Thursday, July 22, 2010

THE CRIMSON CIPHER - Susan Page Davis - Free Book

I've really been looking forward to featuring Susan and this book. So, Susan, how did this book come about?

I had originally thought about writing a Civil War story, but when I learned that women were recruited to solve ciphers in World War I, the idea began to crystallize. I realized the timeframe was perfect for Summerside’s new suspense line. The more research I did, the more plot points jumped out at me. It was a year of intrigue and sabotage.

Tell us about the book’s cover and what makes it unique.

Emma is wearing a very fashionable and mysterious hat, which they tell me was right in style in 1915, and against the dark background of buildings is the hint of a cipher message. This cover screams, “Mystery!”

I know. I love it. Summerside does a wonderful job with the covers. Please explain and differentiate between what’s fact and fiction in the book.

Because I drew so much on history, I wrote a “Dear Reader” letter explaining that very thing. Here’s part of it (and I don’t think this gives away too much):

During my research, I learned that the sabotage and espionage going on in North America in 1915 reached a massive scale. The bombing of the bridge at Vanceboro, Maine, is a true incident. The bombing of the Peabody plant and many other factories happened, as did the attempted bombing of the occupied armory at Windsor, Ontario. The sinking of the ships William P. Frye and the Fulflight, as well as the sabotage of the Minehaha and the Nebraskan, really happened. These, along with the Lusitania, are only a few of the Allied ships attacked or bombed that year. However, the Larkin is a fictional ship.

While several German diplomats in America were arrested in connection with espionage, passport fraud, and other crimes, most of them were apprehended later than this story’s timeframe. Otto van Wersten (“Kobold”) is a fictional character.

Erich Muenter’s (alias Frank Holt’s) bombing of U.S. Senate reception room and subsequent shooting of J.P. Morgan were real, tragic events occurring in July, 1915. The gathering of cryptographers by the U.S. government actually began a little later than this story. Room 20 at Trafton House is loosely modeled after Great Britain’s famous Room 40 at Bletchley Park in England. While Alfred Shuster and his cipher machine were slightly ahead of their time, such devices were already appearing in Europe, and it is not unreasonable that a clever mathematician would come up with such a machine at this time.

How much research did you have to do for this book?

Tons and tons. I started with Bowdoin College, where the first few scenes are set. What buildings were there in 1915? What were they called then? Where would a mathematics professor be likely to have an office? And so on.

Other topics for hours of research included the Navy in 1915, and in particular the Signal Corps; trains and trolleys in the Arlington/Washington/Fairfax area at the time; telephones at the time; telegraphy; clothing, foods and everyday life. All of this on top of the events leading up to the United States entering the war; wartime events in Canada and Europe; sabotage, espionage, passports, labor unrest, and other pertinent data concerning the home front; and, of course, codes and ciphers. I built quite a library on this topic alone, from the general to the specific to the highly technical.

What are some of the most interesting things you found about this subject that you weren’t able to use in the story?

It was tempting to explain several different ciphers and how they work, but I restrained myself. One really interesting topic was the ways codes were intercepted and cracked during combat and used against the enemy, but since the story takes place before we were in the war, I had to save a lot of that for a possible sequel.

What inspired and surprised you while you were writing the book?

I was inspired by the people who held the line against the saboteurs, especially an organization called The American Protective League. These were more than 250,000 everyday citizen volunteers who worked under the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Investigation to report and investigate suspicious behavior. Thanks to these businessmen and workers who gave of their time, the sabotage in the United States fell dramatically after it was formed in March, 1917.

What do you hope the reader takes away from the story?

The same thing Emma learns—that no matter how out-of-control this world seems, God is still in charge.

What is the next project you’re working on?

Right now I’m writing Love Finds You in Prince Edward Island, my next book for Summerside. In 1860, Queen Victoria sent her son Albert Edward—the heir apparent to her throne—on a goodwill tour of Canada and the United States. This royal tour is the backdrop for my story of romance.

What do you do when you have to get away from the story for a while?

I like to do something silly and random with my kids, or read someone else’s book, or pet the cat, or work a logic problem. Lately I’ve revived my childhood interest in cipher, thanks to writing The Crimson Cipher.

Please give us the first page of the book.

Emma Shuster hurried across campus against the cold wind coming off Casco Bay. Six inches of powdery snow draped the college’s brick buildings in glittery icing, and Emma’s heart sang.

A man in a blue wool coat with epaulets on the shoulders and a peaked hat of the same hue approached the Searles Science Building from the opposite direction. Navy, Emma concluded—a fine-looking officer. She looked away before he could catch her eye.

He reached the door of the brick building just as she did. “Hello.” He smiled brightly and opened the door for her.

“Thank you.” As she entered, she tucked the large envelope she carried under her arm, pulled off her knit gloves, and headed for the stairs.

“Excuse me,” the man said.

She paused and turned toward him. “Yes?”

