Highlighting Historical Fiction with Viola Russell, with fun facts from the life of her character Jude Mooney during the Easter Rising and in Storyville.
Prohibition, Storyville in New Orleans, and the Easter Uprising of 1916 play very important roles in From Ice Wagon to Club House and then in The Progeny. Jude Mooney, my central character, is a poor young man growing up in New Orleans in the early 1900s. His parents, proud and devout Irish immigrants, try to instill pride and values in their children, but a tragedy pushes Jude to find work in Storyville. Storyville was established in 1897 at the instigation of Alderman Story, hence the name. The city of New Orleans hoped to contain prostitution, and The District, or Storyville, provided a solution. It is here that Jude finds work in the home of Emma Johnson, a notorious madam. Emma was a real person, as were Tom Anderson, the unofficial “mayor” of Storyville and Jelly Roll Morton, a young pianist who was eventually to become famous. It is when Jude’s parents discover his role in Storyville that he takes refuge with his Irish relatives in the Mother Country.
In Ireland, he joins the fight for Irish independence when he meets a fiery Irish patriot. The Easter Uprising began on April 24, 1916 and lasted for six days. Its impact on Irish independence cannot be measured. A band of Irish Republicans converged on the post office and made a stand against the superior British Army. Jude, inflamed with the love of Ireland, finds himself in the fray.
Back home in New Orleans, yet another tragedy forces Jude and his friend Pete into the sale of illegal liquor during Prohibition. Prohibition took effect on January 16, 1920, but it wasn’t long before Americans began manufacturing their own liquor. I based Jude Mooney on my dad, and he was a bootlegger in his youth and did many of the things Jude did. Tragedy soon strikes as Jude and Pete begin smuggling shipments of liquor through the Chef Pass.
In the Progeny, the sequel to Ice Wagon, Jude’s children also become involved with the cause of Irish unity and faced the trauma of war during the World War II era.
About the Books
From Ice Wagon to Clubhouse
At fifteen-years-old, Jude Mooney is driving an ice wagon to help his struggling Irish immigrant family. An obedient son and devoted brother, he willingly works in the sweltering New Orleans heat along with his friend Pete Saluto to help his pious and respectable parents. When his older brother’s suicide leaves the family nearly destitute and shame-ridden, Jude seeks employment in the infamous Storyville of old New Orleans, becoming the confidante of the many characters who populated Emma Johnson’s establishment. When his parents learn of his activities, Jude leaves the family nest, becoming even more embroiled in the seedy lifestyle until a disastrous encounter forces him to leave town and join his relatives in Ireland. It is in his ancestral birthplace that he meets the fiery Maeve and joins the fight for Irish independence and then, paradoxically, the British army when his love turns sour. Upon his return from the front, he seeks Maeve, who has had his twin sons. Together, they return to New Orleans. A series of losses then force Jude into an uneasy alliance with the powerful mob family, the Matrangas. He rises in the ranks of the Matranga “family,” becoming a valuable cog in the wheel of their bootlegging and horse-racing empire; however, any links to the mob brings risks. How much more will Jude lose as the Feds pursue the men who supply the country with the illicit nectar.
The sins of the father…
Prohibition has ended, and Jude Mooney is trying to establish himself as an honest businessman; however, his sons are exiles, having fled New Orleans for Ireland after becoming entangled in their father’s illegal activities. Daniel finds burning passion in the arms of the fiery Grace, and Paul learns the joys of the flesh with yet another Irish beauty. Inspired by these fiercely nationalist women, the Mooney brothers join the fight for a united Ireland, acting as snipers and embarking upon clandestine bombing operations. A series of catastrophic blunders then send Daniel and Paul to England where they join with the enemy they once fought against, hoping to defeat Hitler as he marches throughout Europe. Both Mooney sons eventually infiltrate the Nazi machine at the highest level when they enter the clandestine world of espionage. In New Orleans, Jude faces his own personal battle as he and his young wife drift apart when she betrays him. And—as much as Jude wants to escape the criminal life that lured him in, he and his brother-in-law Pete completely cannot break free of the powerful Matranga family.
As America enters the war, not one member of Jude’s family will remain untouched as his brave niece Julia joins the military as a nurse. Nephews Wally and Peppy Saluto also enter the fray in Asia and Europe. Each family member encounters danger and romance as they face the war machine. This sweeping saga follows the Mooney clan from New Orleans to Europe and then to Asia. Not all will live. All will be scarred as they do what they must to save themselves.
About the Author
Viola Russell is the pseudonym for Susan Weaver Eble. A homegrown New Orleanian, she holds a doctorate in English literature from Texas A & M University. She has traveled far and wide and relishes the memories she has made in places as distant as England, Ireland, Canada, and Jamaica and as near as Mississippi, Texas, Oklahoma, California, and Massachusetts. She lives with her husband Ben, the love of her life, in a New Orleans cottage and is most comfortable at her computer creating the worlds that drift into her imagination.
Viola would like to give away a print copy of “Ice Wagon” and a copy of “The Progeny” to a randomly picked winner who finishes this sentence “Historical fiction is important because ____________.”
This reply can be sent to the Contact section of her website. www.violarussell.com Contacts left here will be forwarded.