America Between the Wars

North America after WWI and before WWII


Bonnie and Clyde

Jump to: 1919 and the 1920s
The 1920s: Mysteries
The Great Depression
The Great Depression: Mysteries


After the end of World War I, the 1920s became exuberant years on the American Continent. Fortunes being made in the financial industry and the Hollywood film industry. In the U.S., the Volstead Act prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages, went into effect in January 1920, leading to bootlegging, illegal "speakeasy" clubs, and the rise of organized crime.

Within a decade, though, fortunes were lost just as quickly when the rampant speculation in stocks led to the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Combined with a severe drought, the 1929 Crash ushered in the Great Depression, years of widespread unemployment and economic hardship which did not truly lift until the U.S. mobilized for World War II.

Novels in a series are generally listed together under the category appropriate to the first novel in the series.


1919 and the 1920s

Click on the title for more information from Powell's Books or another online source, or if you're outside the U.S., try The Book Depository.


Warren Adler, Funny Boys (2008), about gangsters in 1920s New York.

Howard Bahr, Pelican Road (2008), about railroad engineers in 1923 and during an impending collision in 1940.

Melanie Benjamin, The Aviator's Wife (2013), about Anne Morrow Lindbergh, the wife of aviator Charles Lindbergh.

W.K. Berger, The Purples (2010), about a gang of Jewish rumrunners in Prohibition-era Detroit; self-published.

Amy Bloom, Away (2007), about a Russian immigrant in New York who lost her family to violent anti-Jewish pogroms.

Michael Byers, Percival's Planet (2010), about the search for "Planet X" from 1928-1930, which led to the discovery of Pluto. Review or Author Interview

Patrick Cacchione, Carousel House (2012), a coming-of-age novel about three young people in rural Missouri after the 1929 stock market crash; self-published.

Cate Campbell, Benedict Hall (2013), about a wealthy Seattle family, their household servants, and the changes they face in 1920 at the end of the First World War; #1 in a planned series.

Bill Cheng, Southern Cross the Dog (2013), about a young man who loses all he owns in the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and takes a job clearing swampland to build a dam, where he meets a family of fur trappers whose livelihood the dam will destroy.

Alan Cheuse, The Light Possessed (1990), about a fictional New Mexico artist modeled after Georgia O'Keeffe

Dale Cramer, Paradise Valley (2011), about an Amish community which moves from Ohio to Mexico after a man is arrested for not sending his children to public school; #1 in the planned Daughters of Caleb Bender series.

Frank Delaney, Shannon (2009), about a young American priest suffering from shell shock who travels through Ireland in the 1920s.

Ursula DeYoung, Shorecliff (2013), about a thirteen-year-old boy who overhears conversations not intended for his ears when his troubled family spends the summer of 1928 in the home of relatives on the Maine coast.

E.L. Doctorow, Homer and Langley (2009), about two reclusive brothers, one intuitive and blind, the other affected by mustard gas during World War I, who on their death in 1947 are found to have been hoarding newspapers for decades in their Fifth Avenue mansion in New York.

Ivan Doig, Work Song (2010), about an educated man who arrives in Butte, Montana, in 1919 and becomes caught up in the tensions between the owners of a copper mine and the miners, who are determined to organize a union.

Stephanie Draven, It Stings So Sweet (2013), three erotic novellas set in the 1920s.

Louise Erdrich, The Master Butcher’s Singing Club (2003), about German immigrants in North Dakota during the years after World War I.

Alex Espinoza, The Five Acts of Diego Leon (2013), about a man from rural Mexico who goes to Hollywood in 1927 with the hope of becoming a star in silent films.

Kim Fay, The Map of Lost Memories (2012), about a Seattle woman who in 1925, after being passed over for a job as curator, quits her job at the Brooke Museum to hunt for a valuable archaeological treasure from Cambodia.

Robert L. Fenton, Three Wise Men (2008), about Jewish gangsters in the Prohibition years of the 1920s; self-published.

Sharon Ewell Foster, Passing by Samaria (1999), about a young black woman who moves to Chicago in 1919; Christian message.

