Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart

Scribe UK have kindly offered me the opportunity to read an advance copy of "Girl Waits With Gun," by Amy Stewart, and to participate in the Official Blog Tour which celebrates its publication. 

Based on real characters and events, the story is a really exciting read.  Constance Kopp, together with her sisters Norma and Fleurette, struggle to eke a living on a farmstead outside the silk manufacturing town of Paterson in New Jersey, USA.  They ride their buggy, powered by Dolley the horse, into town to buy mustard powder and a replacement claw hammer, when their vehicle is mown down and virtually demolished by a new-fangled black automobile, driven by one Henry Kaufman, son of one of the silk company families.  As this buggy is the family's sole means of transport, Constance feels well within her rights to seek recompense to make good the damage.  Little does she realise the chain of events which will be unleashed when she visits Kaufman's Silk Dyeing Works, with an invoice for £50 in respect of repairs to the buggy.

Want a taste of it?  Here's an authorised extract, which describes what she finds:-

"Behind an enormous oak desk sat Henry Kaufman in yet another elegant suit, his hair slicked back the way men wore it if they were going out for the evening. But with that round, soft face, he looked more like a child trying to dress like his father. He couldn’t have been much younger than me — thirty, perhaps—but he had the pampered manner of a boy who had been too long at boarding school. He would’ve seemed entirely harmless if there hadn’t been a cold distance in his eyes and an angry set to his mouth. Here in this factory, he seemed like a man who didn’t want what he had, but also didn’t have exactly what he wanted.

And in leather chairs all around the room were his friends, his unsavory, no-good friends. There was the droopy-eyed man with the wooden leg, slumped over in a brown suit that was two sizes too big for him, and a beefy character with arms like stovepipes and the broadest set of chins I’d ever seen. The rest were lean and angular types who each seemed to have lost something in a fight: one lacked a third finger on his left hand, one was missing a patch of hair above his ear, and another wore a milky glass eye. They all held cards in their hands, and a bottle of whiskey sat on the table between them.

I wanted out of that room.

“Oh, you’re the one,” Henry Kaufman said. “She came in here talking about a girl wanting money and I told her it could have been half of New Jersey.”

The other men snickered and drew on their cigarettes.

I stood a little straighter and looked down at him with what I hoped was a calm and dignified air. “Then you remember me. I am Constance Kopp, and —”

“And these are your sisters,” he sneered. “Or haven’t you brought them along? Who is the youngest one? Fleurette?”

I felt a little sick when he said her name.

“We haven’t had a reply to our letters,” I said, “so I’ve brought you another one. You owe us fifty dollars for the damages to our buggy, and I will take payment now.”  "

Constance is an unusual woman, being nearly six feet in height, and of an independant disposition.  She is feisty and has a strong sense of what is right.  In some respects, she reminds me of Philip Pullman's wonderful heroine, Sally Lockhart (Ruby in the Smoke, The Shadow in the North and so on), a strong woman living when women were supposed to be weak and dependent on men, a very modern woman who would be much more comfortable living in the world of today.  As it is, she is more than ready to accept the social changes slowly developing in her lifetime, a woman who wants to work rather than to disappear into domesticity.  She and her sisters are beautifully drawn characters and in the course of the pages of this novel, I grew very fond of them: women of character, resourcefulness and humour, stubborn and steadfast in their refusal to give way to bullying and threats to their safety.  

Luckily, the law (and its agent) is on their side, and Sheriff (Bob) Robert N. Heath does his best to protect the Kopp girls despite constant constraints to his budget (also so very contemporary).  I believe he would be Constance's love interest, were there no impediment, but he is certainly a reliably good friend to them.

Amy Stewart is a wonderful writer who can bring history to life and thrill the reader with suspense and danger, tell a mighty fine story and create characters who really come alive on the pages and in our minds.

Amy Stewart photographed by Terrence McNally
A visit to her website reveals that Girl Waits With Gun is the first in a series of novels, which is a great relief:  I am not ready to say goodbye to her lovely girls yet.

Do give yourself a treat and read this extremely entertaining work, which is published on 10th March 2016.

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