I’m obsessed with World War I. I love writing about the soldiers, maids, and Irish immigrants that lived through the war and in the decade before and after it. And I’ve been lucky to have a number of family stories - and story fragments - handed down to me from that period. Still, after writing more than a dozen stories set in my favorite time I thought my material had run out. Then I remembered Uncle Jack.
My father’s older brother was a fifteen-year-old messenger boy in the financial district when Wall Street was bombed in September, 1920. The blast, which went off when the streets were packed with lunch time crowds, killed 38 people and injured hundreds more.
Over a hundred pounds of dynamite and five hundred pounds of cast-iron sash weights had been packed into a horse-drawn wagon that was left across from the J.P. Morgan bank. The horse and wagon were blasted into small pieces but the driver escaped before the explosion. Although no one was ever prosecuted, a mountain of evidence - including flyers stuffed into a nearby mailbox - pointed to this being an anarchist bombing.
Remembering that my uncle was a witness to the 1920 bombing motivated me to start writing a story I’d been thinking about for years - a story I’d thought would be set in 1920. My story, inspired by a friend’s account of how her grandfather had been murdered by a drunken friend, didn’t have anything to do with anarchists or bombings. Still, placing the Wall Street bombing in the background was important - especially to Rose, my old lady character, who sits by a window looking for danger in the street when the real danger is in the house she’s guarding.
I love how historical events anchor me in time. In a way, I need them to get me going, and that’s how I came to be writing “Rose and the Anarcist.”