Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Devil of Davenport


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.

12 comments:

Lisa said...

You are the most fascinating wealth of information on things I've never even remotely heard of! You've already hooked me on this one. And I'm way behind reading your new chapters. I'm definitely going to catch up this week. I've been procrastinating because I wish I had the whole thing to skim and catch up...I'll do it though.

steve said...

Lisa--Thank you. I'll try to get the rest of the novel up--probably a few chapters at a time. In fact, it's in draft form right now in the DC site.

twoblueday said...

The few times I have driven from Peoria to Davenport or back (thus driving from Galesburg to Davenport and back), I have enjoyed it, but probably would not like it as a commute.

What's that cute little riverside town just north of the I-74 bridge, on the Iowa side? My brother and I stopped in a joint there to eat going to and returning from Galena last year (yup, we took the northing part of the drive up the Iowa side, and I enjoyed it a lot). We came down on the Illinois side, which I thought less fun, but crossed back over to eat at the joint referred to above.

steve said...

it was Bettendorf. If you got off just north of the bridge, it is cute--old downtown Bettendorf--though much of the rest of the city is suburban sprawl. Unless you're thinking of the I-80 bridge at Le Claire.

Olivia said...

That would be an impressive story to tell, with quite a complex storyline, characters and premise.

steve said...

Olivia--You're right. Much of the novel I'm working on right now takes place during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. I got stuck for the longest time handling the "LBJ Un-Birthday Party" at the Chicago Coliseum. It was harder to write than the purely fictional parts.

Elizabeth said...

Wow. Ditto what Lisa says. And I'm ready to read the rest of this story!

steve said...

Elizabeth--Thank you. Once I get my characters through Chicago'68, I hope to start immersing myself in 1916.

twoblueday said...

I was thinking of Sneaky Pete's in LeClaire, according to my brother who was with me.

Tea N. Crumpet said...

Is this building still in use? I love your plot!

Olivia-- what are you doing here? I met you at Rick Rockhill's blog and now I see you here with Steve-- have you been coming here for long?

Steve-- I have that book on The Joy of Writing Sex, but I am finishing up some incompletes and I have to finish them before I resume writing!

steve said...

Gerry--LeClaire's a lot cuter than Bettendorf.

Tea--it's now the Mohassen Grotto, or something like that. Masonic. I discovered Olivia through your blog and left a comment on hers. She's got some absolutely gorgeous pictures of New York.

I didn't read The Joy of Writing Sex. I may see if I can check it out of a library.

Lilith des les Caves said...

I am starting to catch up on my reading. LOL When I edit, I hyperfocus, I fear.

This sounds like a real interesting story. I would enjoy reading it... I agree, though, one work at a time. That's all I can handle, anyway, although I woke this morning with two book ideas which I plan to start while I try to sell my series. LOL

Cheers.