Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Every Paradise has a Snake



For 25 years, I lived in an old mountain resort town, Bethlehem, NH. This place used to have over 30 hotels, golf courses, swimming pools, recreation venues and a jammin' social scene.


I sometimes walked the quiet streets at night, picturing myself back in the heyday--say 1929.

I'm standing in front of the Sinclair, a giant 4-story hotel that filled a city block. Inside, a jazz band is wailing away. A flapper and a lounge lizard slip out to the wide porch for a cigarette and a swig from a flask. They stand close together by the rail, shoulders touching as they flirt and laugh.

Below them, late night walkers throng the sidewalks. A surprisingly diverse crowd. Flashy, well-dressed Cubans. Proper Episcopalians in black tie and evening dress. Clusters of young men and women cruising the street, vying to see and be seen. And, strolling quietly, careful not to attract attention, an Orthodox Jewish family.

In the 1920s, this fashionable resort began a shift to a new, non-Christian clientele. Eventually Bethlehem became a Jewish resort, which in fact saved the town during the Depression and World War II. But it is an ugly secret that anti-Semitism was rife in New England hotels and vacation areas--not just in Bethlehem. It was never overt, but old ads that state "Christian clientele" and "select clientele" are code for "no Jews welcome."

I remember the first time I realized what I was seeing in that quaint old tourist rag. My paradise had a serious and despicable flaw. I also had the benefit of knowing the outcome for Bethlehem. That moment when old and new met, at the height of the Jazz Age, just before the jarring 1929 crash, fascinated me.

And so Snakes in Paradise was born. In short:

In 1929, Bethlehem, NH, is a resort town hopping with glamorous visitors, jazz bands and social events. Fifteen-year-old native Dorothy Brooks plans to spend the summer earning money for a dress and having fun with her new pal, New Yorker Lexie Winslow. But instead she has to contend with cruelty toward a Jewish friend and a family member in trouble with the law. Bootlegging and anti-Semitism--two evils poisoning this lovely mountain paradise. Will they spoil the best summer of Dorothy’s life?

This book is under review by a publisher as well as agents!

1 comment:

Catherine A. Winn said...

Snakes in Paradise is something I would love to read. It sounds like a page turner. Good luck with it!