He unbuttoned his overcoat, revealing a uniform beneath. “I wonder if you could direct me to Professor Shuster’s office.”

Emma relaxed and smiled. “I’m just on my way up to see him, sir. If you’d like to follow me, I’ll take you there.” Her father was a Navy veteran. She wondered what the young man wanted with him.

He walked beside her to the third floor landing. The handsome stranger towered nearly a foot over her.

She supposed she should break the silence if she didn’t wish to be thought rude. “Several of the mathematics and science professors have their offices up here.”

“Indeed. I expect the climb keeps them fit.” The young man smiled. “I’m John Patterson.”

“And you’re with the Navy, Mr. Patterson?”

“Yes. Lieutenant, actually.”

They’d reached the door of her father’s office. Emma gave a quick knock and turned the knob.

“Father, I’ve brought someone to—” She broke off with a gasp. Her father’s slender form lay sprawled on the floor. Blood seeped onto the varnished oak boards and the papers strewn near him. “Father!”

She dropped her envelope and knelt beside him. Bending close, she touched his arm. The awful stillness of his body sent chills through her. A dry, fierce ache filled her throat. Pushing his shoulder slightly, she tried to speak again, but a sob wrenched her chest.

Patterson knelt on the other side and put a hand to the fallen man’s throat. After a moment, he reached across and gently touched Emma’s sleeve. “I’m sorry, ma’am.”

“No, no! We need to call a doctor.”

“I’m afraid there’s nothing a doctor could do for him.”

She wept then¬¬—great, hot tears splashing down her cheeks.

“Miss Shuster. Come and sit down.”

Emma raised her hand to her mouth, staring at the blood. She struggled to stand, but her knees buckled, and she grabbed the lieutenant’s outstretched arm.

He caught her as she wilted. “There, now. Let me help you.”

He turned a wooden chair to face the door, holding her upright with his steel-like right arm.

“Sit down, miss.”

Emma sank onto the chair and held her hands over her face.

“Can I get you anything?”

“No,” she managed. “Thank you. Just...please, see to Father. Make certain...”

He left her side, and she shivered. She wanted to look over her shoulder and see what Patterson did—to assure herself that she’d been mistaken and only imagined the ghastly scene.

She didn’t move.

The lieutenant came back, his jaw tense. “I’m sorry, Miss Shuster. I’m afraid it’s too late.”

Wow! I can hardly wait for my copy to arrive. How can readers find you on the Internet?

It’s easy: http://www.susanpagedavis/. Come visit me!

Thank you for sharing with us today, Susan.

Readers, by using the following link when you order the book, you help support the blog:

Leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book. (Comments containing links may be subject to removal by blog owner.)

Void where prohibited; the odds of winning depend on the number of entrants. Entering the giveaway is considered a confirmation of eligibility on behalf of the enterer in accord with these rules and any pertaining local/federal/international laws.

The only notification you’ll receive is the winner post on this blog. So be sure to check back a week from Saturday to see if you won. You will have 6 weeks from the posting of the winners to claim your book.

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Annette W. said...

I think books that need a lot of research are a great way for me to enjoy a history lesson. I'd love to win!

Michelle said...

This sounds like a wonderful book. Enjoyed the interview.

mchapman (at) windstream (dot) net

Katrina said...

sounds like a GREAT book, definitely my style!

Unknown said...

Please enter me!! Thanks:)


Naasom André said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Naasom André said...

I love your interviews. Congratulations. I'd like win a copy this book. Thanks.
God bless you.

letrassantas at hotmail dot com

Coolestmommy said...

Susan, I enjoyed getting to know you better through your interview.

coolestmommy2000 at gmail dot com

Mark said...

I'd like to enter, sounds like a good read

grannyvon said...

The first chapter leaves you hanging which is unusual, Everyone knows the Naval Officer is there for a big reason, but what? The daughter doesn't have a clue! This goes on my 'Must Read List'. Thanks for the chance to win it!

Sherry Kuhn said...

This sounds like a great story. Love the cover. Please enter me in the drawing.


Jan Cline said...

Great interview. I too love to research and incorporate true events into my stories. I often think I was born in the wrong ere, but I love writing about them! Best wishes on the book.

Anonymous said...

What can those of us who are victims of mobbing and gangstalking do? We are abused, bullied and harassed by police, firemen, city hall, social services, landlords, neighbors, contractors, paralegals, attorneys, surveyors, doctors, nurses, etc. With so much on the internet about this and books written about mobbing in the American workplace, why isn't this ever covered in the news?

Roanna said...

Please enter me. Thanks~

A J Hawke said...

I enjoy history, mysteries, and romance, so The Crimson Cipher is a must read.

Please enter me.

A J Hawke
ajhawkeauthor at aol dot com

Sheila Deeth said...

Oh wow. This sounds a really fun book. Mathematicians. WWI. Definitely my sort of thing and I'll definitely be looking out for it.

