As my historical PI mystery, Velma Gone Awry, is coming out on April 12th, I’m going to continue with my 1920’s theme. This time it is brilliant quotes from legendary characters. And the kicker is, these fabled women and men are all in the novel, and some of the quotes are also there, spoken by them.
Let’s start with none other than one of the most quotable people of all time, Dorothy Parker. Her writing was only rivaled by her wit, and to have actually known her must’ve been a gift from the heavens.
What does Dorothy Parker say about the writing business?
“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”
She was a woman who seemingly struggled with and enjoyed life simultaneously. Much of her best wisecracking involves drinking and sex, two topics that were largely taboo in the US before the Roaring ’20’s before the flappers crushed that old fashioned convention.
This quote makes it into Velma Gone Awry straight from her lips. As does another one less blog appropriate about telling somebody that she’s $%# busy, or vice versa.
“Take me or leave me; or, as is the usual order of things, both.”
And while this next one did not make the pages of Velma Gone Awry, I’m fairly certain it will before the series ends. Spoiler, it did not make it into the second one, City Gone Askew, either. Maybe the third time is the charm.
“It’s a small apartment, I’ve barely enough room to lay my hat and a few friends.”
Right after initially meeting Dorothy Parker, my PI, 8 Ballo, meets up with the writer, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and his wife, Zelda, who steals the limelight from her famed husband on the pages of Velma Gone Awry.
In her high school year book, Zelda lays out what she wants from life, and then proceeds to try and achieve that. She has a brilliant mind laced with a wild side and is the quintessential flapper of the 1920’s.
“All I want to be is very young always and very irresponsible and to feel that my life is my own-to live and be happy and die in my own way to please myself.”
Of course, we can’t totally bypass Scott, as he is one of the most fabulous writers of all time, even if there were a few duds layered in there. I particularly like what he has to say about the marketing end of the business, a notion that I can certainly abide. Well, maybe not the movies being a racket, but certainly the advertising.
“Advertising is a racket, like the movies and the brokerage business. You cannot be honest without admitting that its constructive contribution to humanity is exactly minus zero.”
Coleman Hawkins did most of his speaking with the tenor saxophone, but he was early on credited with this sublime quote that knows no boundaries in its truth.
“If you don’t make mistakes, you aren’t really trying.”
You can’t set a book in New York City without giving a nod to Babe Ruth, even if 8 Ballo is a Dodger’s fan. Spoiler, he is not much of an admirer of the Babe, who lived life larger than life and baseball combined, but did have a bombastic side. This quote sums up his character in Velma Gone Awry scene, minus the giving up alcohol and going to bed early.
“I’ll promise to go easier on drinking and to get to bed earlier, but not for you, fifty thousand dollars, or two-hundred and fifty thousand dollars will I give up women. They’re too much fun.”
And of course, the 1920’s was rife with colorful gangsters. A very flawed character in Velma Gone Awry is Ben “Bugsy” Siegel, who is a young Jewish gangster with his own code of ethics while at the same time starting up a business that became known as ‘Murder Incorporated’.
“My friends call me Ben, strangers call me Mr. Siegel, and guys I don’t like call me Bugsy, but not to my face.”
With that concluding thought, feel free to leave your positive comments below and keep your criticism behind my back.
Matt Cost was a history major at Trinity College. He owned a mystery bookstore, a video store, and a gym, before serving a ten-year sentence as a junior high school teacher. In 2014 he was released and began writing. And that’s what he does. He writes histories and mysteries.
Cost has published four books in the Mainely Mystery series, with the fifth, Mainely Wicked, due out in August of 2023. He has also published four books in the Clay Wolfe Trap series, with the fifth, Pirate Trap, due out in December of 2023.
For historical novels, Cost has published At Every Hazard and its sequel, Love in a Time of Hate, as well as I am Cuba. In April of 2023, Cost will combine his love of histories and mysteries into a historical PI mystery set in 1923 Brooklyn, Velma Gone Awry.
Cost now lives in Brunswick, Maine, with his wife, Harper. There are four grown children: Brittany, Pearson, Miranda, and Ryan. A chocolate Lab and a basset hound round out the mix. He now spends his days at the computer, writing.
Wondering if Joseph Force Crater might make a (dis)appearance in a future book.
What fun! I’ll keep an eye out for your book!
Once read something about the sci fi writers from the thirties. A little later than your book, but still, a marvelous insight into the earlier days of modern writing. Your books sound intriguing. Write on.
Who doesn’t wish for a seat at the Algonquin Round Table. The 20s are an era that never disappoint. Well done, Matt, all the best with the book.
Ah. Kait mentions the Algonquin. When my first book, Chosen for Death, was coming out, my editor took me to the Algonquin for lunch, a lovely way to touch history. Such nice quotes. Amazing that you ever left the weeds of research and finished the book.