Thursday, July 16, 2015



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. 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vaudeville actor is found dead, Jazz discovers that the events behind the scenes are much more interesting than the outdated acts onstage.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 involving the troupe’s money-making ventures. 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.


Book #4 in the Jazz Age mystery series

While the band geared up for some Cole Porter tunes, I studied the crowd, mostly moneyed older couples, no doubt vacationers who’d escaped the cold north climates. Galveston never failed to attract a brisk tourist trade, even during off-season. Personally, I preferred the empty beaches and cool winter weather. To me, the gray skies and somber seascape seemed more mysterious, more romantic.

I snuggled next to Burton, enjoying the lively set. The musicians let loose, improvising on a few blues songs. The Negro saxophonist and trumpeter broke into Dixieland jazz, each playing solo for a few minutes. Burton gave me a satisfied smile, tapping his fingers on his knee in time to the music.  Interesting that a Yankee like Burton enjoyed Southern blues and jazz so much.

An hour later, the band leader announced a break and the musicians carefully placed their instruments in their cases. After they left, the band leader stood before the microphone and announced:  “For your entertainment, ladies and gentleman, a magician will perform an array of tricks. Please stay seated and enjoy the show.”

I whispered to Burton, “I wonder if he’s the same magician from the vaudeville show?”

“Possible, since he’s only on stage for ten minutes or so at most. He could be moonlighting on the side.” He shrugged. “But these jokers all look alike to me.”

During the break, I headed to the ladies room, and made small talk with a few matrons washing their hands and powdering their noses. My simple silk frock paled next to their beaded gowns, glitzy jewelry and sterling mesh bags.

“I didn’t think I’d enjoy jazz so much!” I heard one elderly lady in a glittering gown and long string of pearls say to a friend wearing a diamond and sapphire choker. “The music makes me want to do the fox trot! And the Charleston!”

“Absolutely. I feel so young and alive!” her friend exclaimed. “Positively giddy!”

I smiled at their excited expressions and returned to watch the magic act. The magician did a few card tricks with audience volunteers, then performed some sleight-of-hand numbers: the usual coins behind the ears, scarves pulled from his hat. Nothing as death-defying or dramatic as slicing a woman in half or making her disappear—difficult to do in a hotel lobby. This time, his pretty young assistant appeared merely decorous, flitting about the lobby, delicate hands highlighting his tricks—not as dramatic as his usual act with secret escape boxes and elaborate props.

“Must be the same old-hat vaudeville magician,” I whispered to Burton, who also seemed unimpressed...

The musicians returned, and I leaned back against the plush loveseat, trying to enjoy the jazz, but I was too rattled to concentrate. While the set wound down, a few couples began to head upstairs. By now, it was nine o’clock, probably past their bedtime.

After the performance, the audience gave the band a round of applause and some patrons added a few dollars to their tip jar. The musicians were packing up their instruments when the woman wearing the fancy choker burst into the lobby, her hands fluttering around her neck.

“Help!  I’ve been robbed!” she screeched. “Where’s the hotel manager? Somebody stole my jewels—right out of my room!”

A Jazz Age Mystery series

Bathing Beauties, Booze and Bullets now just $0.99 for July 16-17!


Ellen Mansoor Collier is a Houston-based freelance writer and editor whose articles and essays have been published in several national magazines including: Family Circle, Modern Bride, First, Glamour, Biography, Cosmopolitan, Country Accents, Playgirl, etc. Several of her short stories have appeared in Woman's World.

A flapper at heart, she's the owner of MODERNEMILLIE, specializing in Deco to retro vintage items.

Formerly she's worked as a magazine editor and in advertising/marketing and public relations. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Magazine Journalism. Bathing Beauties, Booze and Bullets is the sequel to Flappers, Flasks And Foul Play, her first novel. Gold Diggers, Gamblers and Guns is the third book in the series.

"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, and I became fascinated by the legends and stories of the 1920s."