Book: Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel by Linda Bennett Pennellcategories: Book, Historical Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Florida, The Blanche Hotel, Moonshine, Gambling, Prostitution, Lynching, Al Capone
Linda Bennett Pennellabout this book: Moonshine, murder, and madams in a small Southern town… Al Capone checks into the Blanche Hotel and locals who control vice operations in the county start swinging from KKK ropes. Is it simply coincidence?
The Blanche Hotel of the title actually exits. It has stood on Marion Avenue in Lake City, Florida since 1902 and is home to the state's first elevator. Due to its location near the intersection of US 41/441 and US 90, during its heyday the hotel played host to famous, infamous, and ordinary people traveling to points farther south. Among those was Al Capone. The hotel is also said to be haunted. People have reported many strange sounds, misplaced objects, unexplainable electrical malfunctions, doors opening and closing without assistance, lights going on and off without explanation, even odors out of place. The strangest paranormal effects, however, are the sounds of children running, laughing and playing on the third floor and a woman crying, muttering, and shouting somewhere on the upper floors. Rumors say the woman killed herself some time during the 1930's, possibly over a failed romance. No one knows why children might haunt the hotel as none are known to have died there.
Since Lake City is the hometown of my high school years, I have always been interested in the Blanche's history. My family moved to Lake City during the hotel's final days of operation. While waiting for our furniture to arrive, we stayed in a second floor room. All I can report is a large space filled with old furniture long out of style, wallpaper dating back to at least 1930, and elderly bathroom fixtures including a large claw-foot tub. Alas, no ghostly sounds or apparitions were encountered then or during the many dinners eaten in the restaurant after Sunday morning services at the First Baptist Church. The building served as municipal office space for several years, but now lies empty and unused. Reports from former classmates still living in the area tell me that the interior is in a sadly state. While living in Lake City, I also learned that the county had a history of illegal activities including moonshining, gambling, and prostitution.
I wrote Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel because of my long interest in the place and because I believed I would enjoy the challenge of writing a novel with dual timelines. Chapters alternate points of view among Liz, a contemporary University of Florida history professor specializing in American crime, Meg, a waitress at the Blanche during 1930, and DeWitt, her sheriff's deputy fiancé. From the perspective of different centuries, these characters endeavor to discover why so many people were killed during the summer of 1930. The town and hotel are real places. Everything else about the novel is fiction and the product of my imagination. And yes, writing the novel was a really fun challenge!
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