1920s, actors, Arizona, art, books, culture, history, Inside the Gold Plated Pistol, movies, writing

Novel Update: The Afterword

My novel is in the process of publication and will be on the shelves in November. I realized I needed an afterword. I thought I’d share my efforts with the history surrounding Inside the Gold Plated Pistol. New followers and old friends might find it interesting.

Photo by Cindy Bruchman

Chapter One: Sally  

     The Roaring 20s was a special time for women to break boundaries and demand their independence. Innovation, music, movies, art, extravagance, and exuberance commanded the decade. Researching the historical climate circa 1927 led me down one road and then another; it was a fun way to get lost. Trying to conceive original characters depended upon a historical vision and then allowing the characters the flexibility to form themselves out of the mental mud I spun. Thank you, Barbara Stanwyck and Flo Ziegfeld girls, for providing me clues about a lifestyle for the fictional character Sally. Vaudeville acts, traveling dance troupes, nightclub dancers, and the high-class Ziegfeld Follies were a part of the Jazz Age across America. Though the Wild West was technically dead by 1927, no one told the 15,000 residents of Jerome, Arizona. The family of a copper baron, miners, cowboys, Native Americans, dance-hall girls, and prostitutes fused with the best technology of the age and imitated the urban environment out in the middle of nowhere with impressive results. Several silent-era actors and actresses transitioned from the chorus line on Broadway by Ziegfeld from 1907-1931. Many westerns were filmed in the area including nearby Sedona like Zane Grey’s Call of the Canyon in 1923.   This is where Barbara Stanwyck comes in.

    Stanwyck was orphaned at four and a frequent run-away from foster homes. She became a Ziegfeld dancer at fourteen. That led her to the movie industry and subsequent sixty-year career with 80-plus films to her credit. Imagining Barbara Stanwyck as the driven girl who possessed grit, sex-appeal, and survival instincts were the inspiration for the fictional Sally Vandenberg. 

Image result for images of barbara stanwyck

 Barbara Stanwyck photographed by Alfred Cheney Johnston

Chapter Two: George 

     German Expressionism. What is it? Simply put, it was a movement in art, film, and architecture during the Weimar Republic (1919-1933). At its height during the 1920s, it was a German reaction to the horrors of World War I. Mutilated soldiers returned with haunted eyes, hopeless, and depressed. Society as a whole suffered from nightmares more than dreams. Scholarship suggests there was a correlation between the Weimar years of emasculated men who committed depraved sex acts and murders against women particularly in the 1920s. This reaction to the war might be a link explaining the mindset of a society that allowed Nazi intolerance toward Jews.   https://harvardmagazine.com/1997/03/right.lust.html 

     I turned to the 1927 silent film, Berlin: Symphony of a Great City, an impressive composition about urban life during the Weimar Republic. Before the catastrophe of Nazism, Berlin was a mechanized, modern center of Europe. With subways, canals, taxis, factories, and elevators, Walther Ruttmann began his film with the sunrise, and clocks chronicled the day of Berliners. I am reminded of ordinary occurrences that are extinct today. Toddlers and children played outside with very little supervision. Milk was delivered to your home in bottles. On the corner of intersections, newsies sold newspapers for five cents, and policemen directed traffic. Horses still competed with cars and trolleys for the use of the street. Men pushed brooms while women beat the dust out of their rugs. Water was pitched on front steps for daily scrubbing. Reports were typed and letters were written. People shared rotary phones and were restricted to booths and cords. These details seem meaningless, but they are vital when recreating the time period. In a paralyzed German society after WWI, it is easier to understand how horror came to be expressed on the film screen. Abstract production designs mimicked Surrealism in art. Architecture with exaggerated lines and points replicated the skyscraper. Shadows, nightmares, long staircases, dream sequences, ghoulish villains and pretty, naïve women fed the psychologically damaged. The Man Who Laughs is an example inspired by Bram Stoker’s classic, Dracula. Actor Max Schrek plays the vampire Count Orlok the nocturnal stalker in F.W. Murnau’s masterpiece, Nosferatu (1922).