Therese Ann Fowler, Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald (2013), about the wife of novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly, The Tilted World (2013), about a federal revenue agent who comes across an abandoned baby at a crime scene in New Orleans in 1927, gives it to a woman bootlegger who has lost her own child, and finds himself falling in love with her despite the many serious complications this presents.

Dorothy Garlock, Stay a Little Longer (2011), about a Minnesota woman who runs a boarding house in the years after World War I and takes in a man suffering from shell-shock.

Dorothy Garlock, Keep a Little Secret (2011), about a young Minnesota woman who accepts a teaching job in an Oklahoma ranching town; sequel to Stay a Little Longer.

Denise Giardina, Storming Heaven (1988), about the West Virginia Mine Wars and the coal miners' struggle for a union during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Denise Giardina, The Unquiet Earth (1994), about coal mining in West Virginia from the 1930s to the 1990s.

Glen David Gold, Carter Beats the Devil (2001), about a stage magician in 1920s San Francisco who finds himself in hot water when President Warren Harding dies under mysterious circumstances after volunteering for the magician's show.

Kim Goldsworthy, Lunch at the Algonquin (2011), a reconstruction of one of the Algonquin Club's famous lunches, at which the wit of Dorothy Parker and other New York writers of the 1920s is featured; self-published.

Chris Greenhalgh, Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky (2010), about the 1920 love affair between fashion designer Coco Chanel and the exiled Russian composer Igor Stravinsky after Chanel invites Stravinsky and his invalid wife and four children to stay at her estate. Review at The Washington Post

Ron Hansen, A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion (2011), about a woman and her lover who murder her husband in 1927 and the scandalous trial that follows.

Stephen Harrigan, Remember Ben Clayton (2011), about a New York sculptor who comes to Texas after World War I to create a statue of a rancher's son who died in France.

Elizabeth Hay, Alone in the Classroom (2011), about a teacher in a Canadian prairie school helping a boy overcome his reading difficulties in 1929 amid an atmosphere of menace and impending murder.

Ann Hood, The Obituary Writer (2013), about two women, one in 1960 who must decide whether to stay in her marriage or follow the man she loves, and another in 1919 who writes obituaries as she searches for a lover who disappeared in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Eowyn Ivey, The Snow Child (2012), about a couple homesteading in Alaska who build a child of snow which is transformed into a feral girl.

Nancy Jensen, The Sisters (2011), about two Kentucky sisters who flee their stepfather in 1927, and the effects of their decision through the following generations.

Sarah Bruce Kelly, Jazz Girl (2010), about African-American pianist and composer Mary Lou Williams, born with a caul and treated as an outcast in her teens by her Pittsburgh neighbors because of her odd gifts.


William Kennedy, Legs (1975), a sympathetic novel about a gangster in Albany, New York, in the 1920s and 30s; #1 in the Albany Cycle.

William Kennedy, Billy Phelan's Greatest Game (1978), about a poker-player and small-time hustler in Albany, New York, during the Depression; #2 in the Albany Cycle.

William Kennedy, Ironweed (1983), about an alcoholic vagrant who returns home to Albany, New York, during the Depression; received the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction; #3 in the Albany Cycle.

William Kennedy, Very Old Bones (1992), about the illegitimate son of an artist, who attends a family gathering in 1958; #5 in the Albany Cycle.

William Kennedy, Roscoe (2001), about machine politics in Albany, New York, in 1945; #7 in the Albany Cycle.


Ariel Lawhon, The Maid, The Wife, and the Mistress (2014), about three women linked to the Manhattan judge Joseph Crater, who disappeared in 1930 after visiting a speakeasy owned by a gangster.

Dennis Lehane, The Given Day (2008), about an Irish policeman and a black man hunted by the mob in post-World War I Boston.

Dennis Lehane, Live by Night (2012), about an Irish-American in Boston who joins the Mafia at age nineteen and rises in the organization.

Gerard Mac, Tell Them I'll Be There (2010), about three brothers, Irish immigrants in New York during the 1920s, a stockbroker, an aspiring priest, and a popular singer.

James Markert, A White Wind Blew (2013), about a doctor at a tuberculosis sanatorium in Louisville in the 1920s who starts an orchestra with his patients.

