by Cuyler Overholt
Series: Dr. Genevieve Summerford Mystery #1
I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Fire Up The Time Machine!
It’s time to take a (time travel) trip back in time with Cuyler Overholt, author of A Deadly Affection, a debut novel set in NYC in the early 20th-century. Check out my review!
A Time Travel Trip To 1907 New York
by Cuyler Overholt
My historical mystery, A Deadly Affection, is set in New York City in the year 1907, during what’s known as the Progressive Era. Although less familiar to readers, perhaps, than the Gilded age that preceded it or the first World War that came after, this was a tremendously vibrant and exciting period in its own right. To better acquaint the readers of Second Run Reviews with its charms, I invite you all to join me on a special time travel tour to New York City in 1907, with a side trip to Washington, D.C.
First, a little background. Lasting from roughly 1890 to the First World War, the Progressive Era was characterized by an almost religious belief in science. This was, after all, a time when life-changing inventions were appearing on practically a daily basis, leading people to think they could conquer just about any challenge that came their way. People of this period also believed in the power of the individual to make a difference. Men and women at the dawn of the twentieth century weren’t content to sit back and wait for the government to fix things; they were out marching on the streets, or writing exposes, or forming investigative committees. President Teddy Roosevelt exemplified the spirit of the day when he said, “Believe you can, and you’re halfway there!” I would submit that this makes the period a particularly refreshing destination for people of our time, faced with such seemingly insurmountable problems as global religious conflict and environmental destruction, which can sometimes make optimism hard to come by.
And now on to the highlights of the tour! Our accommodations in New York City will be on the 8th floor of the luxurious new Plaza Hotel, the view from which, it is claimed, “is better than any from the Alps or Rockies”. After assembling in the glass-domed tea room for some reviving refreshments, we’ll take a double-decker omnibus drive around the city to get our bearings, stopping at a Herald Square nickelodeon to watch the latest Edison moving picture, “Laughing Gas”; touring a Mott Street opium den; and riding an elevator up the Park Row Building, currently the tallest commercial building in the world at twenty-nine stories. The next morning we’ll visit Pennsylvania Station, a Beaux Art masterpiece modelled after the Baths of Caracalla. This gorgeous example of the “City Beautiful” architectural movement was destroyed in 1965 over fierce public opposition—but thanks to time travel, you can once again walk through its storied halls. In the evening, we’ll attend the first-ever Ziegfield Follies review at the Jardin de Paris roof theater, a “mélange of mirth, music and pretty girls” so lavishly entertaining and sexually daring that it will draw eager audiences for another thirty years.
My only real error, I’d realized then, was thinking thinking that any man had the power to make me feel happy and complete, and I’d resolved never to make that mistake again. I had no intellectual quarrel with romantic love; I just didn’t see it in my own future.”Cuyler Overholt, A Deadly Affection
How About A Quick Side Trip
The next day we’ll head for Washington on the Royal Blue Line Limited, the finest daylight train in the world. Sit back and relax in mahogany-paneled parlor cars featuring leaded glass windows and royal blue upholstery, perhaps while perusing an illustrated issue of Munsey’s or McClures magazine, where you’ll find whimsical fiction, travel essays, and hard-hitting muckraking exposes. When hungers strikes, stroll with your new early-20th century friends to the luxurious dining car, where you’ll enjoy exquisite cuisine prepared by French-trained chefs.
Our first event in Washington will be a private reception with President Roosevelt, who is keen to hear how his wilderness parks have fared through the generations. During his tenure the president created 18 national monuments (including the Grand Canyon), 5 national parks, 51 bird reserves and over 100 million acres of National Forest. If any of you have benefited from his foresight, he’d like to hear about it! Also while in Washington, we’ll listen in as representatives of the National American Woman Suffrage Association petition the Senate, unsuccessfully, to give women the vote.
Back In New York
Back in New York, we’ll take the air with a carriage ride in Central Park, where you’ll rub elbows with the cream of society as they make their customary afternoon drive around the park. Sporting types, if they prefer, may attend a New York Giants baseball game and root for the team to repeat its 1905 World Series victory. Weather permitting, we’ll also take a steamboat ride to Coney Island to visit Dreamland, one of the era’s most refined and spectacular–not to mention brightly-lit— amusement parks, which will burn to the ground a few years in the future and never be rebuilt.
For the highlight of the week, tour organizers have secured invitations to a ball being given by Harry and Gertrude Whitney, in the ballroom Harry’s father famously brought over from a Bordeaux chateau to install in the family’s Fifth Avenue abode. Dressed in elegant ball gowns and tailcoats, we’ll drink vintage champagne from a gushing fountain, enjoy a five-course dinner prepared by famous Sherry’s restaurant, and dance into the wee hours to the music of the Nahan Franko orchestra. Although tour organizers can’t make any guarantees, past party favors at Whitney balls have included black pearls hidden in guests’ oysters, and gold trinkets inset with precious stones.
As a special incentive, although the tour would cost over $11,000 in today’s dollars it is currently being offered at the 1907 value of just $399. I hope I’ve whetted your appetites for the first decade of the twentieth century, and for this unique time traveling tour. I look forward to seeing you in 1907!
Special thanks to Sourcebooks for the Advance Reader Copy of A Deadly Affection and for connecting me with Cuyler for this guest post.