Image result for german expressionism room

Berlin was a stimulating, indecorous urban center. Expressionist German architect, Hans Poelzig created buildings with a creepy touch. Director Fritz Lang was a key pioneer of German Expressionism in the film industry. Thea von Harbou, the screenwriter and wife of Fritz Lang, had a grip on my imagination while I created the climate of Weimar Germany. The fictional WWI veteran, George Hero, arrived in Berlin, and stumbled into the world at UFA studios wherein 1922, Thea’s script was directed by Fritz Lang: Dr. Mabuse: Der Spieler. What happened to George’s psyche mirrored the country’s neuroses displayed visually in Lang’s film and substantiated by Otto Friedrich’s account of Berlin during the Weimar Republic in his fascinating book, Before the Deluge. How wild were those Berlin cabarets? For descriptions of the venues, the clientele, and street addresses, Mel Gordon’s Voluptuous Panic was an eye-popper.

Chapter Three: Kay 

     The Hopi People by Stewart B. Koyiyumptewa, Carolyn O’Bagy Davis and the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office was instrumental in learning about the culture of the Hopi. Another imperative work was James W. Cornett’s Indian Uses of Desert Plants. To be Hopi is the life-long pursuit to be whole with the universe through traditional ceremonies practiced by a lunar cycle. They revere all things in nature. Their creator is Maasaw and their matrilineal clan is peaceful. They are migratory farmers and in Clarkdale, their footprint is left by their ancestors, the Anasazi, whose “condominiums” from a thousand years ago are displayed for us in the Verde Valley to admire such as Toozigut or Montezuma Castle. Many Hopi lives in Northeast Arizona in the four-corner region of the United States. I was fascinated by their expansive knowledge of desert plants and holistic healing. They are expert artisans of silver making, weaving, and pottery design. Their wooden Kachina dolls are a beautiful insight into their spiritual world.

         Zane Grey (1872-1939) was known as the father of the Western novel. With 64 books, magazine articles, and 130 films to his credit, to understand his influence, I recommend Thomas H. Pauly’s biography, Zane Grey: His Life, His Adventures, His Women. In his stories, Grey described the grandeur of the Southwest that evoked a desire to visit and a need to protect the vanishing frontier. His heroes were flawed and troubled. He honored the Native American instead of portraying him as a savage. His women were virtuous, strong, and spellbinding. The violence and action of the gunfight were secondary to the enchanted topography Grey conveyed with love. His popular novels contributed to the collective consciousness of the myth of the West well into the 20th century. 

     Silent films capitalized on Grey’s novels. Of the 130 films adapted from Grey’s books, a third of the filming locations occurred in Arizona. Reading his most popular novel, Riders of the Purple Sage, revealed how descriptive Grey’s talents were. There is no doubt for me that Zane Grey’s real adventures made his fiction stories authentic. The adage, “write what you know” is exemplified by Zane Grey. His descriptions are from someone who rode through the Southwest by horse. I respect the man’s adventurous life and his writing style is nothing short of inspirational. The Western genre in film originates with Zane Grey. His influence spilled into radio shows and television. His film adaptations provided the impetus for many careers including Shirley Temple, Tom Mix, Randolph Scott, and Alan Ladd. 

     Zane Grey’s influence abounded in far-reaching ways. While associated with the arid, desert landscape, his passion was for deep-sea fishing. He owned patents on fishing lures and held eleven world records in deep-sea fishing. His letters to friend Ernest Hemingway linked Grey’s attempt to conquer the Marlin. Their discussions became the inspiration for The Old Man and the Sea. Today, Zane Grey has schools, subdivisions, and roads named after him. However, by the end of the 1920s, Zane Grey’s popularity dipped as a deluge of westerns circulated the movie industry. Many careers of Hollywood’s best actors participated in the genre of the western. Connected to the Sycamore Wilderness Canyon is Oak Creek Canyon in Sedona. Sedona was a popular spot for filming and starred several Hollywood heavyweights: Joan Crawford, Henry Fonda, Glenn Ford, Sterling Hayden, Rock Hudson, Elvis Presley, Donna Reed, Richard Widmark, and John Wayne. 