Casey said...

I would love to read this, please enter me. Thanks!

Sue said...

Thank you for the chance to read this book, it looks good.

Susan Page Davis said...

Thanks so much, everyone. I agree that Summerside did a terrific job on the cover of this book. I hope you all get to read it.

Susan Page Davis said...

Lena, thanks again for having me over. This is a great place to be.

Michelle said...

Thank you for entering me!

scraphappy71 at sbcglobal dot net

Unknown said...

This book sounds great!! The title is so intriguing too! Did you come up with the title, or do the editors, Susan?


Susan Page Davis said...

Thanks for asking, Kim! I originally had titled this book The Tourmaline Cipher (which figures in the story), but the editors felt that was too obscure and that most readers wouldn't recognize the word. Tourmaline is a semi-precious gemstone found in Maine and a few other scattered places around the world. So we tinkered with other possibilities and decided the word "Cipher" had to stay. I won't say exactly why we chose "crimson," except that it also figures in the story. I don't want to spoil the read for anyone. Anyway, I think it was a wise choice, and I love the title, cover, and presentation.

Merry said...

Wow, Susan, what a beginning! I always love your books but I really can't wait for this one. Please add me for The Crimson Cipher. Thanks.

Edna said...

please enter me, I follow this blog on google


Cindy W. said...

I have heard wonderful, wonderful things about The Crimson Cipher so it is definitely on my MUST read list. Love the cover art too. Would love to win a copy...thanks for the chance!

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.


holdenj said...

The Crimson Cipher sounds wonderful! I like the basis in some historical facts and didn't realize they used women for that back in WWI. Thanks for the chance to win.

Simply Stacie said...

Please count me in.

Julia M. Reffner said...

Love the cover and the idea behind it. WWII is one of my favorite eras to read about. Count me in.


Julia M. Reffner said...

Love the cover and the idea behind it. WWII is one of my favorite eras to read about. Count me in.


Julia M. Reffner said...

Love the cover and the idea behind it. WWII is one of my favorite eras to read about. Count me in.


Julia M. Reffner said...

Love the cover and the idea behind it. WWII is one of my favorite eras to read about. Count me in.


Julia M. Reffner said...

Love the cover and the idea behind it. WWII is one of my favorite eras to read about. Count me in.


Julia M. Reffner said...

Love the cover and the idea behind it. WWII is one of my favorite eras to read about. Count me in.


Julia M. Reffner said...

Love the cover and the idea behind it. WWII is one of my favorite eras to read about. Count me in.


Linda said...

Absolutely love historicals and have heard nothing but good reports on this book. Would love to win this one. Please enter me. Thanks.
desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

Patsy said...

Sounds like another great read. Count me in on the giveaway.

Susan Page Davis said...

I can't tell you how much I appreciate all your comments. I do feel this period in our history has been somewhat neglected. In school, we seem to jump over it lightly, and while we might study the war and the fact that America was slow to enter it, we don't usually go into what was going on here during 1914-1917.

Anita Yancey said...

This book sounds really good. Love to read it. Please enter me. Thanks!


lovedandamazed said...

Wow, this sounds like an interesting story! World War I is such an interesting time period. Thanks for the chance to win!

kristen said...

What a fantastic cover:)
Thanks for the interview.

MaureenT said...

I can sure understand why there are so many people wanting this book.
Please enter me also
Thank You!

Carman said...

Please enter me! I can't *wait* to read this book!

booklovercb[at] said...

Please enter me! Your book sounds great!

dancealert at aol dot com

Bakersdozen said...

I would love to read this. vidomich(at)yahoo(dot)com

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a book I would love to read. Thanks for the chance to win.

Pam Kellogg said...

This book sounds so good! It will go on my list of books to look for. I'd love to win it! Thanks for the opportunity.


karenk said...

please count me in...thanks :)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

misskallie2000 said...

Susan, I enjoyed your interview and the info regarding your book. I have added The Crimson Cipher to my wish list. Thanks for stopping by to chat.

Lena, Thanks for the opportunity to enter this giveaway.

misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

rubynreba said...

I enjoyed the interview. Thanks for the chance to win this book.

Megan said...

I would love to read this book. I love codes and cryptography! I am impressed with the amount of research that you did. When reading, we sometimes take for granted all of the details put into the background and story!!

Susan Page Davis said...

Thank you all! Megan, I love the reading/research phase. I learn so much, then I have to decide what can go in the book and what can't. Right now I'm reading up on Ursuline nuns, cattle trails, and Victorian formalwear. My head is full of trivia.

Michelle V said...

I really want to read this one. Great interview.

Michelle V

Katie said...

Sounds like a GREAT book! Please enter me.

Mana Laura said...

Thanks for hosting a giveaway! Please enter me: Lauraleighanderson(at) Thanks!

Judylynn said...

Please enter me in this giveaway - Thanks!