Today we are taking part in the blog tour for Robert W. Smith’s A Long Way from Clare. This book is the second non-Austenesque book that Meryton Press has published. It is a romance and murder mystery. The cover reveal was hosted here on the 12th of January. We didn’t post an excerpt then, but we have one for you today.
From the author
Robert is going to tell us more about his book and give us the setting for the excerpt.
Aside from the off-beat love story, the treachery and the tragedy, Clare is at its heart an earthy story of early Nineteenth-Century immigrants to Chicago, people who mostly persevered and eventually prevailed to build the magnificent city-by-the-lake I call home. Each brick and steel beam in my city is bound with the sweat of their toil and stained with their broken dreams, dashed hopes, and human frailties. This excerpt finds young Conor Dolan alone in the great metropolis inexperienced and immersed in his own family mystery. Having made the decision to take up residence and open a criminal defense practice in the interim, he is “persuaded” by his new friend, Father Brendan White, to interview his first client, an indigent immigrant girl accused of murder. Conor has arrived at Jane Addams’ Hull House to conduct the interview and consider the case…
The People v. Nellie Finley was a tragic and sympathetic case to say the least, and it would be certain to attract its share of sensational newspaper attention. With all the papers in this city, the dailies scoured the town for something salacious to write about—the more scandalous, the better. Morning, afternoon, and evening editions had the newsboys blanketing the city all hours of the day and into the night with whatever would sell papers. A down-and-out mother jumping off a bridge and killing her own baby would have their tongues hanging out. Publicity was not necessarily a bad thing for a girl in Nellie’s position. Chicago was home to a powerful reform movement led by some of its most respected citizens, notably Jane Addams.
Conor was reluctant to even interview a potential client in such a serious case, but Brendan twisted his arm—not for himself but for this young Irish girl he came to know through his work with Hull House. In any case, Conor thought there would be no harm in talking with the girl as a favor to Father Brendan White, Patron Saint of Lost Souls. Maybe he could at least match the girl with a suitable defense lawyer. He already knew several highly skilled criminal lawyers in the city.
The social worker was prepared and waiting for his visit. They adjourned to a small office off the foyer of the three-story building. Following introductions, the social worker, Miss Potter, laid the ground rules. Conor was expecting a stern schoolmarm type with hair in a bun and a scowl on her lips, but Miss Potter was quite un-social-worker-like in both manner and appearance, evidenced by a full view of her ankles in black stockings below a scandalously short, mid-calf skirt.
Nearly all women, he knew, opted for some form of Edwardian pompadour hairstyle piled and rolled high atop the head, sometimes even with a hidden hair pad to increase the volume. Slim and around twenty-one, Miss Potter was the notable exception. Her hair was short in the extreme, efficient, falling straight down over her ears and curling gently forward in a crescent pattern toward the cheeks. Her voice was soft but confident. Conor pegged the woman as a suffragette.
She placed a file in front of Conor on the desk. “Mr. Dolan, this is a rather unusual situation for us as we don’t normally admit criminal court defendants, especially not those charged with serious crimes. Still, this is an exceptional case. We won’t presume, of course, to become involved in Miss Finley’s defense but will be willing to assist so far as we’re able should you desire. We’re always pressed for resources, but we do have a dedicated reserve of professionals to call on. We’ve put together Nellie’s history as best we could through records and interviews. Nellie doesn’t talk much herself. Everything will be available to you should you decide to represent her. You may examine the file in this room now, of course.”
Conor cradled his homburg in the stark, wooden chair. “Thank you, Miss Potter, but I would appreciate anything you could tell me about the girl herself to begin with.”
You got facts out of a file, but sometimes impressions and opinions could be equally important. He had learned that much in his brief career. Miss Potter, after all, was a trained observer and social worker, not just some do-gooder handing out meals on a street corner.
“We prefer to call our residents by their names, Mr. Dolan; however, I understand you’re unfamiliar with our particular quirks here.” Her voice was mellow and friendly. She seemed like a nice person, and he was comfortable in her presence. He sensed his question weighed on her. “Of course, Miss Potter,” he said.
The social worker stood and walked over to the window facing Halsted Street. In the background, the street outside teemed with life, commerce, the prancing of working horses, and the clatter of streetcars. A heavyset woman was passing on the sidewalk with a cart of groceries and a small child in tow.
“They don’t all end up like Nellie,” Miss Potter said wistfully. “They’re by and large industrious, hardy people determined to thrive in their adopted country, but…sometimes it all goes wrong for one reason or another, mostly through no fault of their own. I think that was Nellie. She never found help until it was too late, and that, unfortunately, is a common pattern.
“Something terrible happened to that girl, something so horrific that she couldn’t live with it and wanted to save her child from the same fate.” Then Miss Potter seemed to snap back into business mode, turning back to the desk. “I know you’re here to help, so I’ll tell you what little we know. We know she came alone to New York from Queenstown in steerage in 1900. The only identification she carried was her Immigrant Inspection Card. She came here out of shame to make a new life. I get the sense that the human predators from the Levee never got their claws into her. But someone did, Mr. Dolan. Someone certainly did. That’s who I’d be looking for.”
Now I want to know what happened to the girl, Nellie Finley, and why she did what she did. I feel sorry for her for the bad things that happened to her, whatever they were.
Have you been following the rest of the blog tour. Here is the schedule with links in case you want to check out other blogs and the posts there. There are good excerpts to read, if you haven’t been by.
Blog Tour Schedule
January 21 My Vices and Weaknesses
January 23 Celticlady’s Reviews
January 24 So Little time…
January 25 Meryton Press Blog
January 26 From Pemberley to Milton
January 27 Elza Reads
Meryton Press will be giving away one eBook of A Long Way from Clare for each stop on the Blog Tour, for a total of six eBooks. To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below. Tell us what you think about the excerpt or the book. We would love to hear your thoughts. The giveaway is international and will end on the 1st of February at midnight, central time. Good luck to all.
If you want to go ahead and purchase the book, rather than wait to see if you are a winner, here is the Amazon Universal Link.
Thank you for stopping by and supporting Robert W. Smith and his new book, A Long Way from Clare. We hope you have a chance to read it soon and find out what happened to Conor’s brother, Kevin.