Lee Martin, Quakertown (2001), about a gifted gardener, his daughter, and the two men she loves, one white, one black, in North Texas during the 1920s. Review

Ferenc Máté, Ghost Sea (2006), about a trader in British Columbia hired to rescue a man's wife from the Kwakiutl warrior who has kidnapped her.

Ferenc Máté, Sea of Lost Dreams (2011), about a trader and his lover who break out of a Mexican jail in 1921 and head for Polynesia without realizing they have two stowaways on board their vessel; sequel to Ghost Sea.

Ayana Mathis, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie (2013), about a young woman who moves from Georgia to Philadelphia in 1923, as part of what is now known as the Great Migration, and raises ten more children after her two firstborn die.

Erin McGraw, The Seamstress of Hollywood Boulevard (2008), about a Kansas woman married as a teenager who leaves her husband and children and goes to Hollywood, where she sews costumes for movie stars.

Paula McLain, The Paris Wife (2011), about Ernest Hemingway's wife Hadley and their life as American expatriates in Paris in the 1920s. Review

Mary Miley, The Impersonator (2013), about a vaudeville actress approached in 1924 is by a wealthy man who believes she is his niece, who disappeared seven years earlier.

Mary Alice Monroe, Time Is a River (2008), about a contemporary woman recovering from breast cancer who discovers the 1920s journal of her fly-fisher grandmother in North Carolina and reopens an old scandal.

Laura Moriarty, The Chaperone (2012), about a fictional woman who accompanies the teenaged future actress Lousie Brooks to the Denishawn School of Dancing in New York in 1922 as her chaperone.

Vincent Nicolosi, In the Fullness of Time (2010), about a man who recalls the rumors circulating around the 1923 death of President Harding, once his hometown neighbor, when he learns of the Kennedy assassination.

Howard Norman, The Haunting of L (2002), about a photographer's assistant in a remote Manitoba town who falls in love with his employer's wife and comes to share her obsession with spirit photographs. Review at The Atlantic Monthly

Caroline Preston, The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt (2011), a graphic novel in the form of a travel scrapbook kept by a young woman beginning in 1920 after she graduates from high school, which documents her search for love and success as a writer.

David Rain, The Heat of the Sun (2012), about the illegitimate son of an American naval officer and a Japanese geisha and his adventures, beginning in the 1920s, that connect him with the develoment and use of the atomic bomb.

James Redfearn, The Rising at Roxbury Crossing (2012), about a Boston policeman who goes on strike in 1919 for better wages and working conditions, as his past in Ireland catches up to him; self-published.

Suzanne Rindell, The Other Typist (2013), about a police stenographer in 1924 whose friendship with her new coworker draws her into a dangerous world.

Renee Rosen, Dollface (2013), about a beautiful young women who leaves home in the 1920s and attracts the attention of mobsters from rival Chicago gangs.

Zoë S. Roy, The Long March Home (2011), a family saga about a Canadian woman in China who falls in love with her Chinese tutor, and their daughter and granddaughter.

Mary Doria Russell, Dreamers of the Day (2008), about an Ohio schoolteacher whose trip to the Middle East coincides with the 1921 Cairo Peace Conference, where she meets Lawrence of Arabia, an old friend of her sister.

Shawna Yang Ryan, Locke 1928 (2007), about a Chinese community in California and the disruptions that follow when the wife a man left behind in China arrives unexpectedly with two other women.

Dawn Shamp, On Account of Conspicuous Women (2008), about four women in 1920s North Carolina and their involvement with the women's suffrage movement.

Dan Simmons, The Abominable (2013), about an American mountain climber who joins the search for a British climber lost on Mount Everest in 1926. Review at The Washington Post.

April Smith, A Star for Mrs. Blake (2014), about four women who go to France to visit their sons' graves after the U.S. Congress passes a law in 1929 to fund overseas travel for mothers whose sons died in Europe in World War I.

Kate Southwood, Falling to Earth (2013), about a family who survive the 1925 tornado that devastated the town of Marah, Illinois.

Janice Steinberg, The Tin Horse (2013), about a woman in the 1990s who, on discovering a clue to where she might find her long-missing twin sister, recalls her youth in a Jewish district of Los Angeles in the 1920s and 1930s.

