Vamps, Villains and Vaudeville
by Ellen Mansoor Collier
Vamps, Villains and Vaudeville
(Jazz Age Mystery Series)
Publisher: DECODAME PRESS (August 5, 2015)
Paperback: 250 pages
E-Book ASIN: B0111GYYYE
In 1920s Galveston, society reporter Jazz Cross is in for a surprise when she attends a traveling vaudeville show with her beau, Prohibition Agent James Burton, and discovers that an old flame acts in the production. That night, they find a stabbing victim behind the Oasis — her half-brother Sammy’s speakeasy — who’s identified as an actor in the troupe. When the victim disappears and later turns up dead, Jazz must help prove that Sammy wasn’t the killer.
Meanwhile, a ring of jewel thieves is turning up all over town, robbing rich tourists of their precious gems. After a second vaudeville actor is found dead, Jazz discovers that the events behind the scenes are much more interesting than the outdated acts onstage.
To make matters worse, Sammy’s old nemesis demands that he settles a score and forces him into yet another illegal scheme. Can Jazz help solve the murders and prove her brother’s innocence—so he can escape the Downtown Gang for good?
A historical Jazz Age mystery inspired by real-life Galveston gangs and local landmarks.
THE JAZZ AGE MYSTERY SERIES: ART DECO COVERS
By: Ellen Mansoor Collier
You can’t judge a book by its cover—or can you? I admit, I’ve picked up and bought books based on the cover artwork, and I suspect I’m not the only one who’s rejected books because I didn’t like certain covers. Of course, an attractive and eye-catching book cover depends on personal taste and interest.
Since my Jazz Age mysteries are set during Prohibition in 1920s Galveston, I prefer to use authentic Art Deco illustrations for my covers. All of the artwork in my series—except for Bathing Beauties, Booze and Bullets—are by famed French artist George Barbier. c. 1920s, who’s known for his whimsical and colorful Deco designs.
Then a year after my first novel, Flappers, Flasks, and Foul Play, came out, I was perusing Pinterest and I found this photo of a flapper in a fancy frock with fur cuffs and huge buttons sitting in front of a typewriter, holding a candlestick phone and I thought, “That’s Jazz!” Who else but a 1920s society reporter would dress that way to work? I imagined her rushing to her desk after an exciting social event and pounding out the story on her old “Noiseless” typewriter, perhaps calling a source for more information or a juicy quote.
Recently I updated and colorized the cover with a new background, a vintage postcard showing Murdoch’s Bathhouse and the Galveston Seawall. Though the original Murdoch’s was destroyed during the hurricanes, it’s still standing after all these years — a tribute to the tenacity of the Galveston locals.
Later, I came across a colorized photo of real-life bathing beauties in a variety of wacky outfits, and thought it was perfect for my sequel, Bathing Beauties, Booze, and Bullets. Bathing Beauties is based on the actual Miss Universe Pageant founded in Galveston in 1920 to compete with Atlantic City’s Miss America Contest — with a couple of twists. After that, I wanted to update all of my covers using vintage photographs so that readers who preferred “realism” could have a choice of illustrated or photographic sets.
A marketer told me that certain age groups are attracted to different types of covers so I wanted to test that theory. During book-signings, I’ve noticed young girls like the illustrated covers (perhaps they remind them of cartoons?) while many people gravitate toward the covers with vintage photos.
Changing covers also gave me a chance to revisit and revise the novels, updating the storyline a bit and even inspiring me to give VAMPS a fresh new ending. Since my novels aren’t gory or violent, they appeal to a wide variety of ages—though I do occasionally use mild profanity since I write about real-life Galveston gangsters—but my stories are PG at most.
I’m very visual and wanted to provide a matched set for customers who buy the complete series. I do tend to be a bit matchy-matchy . . . it’s a Southern thing.
I’d be interested to know what your readers think: Do you prefer photographic or illustrated covers? Please feel free to comment on this blog—thanks for your feedback!
About The Author
Ellen Mansoor Collier is a Houston-based freelance magazine writer and editor whose articles and essays have been published in a variety of national magazines. Several of her short stories have appeared in Woman’s World. During college summers, she worked as a reporter for a Houston community newspaper and as a cocktail waitress, both jobs providing background experience for her Jazz Age mysteries.
A flapper at heart, she’s worked as a magazine editor/writer, and in advertising and public relations (plus endured a hectic semester as a substitute teacher). She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Magazine Journalism and served on UTmost, the college magazine and as president of WICI (Women in Communications).
FLAPPERS, FLASKS AND FOUL PLAY is her first novel, published in 2012, followed by the sequel, BATHING BEAUTIES, BOOZE AND BULLETS, released in May 2013. She lives in Houston with her husband and Chow mutts, and visits Galveston whenever possible.
“When you grow up in Houston, Galveston becomes like a second home. I had no idea this sleepy beach town had such a wild and colorful past until I began doing research, and became fascinated by the legends and stories of the 1920s. Finally I had to stop researching and start writing, trying to imagine a flapper’s life in Galveston during Prohibition.”
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