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Monday, July 1, 2013

Guest post and review: San Francisco Secrets by Greg Messel



Please welcome back author Greg Messel. His latest book is San Francisco Secrets.  Enjoy his guest post after my thoughts on the book!

Author: Greg Messel
Publisher: Sunbreaks Publishing
Date of publication: April 2013

Noted novelist and newspaper editor Edgar Watson Howe once said. "A man who can keep a secret may be wise but he is not half as wise as a man with no secrets to keep." As the spring of 1958 arrives in San Francisco, it seems that baseball player turned private eye, Sam Slater and his fiancee, TWA stewardess Amelia Ryan, are surrounded by people who have secrets. A prominent doctor, John O'Dell is being blackmailed by someone who has discovered a dark secret from his past. When the private investigator trying to catch the blackmailer is murdered, Dr. O'Dell hires Sam Slater to try to pick up the pieces. Someone is playing for keeps and will do anything to protect their own secrets. Meanwhile, Amelia begins her new job as an international stewardess which takes her on adventures to New York City, London, Paris and Rome. In hot pursuit is a womanizing older pilot who has his sights set on Amelia. Their lives get even more complicated when a mysterious woman from Sam's past returns. Sam and Amelia's relationship will be tested as they work together to solve the mystery on the foggy streets of San Francisco.

My thoughts:

Once again, this author has given us a great story.  I was immediately swept into both cases that Sam gets involved with.  I was able to read the book fairly quickly.  This time around, Sam gets a visit from an old flame and ends up having to help her with a case.  He also gets involved in a black mail case that puts him and Amelia in some sticky situations.  Let's just say, I'd be checking my brake lines before attempting any of those steep San Francisco hills!  Speaking of San Francisco  the author has once again sprinkled photos of life during the 1950 in the area.  I always enjoy that.

We also get to visit with Sam and Amelia.  I love this couple together!  Their relationship is tested as Amelia begins her international flights.  A slime-ball captain makes a play for Amelia.  As a woman in the 2010s, I felt badly for what she has to endure as a stewardess.  I know sexual harassment was common back in the 1950s, but is still gets to me.  Women have come along way!  In a way, the problems on her flight bring Sam and Amelia closer together   For fans of their romance, I think you;ll love this book!  I look forward to their next adventure!

THE WOMEN OF 1958

           
As I journey back into the 1950s to write my mystery series “Last of the Seals,” “Deadly Plunge” and “San Francisco Secrets,” the most striking change I notice is in the treatment of women.
            
It is a world that many younger readers may find difficult to believe once existed. What options were open to women in the 1950s as they hoped for a career or a chance to see the world before they "settled down?" "Settle down" was a euphemism in earlier eras to refer to the time in a young woman's life when she should shun the working world, get married and start having babies.
            
There is certainly nothing wrong with women getting married and raising children. However, in 1958, it was "either or" not both. In the world of my novels, I tried to make the character of TWA stewardess Amelia Ryan, reflective of the narrow opportunities for women in the 1950s.
            
I found an old job application for stewardesses from the 1950s. The requirements show how far we have come as a society and specifically how far women have come in their quest for equality in the work place.
           
 Here is a laundry list of the requirements for stewardesses. They are:

Appearance: Height and weight proportionate
Attractive ("just below Hollywood") Standards
Gender: Female
Martial Status: Single, not divorced, separated or widowed.
Race: White
Age: 21 to 26 years old
Education: Registered nurse or two years of college
Height: Between 5 feet, 2 inches and 5 feet, 6 inches
Weight: 135 pounds maximum

I'm not sure how a woman is supposed to react to the qualification--"attractive, just below Hollywood standards." Is it a compliment or an insult to be told that you are "just below Hollywood standards?" It's astounding to think of a job application which would list the "qualifications" as "white, single, female, a range for height and of course, a weight restriction.             The weight restriction was a sliding scale. For instance, the fictional character, Amelia Ryan is 5 feet four inches which means she could only weigh 125 pounds. If a stewardess shows up for a flight above weight, she is grounded.
           
 The airlines wanted pretty young, single women to provide eye candy for their well-heeled passengers who flew--mostly affluent businessmen. Once a woman was over 26 or was married she was asked to resign.
            
That of course changed.
           
 On February 11, 1958, Ruth Carol Taylor was hired by Mohawk Airlines and became the first African-American flight attendant in the United States. Ironically, despite her historic breaking of the racial restriction, Ruth's career ended just six months later due to another discriminatory barrier: she married and was dismissed by the airline. Incidentally, only stewardesses had the age restriction and the marriage ban. No other airline employees and especially pilots, were under the same type of requirements.
           
 In my novel, stewardess Amelia Ryan falls in love with Sam Slater. They want to get married. But Amelia also loves her job. She has to choose between marriage and continuing as a stewardess. It was a great dilemma for her.
            
The glamorous world of stewardesses was one of the only avenues open to women in the 1950s to "see the world" and have a career. But it came at a great price.
            
In “San Francisco Secrets” another challenge rears it’s head for Amelia--sexual harassment. 
            
A womanizing pilot, Mark Silver, is essentially Amelia’s boss and aggressively pursues her with unwanted sexual advances. There was no such term as “sexual harassment” in the 1950s.  As she tried to fight off  Capt. Silver, Amelia ponders the avenues she has to protect herself. There are basically none.
            
Amelia wonders if she goes to the airline to complain about Silver if it will cause her problems, not the pilot. She fears that when she complains about the “sexual harassment,” the airline will just say that “boys will be boys.”  Stewardesses routinely had to evade grabby male passengers and the unwanted advances of pilots.
            
Sam is upset by the groping of Amelia and complains about her work environment saying that if anyone is attracted to my girlfriend they can “take a sample.”

            
It would be several years before the stewardesses unionized and stood up to the airline. There was a series of lawsuits that knocked down the discriminatory barriers for women. 

About the author:

Greg Messel grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and now lives in Edmonds, Washington on the Puget Sound with his wife, Carol. San Francisco Secrets is his sixth novel and is the third in a new series of Sam Slater mystery novels. Greg has lived in Oregon, Washington, California, Wyoming and Utah and has always loved writing, including stints as a reporter, columnist and news editor for a daily newspaper. 

Follow news about Messel’s writings and books at www.gregmessel.com.

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1 comment:

Dorothy Thompson said...

Thank you so much for your wonderful review, Kari!