Libby Sternberg, Sloane Hall (2010), a reimagining of Jane Eyre in a 1920s Hollywood setting with a male protagonist who becomes a chauffeur for a beautiful but troubled Hollywood star. Review

Irving Stone, Clarence Darrow for the Defense (1949), a biographical novel about Clarence Darrow, the lawyer who founded the American Civil Liberties Union and defended John Scopes in his 1925 trial for teaching the theory of evolution.

Shelley Stout, Radium Halos: A Novel about the Radium Dial Painters (2010), about a woman who works in a factory in the 1920s, painting radium onto the dials of clocks and watches; self-published. Review at the Historical Novel Review blog

Kathleen Tessaro, The Perfume Collector (2013), about a woman in the 1950s who receives an unexpected inheritance from a woman she never heard of and sets out to learn her story, beginning with the woman's life in 1920s New York and later in Monte Carlo, Paris and London, where she inspired the creation of perfumes.

Laura Mazzuca Toops, Hudson Lake (2007), about a clash between Bix Beiderbecke's jazz band and the rural Indiana town of Hudson Lake in the summer of 1926 when they land a season-long gig at the Blue Lantern dance hall.

Gore Vidal, Hollywood (1990), about the years of the Wilson and Harding presidencies in Washington D.C. and Hollywood.

Joseph Wallace, Diamond Ruby (2010), a baseball story about a young, left-handed Jewish woman signed up to pitch for the Brooklyn Typhoons in 1923.

Paul Watkins, The Promise of Light (1992), about a bank clerk on a small New England island in the 1920s who discovers he was adopted and sets out to learn more about his past.

Alethea Williams, Willow Vale (2011), about a young widow who takes a job as cook and housekeeper for a Wyoming rancher injured in the First World War.

Daniel Woodrell, The Maid’s Version (2013), about a maid in Missouri who thinks she knows who caused the explosion in a Missouri dance hall which killed her sister.


The 1920s: Mysteries

Click on the title for more information from Powell's Books or another online source, or if you're outside the U.S., try The Book Depository.


Ace Atkins, Devil's Garden (2009), a noir mystery in which Pinkerton agent Dashiell Hammett is hired to defend silent film star Fatty Arbuckle from a charge of rape that led to a woman's death, one of the most notorious scandals of the 1920s.

Tom Bradby, Blood Money (2009), a thriller about a New York policeman investigating mob violence during the 1929 Wall Street Crash.

David Fulmer, The Dying Crapshooter's Blues (2007), about a professional thief who has the misfortune to return to Atlanta in the 1920s in time to witness the shooting of a black gambler by a police officer.

Joe Gores, Hammett (1975), a mystery featuring San Francisco mystery writer Dashiell Hammett as sleuth, trying to find out who murdered a friend of his.


Michael Kilian, The Weeping Woman (2001), a man-about-town dabbles in solving mysteries in the U.S. during the 1920s; #1 in the Jazz Age series.

Michael Kilian, The Uninvited Countess (2002), a man-about-town detective investigates the murder of a foreign countess; #2 in the Jazz Age series.

Michael Kilian, A Sinful Safari (2003), a gallery owner who is also a detective goes on safari and investigates a murder; #3 in the Jazz Age series.


Annette Meyers, Free Love (1999), about a woman poet in Greenwich Village during the Roaring Twenties who suddenly finds herself involved in a case of murder; #1 in the Olivia Brown mystery series.

Annette Meyers, Murder Me Now (2001), about a woman poet during the Roaring Twenties who discovers a corpse at a house party and teams up with a private investigator to solve a mystery which seems to have its origins in the sinister Black Hand organization; #2 in the Olivia Brown mystery series.

J.J. Murphy, Murder Your Darlings (2011), a mystery featuring author Dorothy Parker as the sleuth when a drama critic is stabbed to death with a pen at the Algonquin Hotel; #1 in the Algonquin Round Table mystery series.

J.J. Murphy, You Might As Well Die (2011), a mystery featuring author Dorothy Parker teaming up with Harry Houdini to investigate the apparent suicide of an illustrator whose works then triple in value; #2 in the Algonquin Round Table mystery series.


The Great Depression

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Ace Atkins, Infamous (2010), about the 1933 hunt for George "Machine Gun" Kelly after he and his wife kidnap an Oklahoma oilman.

