Bio: Gwen Mayo is passionate about blending the colorful history of her native Kentucky with her love for mystery fiction. A graduate in political science from the University of Kentucky, Gwen currently lives and writes in Lexington, but grew up in a large Irish family in Grayson, Kentucky. Her stories have appeared in anthologies, on online short fiction sites, and in micro-fiction collections. Circle of Dishonor, her debut novel, is set during the turbulent political upheaval of post Civil War Kentucky at a time when murder was more common in Kentucky than it was anywhere else in the United States.
Murder and Mayhem in Kentucky
When I started planning CIRCLE OF DISHONOR, I knew I wanted to create a main character that was a cross between the Pinkerton female investigators and the Civil War era women who were pretending to be men. The resourcefulness and creativity of these women always intrigued me, as did the time in which they lived.
Kentucky was a great place to set these stores. The Pinkertons were very active in Kentucky. The history of my home state is filled with enough murder and mayhem to fill a library with stories. All I had to do was settle on the date and city.
The years between 1865 and 1915 are often called the "decades of discord" because it is the time when Kentucky was the most violent place in the United States. Ordinary citizens carried numerous weapons for self defense. Dueling was common, and murder was an acceptable way to end an argument. One wealthy business man from Louisville traveled regularly to New York for suits tailored with nine custom pockets so he could secret away his knives and guns without ruining the line of his outfit.
It didn’t take me long to choose Lexington during the city’s two week centennial celebration as a place to kick off the series. Lexington was not the Wild West in the spring of 1879, but the western frontier would have been safer than Lexington during the centennial. Tent cities covered the fairgrounds and the twelve men of the newly formed police force were ill equipped to keep the peace, let alone solve the murder of one of its leading citizens. CIRCLE OF DISHONOR draws readers into a world where secret societies like the Knights of the Golden Circle, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Regulators wreaked havoc. Brothels, gambling establishments, illegal saloons and distilleries operated openly, and government graft was considered the norm.