Goodreads Giveaway

I am excited to announce I am giving away 10 copies of Cradle to Grave. Of all the books I’ve written, this is my favorite. I began working on it just when my first grandson was born and my research into the poor laws and the plight of orphans made me acutely conscious of the vulnerability of children. Go on Goodreads to try for a copy.

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Death in Salem – and the next new book

I am thrilled to announce that I have received my first copies of Death in Salem and they look stunning. Here is the cover:

death in salem

The books look even better in real life. I will probably be having another Goodreads giveaway later in the summer.

To summarize the plot: Will Rees is on a weaving trip and stops in Salem to buy some imported cloth for Lydia. He gets stopped by a funeral and sees an old friend at the head. Anstiss Boothe, the deceased, has been ill a long time but the very next day her husband Jacob. a wealthy Salem merchant, is dead and this time it is clearly murder. Rees has already left Salem but his friend rides after him and draws him back to investigate.

Smuggling, piracy, prostitution, and of course all the dynamics of interpersonal relationships keep Rees investigating.

I had a lot of fun roaming Salem when I researched this book.

 

Salem Tunnels -late eighteenth century

So there were already some tunnels in Salem linking the fine houses, the docks, the brothels and the counting houses. Many of the men who had made their fortunes running privateers became Senators, a Secretary of State, and other wealthy and influential men. As Salem shipping imported cargo from Russia, India, the East Indies, and finally China, Salem became not only the sixth largest city in the U.S. but the wealthiest. Custom duties to a large degree supported the Federal Government.
To collect these duties during the time Rees visited Salem, the merchant ships were required to tie up about three miles out. The customs inspector would row out to inspect the cargo and assess the duties. Do I believe that this prevented smuggling? Not a chance. I’m sure a number of shippers found ways to circumvent these efforts and used the already existing tunnels to transport goods to the counting houses out of sight of the prying eyes.
In 1801 Thomas Jefferson became the third president of the United States and began, not only enforcing the already existing laws on the books but put in new strict laws on the collection of duties. The harbor was silting up and New Bedford, Boston, and other ports would soon become more prominent. Elias Haskell Derby Jr. found it difficult to maintain his lifestyle. He embarked on a building program in the Commons, and put in tunnels to the wharves, the counting houses and the banks. But isn’t 1801 is several years after Death in Salem? Yes, that is so but a number of the houses listed as having tunnels connected to them were built before 1797.
I made a leap and decided to claim there were many tunnels prior to the Derby scion in 1801. The tunnels would have been helpful during the Revolutionary War and the British incursion, especially when it would have been important to move goods without British knowledge.
Finally, my excuse for this bit of slippery history is: Well, the story is fiction and I think the tunnels could have been there and been used as I described.

The tunnels of Salem – Smuggling in the Colonies as a way of life

In my new book, A Death in Salem, I use the tunnels under the city as an important plot device. Tunnels? Under Salem?

True, and one can see the remnants of these tunnels on a tour through the city, especially the great houses.

Salem has a long history as a maritime city. It was an era when smuggling was so accepted even gentlemen engaged pretty openly in smuggling. Don’t believe me? Well, in New York protection money was paid to Governor Fletcher and Thomas Tew, a Rhode Island Pirate, was frequently Fletcher’s dinner guest.

According to Salem Secret Underground by Christopher Jon Luke Dowgin, tunnels in Salem dated at least from 1667.

If people remember their American History, one of the causes leading to the War for Independence was the number of Acts and duties imposed on not just American goods but goods being imported into the colonies. Textiles, sugar, molasses – just about everything was taxed. To make matters worse, these were not duties imposed by an American government, but a government across the ocean. And a lot of the funds were used to pay troops who then patrolled for smugglers. One of the taglines from this period was ‘No taxation without representation.”

Furthermore, American ships were prohibited from sailing to India, for example, so all goods imported from the East had to come on British ships with the attached duties. American ships were permitted to sail to the Caribbean but with limits. Needless to say, American captains tried to circumvent these laws as best as they could. (No American ship went to the East until 1783 when Derby’s Grand Turk sailed to Indonesia. She returned with a cargo of pepper, a cargo that was sold at a 700 % profit.) As British imports flooded the market, the goods made in the Colonies rotted. There was no market for them.