Lyn N. Austin, Wonderland Creek (2011), historical romance about a bookish young woman during the Depression whose life changes after her boyfriend breaks up with her, she loses her job, and she begins doing volunteer work in the east Kentucky mountains; Christian message.

Fran Baker, The Talk of the Town (2011), historical romance about a woman who hires an ex-con in 1933, setting off angry gossip in her small Missouri town.

Russell Banks, The Reserve (2008), about an heiress in upstate New York whose life spins out of control during the Great Depression after her father dies and she meets a charismatic artist.

Matt Bondurant, The Wettest County in the World (2008), about a gang of moonshiners in rural Virginia during Prohibition.

Alan Brennert, Palisades Park (2013), about children who grow up working with their parents at the Palisades Amusement Park in New Jersey in the 1930s.

Sandra Brown, Rainwater (2009), a romance about a woman who runs a boarding house in central Texas while caring for her difficult ten-year-old son, when a new boarder arrives in 1934 just before violence erupts in the town.

Christopher Buehlman, Those Across the River (2011), a horror story about an unemployed veteran who moves into an old family home in Georgia to write a history of a slave-owning ancestor.

Tim Chapman, Bright and Yellow, Hard and Cold (2013), about newlyweds in Chicago during the Depression whose housemates are criminals, and a present-day forensic scientist whose work puts him in conflict with a psychopath searching for gold hidden by gangsters.

Sandra Dallas, Prayers for Sale (2009), about two women who become friends in 1936 in a Colorado mining town that has suffered during the Great Depression. Review

Rebecca Dean, The Palace Circle (2009), about a Southern belle who marries into the British aristocracy shortly before World War II and then, disappointed to discover her husband married her only to produce heirs, has an affair with his best friend.

Anton DiSclafani, The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls (2013), about a fifteen-year-old Florida girl sent away from home to a boarding school in the Blue Ridge Mountains where she tries to come to terms with a tragedy for which she may be partly responsible. Review at the New York Times

E.L. Doctorow, Billy Bathgate (1989), about a fifteen-year-old boy hired as an errand boy by a mobster in the Bronx during the Depression.

Ivan Doig, English Creek (1984), a coming-of-age novel about a boy in rural Montana during the 1930s

Ivan Doig, Bucking the Sun (1996), a literary novel about the building of the Fort Peck dam in 1938.

Julie Drew, Daughter of Providence (2011), about a Rhode Island woman who discovers during the Depression that she has a half-sister raised among Portuguese immigrants and that her father has been hiding the truth about her mother.

Tony Earley, Jim the Boy (2000), a coming-of-age novel about a ten-year-old boy in a small North Carolina town in 1934; the sequel, The Blue Star is set during World War II.

Loren D. Estleman, The Confessions of Al Capone (2013), a biographical novel about the infamous mobster Al Capone.

Edward Falco, The Family Corleone (2012), a prequel to The Godfather, about the fictional 17-year-old Sonny Corleone in 1933 as his Mafia relatives teach him about his family's crime operations; based on a screenplay by Mario Puzo, author of The Godfather.

Ellen Feldman, Scottsboro (2008), about nine black youths arrested on a train for fighting with white boys in Alabama in 1931, where the charge suddenly escalates to rape of two girls who were also on the train.

Jamie Ford, Songs of Willow Frost (2013), about a twelve-year-old Chinese-American boy in Seattle, taken in by nuns after his mother disappears, who sees an actress in a movie and believes he recognizes her as his mother.

Amy Greene, Bloodroot (2010), about a family and a mother's passionate love in Tennessee's Appalachian Mountains, beginning in the 1930s.

Sara Gruen, Water for Elephants (2006), about Depression-era circus performers and a circus elephant.

Patricia Harman, The Midwife of Hope River (2012), about a compassionate Appalachian midwife in the 1930s with a violent secret past.

Ann Hite, Ghost on Black Mountain (2011), about a girl who during the Depression years marries a seemingly charming man who is actually a vicious killer, and goes to live with him on a mountain in Appalachia that is said to be haunted.

Ann Hite, The Storycatcher (2013), about a sixteen-year-old servant girl in North Carolina who can communicate with spirits and is the only person who can help her employer's daughter when she is haunted by a ghost.

