Learning history isn't much good if you don't apply the knowledge to today's problems. That's the whole point of my Possessed Series. Each novel has two mysteries, one historical, one present day, and hopefully a bit of insight about what we've learned, or haven't, between the two eras.
I set FEAR ITSELF in my hometown simply because my best historical resources were here, namely people who were alive in 1933 and willing to talk my ears off about it. I couldn't include every story, but I think I got a handle on what life was like in a poor Italian neighborhood in Norristown, PA during the Great Depression.
This week I found myself wondering if I'd done justice to the modern day setting. While running some errands, I drove along a street I haven't been down in a while. At one intersection, I saw a long line of people. I remembered there was a food bank in that building. Never had I seen a line that long at that food bank. This was the early afternoon, so that also meant those folks didn't have day jobs. It reminded me of the bread lines I'd seen in 1930s photos while doing research for FEAR ITSELF.
Also this week, I heard that an "Occupy Norristown" protest is scheduled for Saturday. My first reaction was to wonder what there was to protest against in Norristown. We don't have a financial district. In fact, for a small city of 30,000 residents, we have pitiful few bank branches left in town. We had more in 1933. That goes for Main St. businesses too. Back then you had your choice of 5 movie theaters, 2 five-and-ten stores, 2 department stores, at least 4 large food markets, as well as two shopping districts of stores with every kind of goods and service imaginable. After FDR took office and the economy picked up, we had a slew of local factories and mills who started hiring again. Today most of the large businesses have closed. The rest moved out of town, most nowhere near public transportation. We do have some small independent stores on Main St., but our downtown is a ghost of its former self.
I'm pretty certain the richest 1% of America can't be found my hometown.
From researching my town's newspaper archive, I know that, as bad as things were in 1933 here, everyone tried to pitch in to help anyone poorer and hungrier. These days at least two of our Congressmen are talking about slapping the poor with higher taxes.
I've decided, to do my small part, I'm going to give10% of my FEAR ITSELF royalties (including ebooks) the local charities in Norristown that seem to be doing the most good for our poorest residents--like that food bank with the long line. This town helped my ancestors weather hard times in the Great Depression, so I'm giving back. If you want to help
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