Image result for zane grey call of the canyon

When I wrote the book, I decided on the 1925 William K. Howard lost film, The Thundering Herd, for the fictional setting of the film.  

Image result for image of young gary cooper

A most beautiful man: Gary Cooper 

Besides Jack Holt, Lois Wilson, Noah Beery, Sr., and Raymond Hatton, the 1925 version was  Gary Cooper’s first uncredited role in film. The Thundering Herd is about a trader who uncovers a scheme to blame the Indians for a Buffalo massacre. Director William Howard remakes the film again in 1933 and stars Randolph Scott. Sally was besotted by Gary Cooper. Can you blame her? 

Chapter 4: George 

     I give my deepest thanks to the board and members of the Clarkdale Historical Society in Clarkdale when I volunteered heavily for a year learning about the William A. Clark family and the United Verde Copper Company. An intricate mining system located in the Black Hills of Jerome sent the raw deposits to the smelting plant below in Clarkdale. Jerome by Midge Steuber and the Jerome Historical Society Archives was instrumental in learning about the mining history of Jerome and Clarkdale. The galleries of photos, newspaper articles, books, and older residents shared their personal histories and gave me a valuable history lesson. A true company town, William A. Clark was a rags-to-riches story of the famous copper baron who turned senator. He died in 1925 at the age of 86 leaving an estimated $200 million ($2.5 billion today) and his company town. He established a rail line and a depot in the middle of the desert called Las Vegas. He had nine children from two marriages. His son, William A. Clark Jr., went to Los Angeles and became a rare books collector and the driving force of the Philharmonic Orchestra. William A. Clark’s reclusive daughter, Huguette, has become popular to do the excellent biography by Bill Dedman, a Pulitzer-prize winning reporter, entitled Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune. The grandson was an aviator who tragically died in the hills outside of Clarkdale when his plane failed to come out of a spin in 1932. Earlier that year, he helped establish the Cottonwood AirField (later known as the Clemenceau Airport) in the neighboring town of Cottonwood. A special guest attended the two-day dedication celebration–Amelia Earhart. 

Chapter 5: Sally 

     Many times my family and I ride up the dirt road to what we fondly refer to as “The Plateau”. The stunning vista views of the Sycamore Canyon and the Red Rocks of Sedona always impress. It is a place for a campfire and stargazing. It is also the starting point of the story’s camping expedition. 

Photo by Cindy Bruchman 

     Fictional Kay is 19 and experienced a loss of self. In the 1920s, Native Americans generally had three choices for adopting an identity. First, return to the Hopi tribe and “be” Hopi. Two, reject the Hopi tradition and assimilate into the white culture. Three, become a hybrid of sorts, holding on to and existing in the white culture while honoring parts of Hopi traditions discreetly. As Kay figures herself out, she is befriended by an old Apache grandmother who tries to teach her Apache ways. From the 1880s to the 1950s, Yavapai, Apache, Hopi, and Navajo tribes shared traditions because of the forced removal and tribal integration on the reservations. Over the years, tribes blended versions of dances and art forms. While there is a fierce pride in keeping with tribal traditions that are distinct as Hopi or Navajo, Native Americans instinctively bonded with other tribes first before they would bond with whites. This is a generalization and exceptions are always found. What fascinates me as a social historian is how an individual chooses their cultural identity. Native Americans see themselves as unique. They are a minority group trying to be autonomous while surviving in a larger culture. I find their grace and artistry and traditions fascinating. I’m a big fan of Native American photographer and ethnographer, Edward “Shadow Catcher” Curtis. From the 1880s to 1930s Curtis recorded thousands of wax cylinder recordings of music, language, and mythologies of Indian tribes in the Southwest. His expansive photography captures the grace and beauty of Southwest Indians. His photographs are now famous although he had little fame or fortune during his working years. I recommend reading Edward S. Curtis: Coming To Light by Anne Makepeace. One aspect of the Indian tradition that they all shared was their way of harvesting and use of wild desert vegetation. I recommend James W. Cornett’s informative book Indian Uses of Desert Plants by Nature Trails Press.

