In my six-month time working in Galesburg, I stayed with my in-laws in Davenport, Iowa. And I occasionally ventured over to the old Northwest Davenport neighborhood where I was reminded of a mystery I had planned to write many years ago. I had a name for the protagonist, and a general idea of the story. Friedrich Teufel is a reporter for a German-language newspaper in Davenport in the year 1916, when Iowa was voting on a constitutional amendment for woman suffrage. The German-American community was strongly against the amendment, as the women's movement at the time was led by prohibitionists. In the end, the amendment lost primarily because the German and Irish communities in eastern Iowa opposed it.
The story takes place before the election. A prominent feminist leader (possibly Carrie Chapman Catt, who was from Iowa) comes to Davenport to speak in favor of the amendment. Teufel tries to cover the event, is tossed out of the meeting, though not before making an impassioned plea that he is not a German, but a native-born American, who would report fairly on the event. A young woman, the widow of a British soldier killed on the Marne, takes notes of the speech, and in an act of defiance to her anti-German relatives, delivers her notes to the newspaper office.
Where it goes from there, I'm not sure. Most likely with the murder of a German-American leader working against the amendment, a romance between the Teufel and the widow, and the two working to solve the crime. And Teufel has to decide whether to vote for or against the amendment.
Teufel (German for devil) is a member the Northwest Davenport Turners, which for years met in the building pictured above. The Turners (Turnverein), founded by Prussian nationalist Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, came to America after the failed 1848 revolutions. Every, Turnhalle had a gymnasium--in fact Jahn is credited for inventing modern gymnastics. A number of American gymnasts, including Paul and Morgan Hamm, have received their training from the Turners.
Thanks to the Turners, Teufel is trained in gymnastics, boxing, and fencing. And he's fluent in German English, and French. But before I try to figure out the McGuffin for the Devil of Davenport, I need to finish Things Done and Left Undone.