Several of The Yankee Club reviews have praised the two main characters in the series, Jake Donovan and Laura Wilson.
“Jake and Laura remind me a bit of the characters from The Thin Man–a couple who find themselves solving crimes together,” Goodreads review
“Jake isn’t superhuman – he’s a guy with a strong background in police/detective work who’s been out of the game a bit.” Daniel’s Goodreads review.
Those who’ve read The Yankee Club, know a lot about Jake Donovan, but much of his background never made it into the manuscript. So, I thought I’d share more about Jake’s life particularly before 1933, the start of the novel.
Jake, the son of Pat and Marie Donovan, was born in Queens, New York in 1900, making him 33 during the events that take place in The Yankee Club. His mother died of influenza during the plague of 1908. Pat Donovan, always a dreamer who longed to move the family to Florida, raised Jake and his two older sisters, Mary and Teresa as best he could. He made sure the kids attended church on Sundays at St. Timothy’s. In addition to values, his father taught Jake to take care of himself and to box, a skill that came in handy later in life.
Jake was fourteen when Laura and her old man moved into Jake’s neighborhood. That first year, Laura mostly kept to herself, but Jake got to know her better a year later when they both tried out for a school play. Laura landed the part of Becky Thatcher while Jake was Tom Sawyer. During rehearsal they shared their first kiss. Jake was in love.
He didn’t know Laura’s father slapped her around when he drank, which was often. By the time Jake found out, he and Laura were high school sweethearts, and he and his buddies Gino and Danny straightened her old man out.
Jake and Laura dated through high school. They talked about marriage, but life doesn’t always turn out the way young people plan The United States went to war the year Jake graduated. He lied about his age (seventeen) and joined the army where he was dispatched to Europe and met a fellow New Yorker, Micky O’Brien.
War changes people, but combat didn’t change Jake’s feelings about Laura who struggled to become a young actress as a way out of her house. When he returned, Jake proposed, but Laura turned him down. She was determined to make it on her own as an actress.
Stung by Laura’s rejection, Jake landed a job as a Pinkerton detective hoping to leave Queens and his broken heart behind. He got his wish when he was assigned to the Baltimore office where he met Dashielle Hammett. For the next few years, Jake worked at various Pinkerton offices around the country, including Omaha and Los Angeles.
Jake’s father contacted tuberculosis in 1927. With his sisters married and in other states, Jake quit his job as a Pinkerton and returned to Queens to care for his father, who died a year later.
By this time, Laura had landed a small role on Broadway. Jake proposed marriage again. Laura turned him down but they moved in together. Jake and Micky O’Brien opened their own detective agency at the same time Jake began to write mystery novels.
Empire Press published the first Blackie Doyle novel. The book was a big success, as were the next two novels, but in spite of the stock market crash and the spread of the Great Depression, Jake wanted more.
Laura’s landed the lead in a Broadway play the week Jake proposed again. When Laura rejected him again, Jake turned the detective business over to Micky and left town.
Unlike his father, Jake made it to Florida where he continued to write. He might have stayed there permanently, but in 1933, Jake’s editor, Mildred, wasn’t satisfied with the third Blackie Doyle novel. She insisted he return to New York briefly to work out the differences.
What happened when he arrived is chronicled in The Yankee Club.
Inspired by The Thin Man movies