Chapter 6: Kay 

     Early Glendale by Juliet M. Arroyo was helpful in getting an idea of what the Los Angeles Area. Who knew Native Americans camped out in the parks or that there was a union formed by Native Americans objecting to the depiction of Indians in the movies? Another aspect of Los Angeles I was drawn to was the Glendale airport. One of the biggest advancements in the 1920s was in aviation for women. One singular organization validated the unconventional woman who dared to fly, the Ninety-Nines, which are still in existence today. The club was created for the purpose of chronicling the achievements of women aviation. I saw photos and posters featuring Native American women aviators and knew my fictional heroine had to make the decision to “aim higher”. Flying was the answer to her independent nature. The Ninety-Nines played an active role during the depression with their marking project across America. And there was a female pilot as talented as Amelia Earhart but gathered an ignoble reputation as a Nazi spy, Laura Ingalls, a distant cousin to the famed writer of life on the prairie. It was a good way to tease the reader’s interest in the third book of the series when it will be set during World War II.

     In general, my goal was to write a compressed story of three believable characters in the 1920s. Creating a historical climate was the overarching goal. Inside the Gold-Plated Pistol is the second novel in a six-part series showcasing the twentieth century with new heroes who have been underrepresented in United States history.

1920s, Inside the Gold Plated Pistol, writing

A Snippet of George

  IGPP Writing   

 He spent the winter of 1921 in Marseilles in an apartment overlooking the harbor with an older, sallow woman whose appetites matched his own.  The realization he needed opium more than he needed sex or companionship began to creep into the shadows of his mind. He abandoned the dying motorcycle and bought train fare. He headed toward the one city he heard whispered for indulging strange proclivities and addictions–Berlin. When he pulled into the city on March 12, 1922, he arrived with a decent wardrobe, a silver pocket watch, and enough money to buy second class passage from Hamburg to the United States when he was ready. George stepped down onto the platform and a part of him mourned. His home in Chicago might as well have been on the moon. 

        I’m sorry, Ma. I think I lost more than my hand.  

        Where to go in Berlin? He picked the subway line announcing Zooligischer Garten because he liked the sound of the name. It reminded him, when as a boy, he begged his folks to take him to the Lincoln Park Zoo.  His father gestured him away before leaving for work in the basement of the Pearson Hotel where he worked as a public works laborer who maintained the engines and the steam boilers that provided water and heat to over two hundred rooms of the luxury hotel.  George’s mother succumbed to his begging and a sensation of victory filled George’s chest. The two of them spent the day strolling around the zoo grounds in awe. George’s memory was a patchwork of images. The chimpanzee’s rubbery arms reached from one branch to another. A tiger panted and looked at George as though he was the curiosity. Elephant ears flapped. Striped legs meandered. A stiff breeze off of Lake Michigan carried the smell of the animals, and he felt coated by their odors.

        Now as he entered the gates of the Berlin Zoo, a rare, energetic March sun over-warmed the day and a kinder breeze carried a whiff of dung into George’s nose. It comforted him. He sat on a bench that faced the lion’s pen.  The tips of a copper mane preceded the beast as he emerged from behind a boulder. It stepped down a level and looked at him. Then it paced back and forth and twitched his tale. George tucked his suitcase by his leg and watched the people walk by him.