The proscriptions upon American (Colonial) Trade enraged the Colonists. The Boston Tea Party was really the destruction of British imported Chinese tea. So American ships turned to smuggling and a lot of them became folk heroes. Britain tried to stop the smuggling by blockading the cost and stopping American ships (and impressing American seamen too.) And this became another flashpoint leading up to Revolution.

Back to Salem

The  Customs House in Salem has now been set up as a Museum. It had some really interesting artifacts from the early sailing period. (Can anyone tell how much I love this town?)  The Customs House is set right across from the Derby wharf.

custom house

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History of the custom house with a shot of the wharves and the pier during their busiest times.

Maps of Salem’s trade routes. Remember, this was in the days of wind power and those little bitty ships.

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the Derby wharf which is still there today. In the late 1700s, all the wharves were lined with warehouses to hold the goods imported from India, Indonesia and China as well as slips where the ships were tied up.

 

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The golden eagle sat on top of the Customs House. (I believe this is a replica). It is much larger than it appears in the photo. It must have been quite a sight to see for the ships sailing into port.

counting house

The counting houses, simple desk above, took in millions of dollars – and that was millions in the money of that time. Salem was not only the sixth largest city in the new US but also the wealthiest. The customs duties pretty much supported the federal government.

Tunnels had been constructed underneath Salem. I’ve read a number of reasons for this, including hiding the amount of wealth pouring into the city. The one that makes the most sense to me is that the merchants did not want to carry such enormous funds through the streets. It would have been very difficult to avoid paying customs since the Custom Officer rowed three miles out to where the incoming ships docked and assessed the duties then.

Finally, one final note. The museum has pieces of eight. Remember, anything that mentions pirates always includes pieces of eight. Well, this was money, made so that it could be broken into eight pieces. Can you imagine going to the store and breaking off a piece of a quarter and handing it to the shopkeeper? Wild, right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cloth and Piracy

What? How could these two disparate topics be connected? Well, in the early 1700s, there was a pirate called ‘Calico Jack” Rackam. A lesser known and not very successful pirate, Calico Jack and his crew plied their trade in the Caribbean. In 1719, during one of the many wars between France and England, they accepted a pardon from Britain. Privateering was really piracy under another name, but on the right side of the law. However, this war ended in February of 1720. Rackam and his crew, which now numbered two women among them, went back to their old ways. With the ship ‘William’, they started capturing ships again and were soon declared ‘Pirates”.

The two women, by the way, were Anne Bonney and Mary Read. Anne Bonney left her husband to sail with Calico Jack. Mary Read, also on board, had disguised herself as a man to join the crew.

They were captured and in November tried and convicted. Anne Bonney and Mary Read were spared from hanging due to pregnancy. Mary Read and her unborn child died in prison but Anne Bonney and her child (probably fathered by Calico Jack) were released and disappeared.

Now, where did Jack get his unusual nickname? Well, in 1700 the import of calico into England and the Colonies was forbidden. (See previous post). One of the theories is that Jack got his name from smuggling the popular cloth.

Who would have guessed that cloth could be so interesting and have such a checkered (ha, ha) history.

Cloth and Piracy

What? How could these two disparate topics be connected? Well, in the early 1700s, there was a pirate called ‘Calico Jack” Rackam. A lesser known and not very successful pirate, Calico Jack and his crew plied their trade in the Caribbean. In 1719, during one of the many wars between France and England, they accepted a pardon from Britain. Privateering was really piracy under another name, but on the right side of the law. However, this war ended in February of 1720. Rackam and his crew, which now numbered two women among them, went back to their old ways. With the ship ‘William’, they started capturing ships again and were soon declared ‘Pirates”.

The two women, by the way, were Anne Bonney and Mary Read. Anne Bonney left her husband to sail with Calico Jack. Mary Read, also on board, had disguised herself as a man to join the crew.

They were captured and in November tried and convicted. Anne Bonney and Mary Read were spared from hanging due to pregnancy. Mary Read and her unborn child died in prison but Anne Bonney and her child (probably fathered by Calico Jack) were released and disappeared.

Now, where did Jack get his unusual nickname? Well, in 1700 the import of calico into England and the Colonies was forbidden. (See previous post). One of the theories is that Jack got his name from smuggling the popular cloth.

Who would have guessed that cloth could be so interesting and have such a checkered (ha, ha) history.