatless head in rings or buns, allowing for the prominent display of an elegantly sculpted neck and flawless skin.
“We’re always delighted to see you for dinner, Mr. Dolan,” said Rebecca. “The company of women can become…well, let’s simply say a fresh, young perspective and a modest display of whiskers is a welcome addition.” It did not sound mean-spirited, just a slip of the tongue, but Mrs. Kaplan and her sister, Mrs. Goldman, may not have agreed.
Conor found Rebecca attractive. He was a novice in dealings with girls…women…but had never fancied the wallflower type, the delicate gem of Edwardian society. This Rebecca was no mere girl, and her impetuous manner bordered on flirtatious.
Dinner was family style except for the first course, chicken soup. As Mrs. Kaplan was still serving herself and Mrs. Goldman, Conor’s eyes inhaled the subtle vision of Mrs. Fletcher’s upper torso along with the hot chicken soup. His eyes refused commands to turn away, so he took care to be unobtrusive. Her blouse, modestly buttoned to the neck, was lace-covered down the middle and around the buttons. Still, every time she leaned over the soup bowl, Conor watched the white, lacy fabric stretch around the third button from the top, giving him just a bare hint of naked breast. The button strained under pressure each time she bent forward, and each time he was certain it would launch across the room. It seemed a question of which would give out first: the soup or the button. He was certain his admiration went unnoticed and prayed Mrs. Fletcher’s affinity for soup extended to the vegetable variety and beef stock as well.
About the Book:
Romance, Kidnapping, and Murder…
Will a young Irish lawyer unravel the secrets or die trying?
Conor Dolan, a young Irishman, travels to Chicago in 1903 to visit his older brother; instead, he finds a mystery. His journey sparks a quest to peel away secrets and rediscover a dead sibling he idolized but never really knew as he strives to learn the true meaning of brotherhood.
His search reveals an Irish Republican plot to assassinate a visiting British royal. In the process, he is drawn into an alliance with two women: a mesmerizing Jewish widow and a struggling young Irishwoman. Each teaches Conor existential truths of life and love in her own way.
But the brother he finds may not be the brother he remembers. A Long Way from Clare is a story of Chicago’s early twentieth century immigrants and one man’s struggle with both bigotry and justice in an unforgiving city where no good deed goes unpunished.
Will Conor find the answers he desperately craves? Or will this trip punch a one-way ticket?
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About the Author:
Bob was raised in Chicago, enlisting in the Air Force at age eighteen during the Vietnam War. Following a year of language training at Syracuse University, he served four years as a Russian Linguist in Security Service Command, a branch of the NSA. He attended DePaul University and The John Marshall Law School in Chicago on the G.I. Bill while working as a Chicago Transit Authority Police Officer. Thirty-odd years as a criminal defense lawyer in Chicago followed. His first book was Immoral Authority (Echelon Press, 2002) followed by Catch a Falling Lawyer (New Leaf Books, 2005) and The Sakhalin Collection (New Leaf Books, 2007, hardcover). In February of 2022, Between the Lines Publishing released Bob’s newest novel, Running with Cannibals, a historical/military thriller based on actual events of the Philippine-American War.