        When he first saw her standing at the other end of the lion’s pen with her coat draped over her forearm and holding onto the wire fence which kept the cat confined, George thought there was nothing remarkable about her. She was simply the only woman in his vicinity. Her blouse did not ripple in the wind around full breasts. Her skirt did not cling to a small waist.  She was neither tall or short, thick or thin. Her legs were not shapely, her outfit not stylish. She turned toward him, posed, lost in thought, and he wondered why she was alone at the zoo. He walked over to her, his polished suitcase in hand, and they looked at the lion together. He tipped his hat and smiled at her.

        Helfen Sie, bitte, Fraulein.”


        George stammered. “A room to rent. Zimmer. Ein zimmer zu mieten.”

        She scrutinized him boldly. She tilted her head and her eyes traced the horizontal line of his shoulders. The dimple on his stubby chin. The mole under his eyelid sitting on top of his cheekbone.  He showed her coins from his pocket and gave her his very best smile. He motioned eating. “Essen mit mir.”

        She looked at his coins and her pink fingertips touched her stomach. She looked around and pointed to the east, and they left the zoo. They crossed the street into a residential area of five-storied apartment buildings.  Two blocks later on the corner was cafe. She motioned with her head, and they went inside. She ordered them two plates of knockwurst and creamed kraut, brown mustard, and black bread. He had a Berliner Weisse. She had coffee. She ate with two hands, her fork in her left hand, her knife in her right. She spoke German as if he knew the language fluently. He had graduated school from St. Sylvester from Logan Square with some knowledge of Latin and German and encouragement from the nuns to apply for college, but he had not felt proficient in either language or passionate about a subject matter to warrant college. His mother’s badgering to make something of himself with more schooling brought about fits of suffocation. To escape the decision, he had enlisted in the war.

        In the Berlin cafe, George watched her lips and recognized the words, but he was so rusty with the language, he understood little. When she paused from eating, he watched her fingers flick the air as she punctuated her sentences, or during calmer moments, under her chin, a pink nail propped up her face.  She seemed to constantly giggle. He leaned closer to her.  He noticed she looked at his stump and smiled politely. He leaned back and hid his right arm under the table cloth. How had he failed at the zoo to notice the reddish strands framing her face? The hazel eyes? Her arched eyebrows lifted as she talked to him, and he confessed over her monologue, “If a face was a song, yours would be a Cole Porter melody.”  

        She stopped talking. She blinked at him and tapped her hand once on the white table cloth. Ja. Kommt mit. Wie Heissen Sie?

        He understood that. “George Hero.”

        “Mitzi.” She stood and yawned behind her hand, her expression feline. The Oberkellner approached and collected some of his coins. Mitzi slid her hand through the crook at George’s elbow and locked herself to him. “Kommt, George Hero. Wir mussen zum Babelsberg zugehen.”

        “Anywhere you want, doll.”

        Down the steps to the train station, he let her lead, motioning her to reach in his jacket pocket for more change to buy tickets. To where, he did not know. She refused to take her hand off his arm. They lit cigarettes together, she with her spare hand, he with the other, and they laughed.  She whispered to him in German. Surely she knew he could not understand, but he nodded and smiled just the same. Fifteen miles south outside of Berlin, they got off at the Babelsberg stop and took a taxi.

        She presented him to the entrance of UFA movie studios. She brought him to the back lot where at the entrance door, George admired a large poster of a man in a tux with black eyes walking on top of the city like a predator. It was unnerving.  At the top of the movie poster in black letters was the title of the film.

        Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler – Ein Bild der Zeit. Regie: Fritz Lang


There you go, proof I’ve been writing during my hiatus. https://cindybruchman.com/2015/05/17/fritz-lang-and-weimar-berlin/ and https://cindybruchman.com/2014/07/02/german-expressionism/ in architecture and film are fascinating historical topics for me, and it forms the first third of the novel. I hope you enjoyed this scene. Now, back to work.


