PUBLISHERS WEEKLY buzzed that “Shaber brews a delightful mix of feminine wiles (long before women’s liberation) and real-life history that will keep readers turning the pages” in her new historical thriller, LOUISE’S GAMBLE.
It is the story of young widow Louise Pearlie during 1942. She is now a chief file clerk at the legendary OSS, the precursor to the CIA, and enjoying being an independent, working woman despite wartime privations in Washington, DC. But a casual friendship struck up with Alessa di Luca, a secretive war refugee, sucks Louise into a dangerous game of mafia bosses, Nazi spies, banished royalty and Sicilian aristocracy – placing not only her job, but her life, in jeopardy . . .
Shaber chatted with THE BIG THRILL about her series and the thriller writer that affected her own stories the most.
Where did you get the inspiration for Louise Pearlie?
Louise is an everywoman, just the kind of young person who would move to Washington D.C. to work in the war effort. She’s single, bright, and has never worked before or lived independently. Her life in Washington is so different than the life she imagined for herself.And she discovers, with the help of her adventures with OSS, that she loves it.
Why is this time period important to you?
Washington, D.C. during World War II was rich with material ripe for fiction. It was a boom town, crowded with spies, refugees, politicians, soldiers, con men, criminals, and wealthy socialites. It was a time of huge cultural upheaval coming after the stress of the Depression. Women were caught between traditional expectations and the challenges of their new roles. And the operations of the fledgling spy agency OSS alone, where Louise worked, could supply enough material for a hundred novels.
What would you like readers to know about this time period through your books?
World War II was a true battle between good and evil. It took the combined strength of three empires, the British, the Russians, and the Americans, to defeat the Nazis. And every single citizen was involved. What most people don’t understand today is that Allied victory wasn’t at all certain. The challenges and pressures of daily life then were huge. I still don’t know how people got through those years.
What thriller writer inspired you to write and how did that writer’s work affect how you wrote this series?
Definitely Martin Cruz Smith and his book DECEMBER 6. It’s about an American expat living in Tokyo on the eve of Pearl Harbor. Harry Niles, the expat, is desperate to get out of Japan on the last airplane, and he spends most of the book angling for a ticket. There aren’t any explosions or car chases, but the tension is constant. I’m looking for that same feel in my books.
Tell us about the TAR HEEL DEAD.
TAR HEEL DEAD is a collection of short stories written by North Carolina mystery writers, published by the University of North Carolina Press. We have quite a group of accomplished mystery writers here in North Carolina, and these stories represent them well. Great reads, all of them!
What have you learned about your main character Louise Gamble from readers of the first novel LOUISE’S WAR?
Readers keep telling me that Louise reminds them of their grandmother, their mother, or a great aunt, or a neighbor who worked for the government during the war. It makes Louise feel as real to me as I want her to feel to readers. I think I’m on the right track!
What have you learned about the OSS you didn’t know until you began the series?
That the OSS wasn’t a straight-laced, regimented agency like the FBI. It was full of wild characters, everyone from academics to famous movie directors to exiled royalty to Marxists. General Donovan, the director, didn’t care who someone was as long as he or she could help defeat the Nazis. And he kept his people on a long leash, allowing them to be creative and experimental.
Why is Louise relevant to today?
Louise and her sisters proved they were equal to men, that they could work hard and be productive. They began a cultural and political revolution that led to the feminist and civil rights movements in the 60s. We need to know what her life was like to understand where we come from.
What’s next for you?
My publisher has asked for two more books in the series, so that’s what I’ll be doing for the next year or so!
Sarah R. Shaber is the author of LOUISE’S WAR and LOUISE’S GAMBLE (May 2012), the first books in a new series set in Washington DC during World War II. Shaber is also the author of the Professor Simon Shaw series. Her first book, SIMON SAID, won the St. Malice Press/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery award. She also edited TAR HEEL DEAD, a collection of short stories by North Carolina Mystery writers.
To learn more about Sarah Shaber and LOUISE’S GAMBLE please visit her website.