1920s, authors, books, culture, directors, Film Spotlight, history, Inside the Gold Plated Pistol, movies, Research

Fritz Lang and Weimar Berlin


A large part of time spent writing about the past is researching with hopes of authenticating the historical climate. I get lost in the learning and have to nudge myself to get on with the writing.  “Inside the Gold Plated Pistol” begins with George Hero who finds himself in Berlin, 1922, succumbing to the corruptible effects of opium and the cabaret nightlife. There are three strands from the Weimar era I’m stressing in the first third of the manuscript. First, Berlin was a mechanized, stimulating, indecorous urban center. Second, director Fritz Lang was a key pioneer of German Expressionism in the film industry. Be my guest and read last summer’s post about German Expressionism HERE.  Finally, some veterans epitomized by Hemingway’s “Lost Generation” resorted to the corrupting effects of opium, reckless behavior, and Lustmord  as a reaction to the horrors of World War I.


Last summer I visited Berlin, and that helps me today, but several neighborhoods and sections of 1922 Berlin were obliterated during the bombing of WWII. For accurately creating the historical climate, I turned to the 1927 silent film, Berlin: Symphony of a Great City, an impressive composition about urban life during the Weimar Republic. Before the catastrophe of Nazism, Berlin was a mechanized, modern center of Europe. With subways, canals, taxis, factories, and elevators, Walther Ruttmann began his film with the sunrise, and clocks chronicled the day of Berliners. How did they labor? How did they play? What did they eat, and what did they wear? While watching a day in the life of 1927, I am reminded of ordinary occurrences that are extinct today. Toddlers and children played outside with very little supervision. Milk was delivered to your home in bottles. On the corner of intersections, newsies sold newspapers for five cents, and policemen directed traffic.  Horses still competed with cars and trolleys for the use of the street. Men pushed brooms while women beat the dust out of their rugs. Water was pitched on front steps for a daily scrubbing. Reports were typed and letters were written. People shared rotary phones and were restricted to booths and cords. These details seem meaningless, but they are vital when recreating the time period.

If you get a chance to watch the silent film below, notice how the score by Edmund Meisel aligns with the hustle and downtime of the city. The effect–Berlin was a living, breathing entity. If you missed my post about last summer’s trip to Germany, you can read about Munich and BERLIN HERE.

 Fritz Lang 

My character George will stumble into Fritz Lang’s world and become involved with the making of Dr. Mabuse, Der Spieler (1922). What’s happening to George’s psyche mirrors the country’s neuroses displayed visually in Lang’s film and substantiated by Otto Friedrich’s account of Berlin during the Weimar Republic, Before the Deluge. So, how wild were those cabarets? For descriptions of the venue, the clientele, and street addresses, Mel Gordon’s Voluptuous Panic was an eye-popper.

From all of this, George Hero emerges from my imagination, and here’s how the manuscript opens:

 “He reached for the hand that was not there with an ache to grab his thumb, trace the outline of his fingers, or scrape off a lengthy fingernail. In his mind he made a fist and punched the face of the skittish private who had misfired. Other times he gouged the brown eyes with long lashes staring vacant at him. Out of the shadows the sun poured into the cabin car and George squinted out the window as the train arrived at the Berlin station. The information board read: January 16, 1921. 13:00. The steam escaped from the train with a whoosh, and the iron wheels groaned to a halt. George stepped onto the platform. Dimly, he realized since his discharge, he had roamed without forethought. At first, he was reluctant to return to Chicago to his parents after the war, because he discovered many women in France were widows and attracted to him. With his pitiful command of French and their few words of English, it was easier to communicate with smiles and sympathetic fingers. Especially if she had children by her side. They looked up at the stump at his right wrist, and their eyes filled with curiosity and disgust. He wrapped the wound with clean bandages during the day and at night massaged the stretched, shiny skin.” 

Hier endet meine Update.  Okay, back to the writing.