Linda Holeman, The Saffron Gate (2009) about an American woman who goes to Marrakesh in the 1930s in search of her missing lover.

Michelle Hoover, The Quickening (2010), about two Midwestern farm women whose friendship is threatened by the secrets they keep from each other.

Samantha Hunt, The Invention of Everything Else (2008), about an unlikely friendship between the eccentric inventor Nikola Tesla and a young chambermaid in the Hotel New Yorker during the 1940s.

Kerry Jamieson, The Forgotten Lies (2011), about three starlets competing to win a major role and the picture's highly desirable leading man in 1935 Hollywood.

Sarah Jio, Blackberry Winter (2012), about a Seattle mother whose son is abducted in 1933 and a modern-day reporter who discovers the story.

Hillary Jordan, Mudbound (2008), about a city woman who marries for the first time at age 31 in 1939, and then reluctantly moves to a farm in the Mississippi Delta with her husband.

Julie Kibler, Calling Me Home (2013), about an elderly white woman's memories of her love for a black man in 1930s Kentucky.

Christina Baker Kline, Orphan Train (2013), about a Penobscot Indian girl in present-day Maine and a woman who was sent from New York as a child in the 1930s on an "orphan train" to find a new home in Minnesota .

Michael Koryta, The Cypress House (2011), about a man with an uncanny ability to sense approaching disaster who persuades a friend to get off the train they are riding, but then can't persuade him to abandon a woman in a Florida resort town headed for catastrophe.

J.D. Landis, The Valley (2006), about the flooding of a Massachusetts valley in 1938 after the building of the Quabbin Dam.

David Leavitt, The Two Hotel Francforts (2013), about two American couples who meet in Lisbon in 1940 while waiting for a ship to take them back to the U.S.

Julie Lessman, A Heart Revealed (2011), historical romance about a Dublin woman who has come to Boston to escape her violent husband, where during the Depression years she falls in love with the brother of a friend; Christian message.

Jonathan Lethem, Dissident Gardens (2013), about a mother who belongs to the American Communist Party and her children over the decades, beginning in the 1930s.

Georgia Lowe, The Bonus (2010), about the "Bonus Marchers" who converge on Washington D.C. in 1932 to pressure the government to pay their veterans' bonuses early. Review at Reading the Past

Adam Mansbach, The End of the Jews (2008), a novel about several generations of an artistic Jewish family, from the 1930s to the present.

Alice Mattison, When We Argued All Night (2012), about the sixty-year-long friendship between two Jewish men from New York, from the Depression years on.

Annette Meyers, Repentances (2004), about a Jewish immigrant in 1936 New York who discovers that his family, whose passages he paid in order to rescue them from the Nazi threat in Europe, have all died, and about a girl who grows up haunted by events stemming from that tragedy.

Shandi Mitchell, Under This Unbroken Sky (2009), about a Ukrainian immigrant and his family and the hardships the experience homesteading in Western Canada in the late 1930s.

Nicole Mones, Night in Shanghai (2014), about a classical pianist who moves to Shanghai in 1936 to lead a jazz orchestra of other black Americans, and falls in love with a Chinese woman obligated to serve a crime boss.

Maryanne O'Hara, Cascade (2012), about a Boston woman who abandons her career as an artist to marry and move to a small town to take care of her dying father.

Gin Phillips, The Well and the Mine (2008), about a girl in a miner's family in Depression-era Alabama who sees a woman throw a baby into a well, forcing her altrustic family to confront a darker side of life.

Ron Rash, Serena (2008), about a 1930s North Carolina lumber baron who marries an ambitious, beautiful and vengeful woman from Boston who takes an active role in his business.

Erika Robuck, Hemingway’s Girl (2012), about a young woman hired as a maid by Hemingway's wife in Key West in the 1930s.

Erika Robuck, Call Me Zelda (2013), about friendship between a psychiatric nurse and Zelda Fitzgerald after Zelda is committed to the Baltimore clinic where she works in 1932.

Irene Sandell, In a Fevered Land (2003), about a young Texas man and his cousin who leave cotton farming for jobs in the oil fields.

Marisa Silver, Mary Coin (2013), about a woman who becomes a migrant worker during the Depression and the photographer whose portrait of her becomes famous. Review

John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath (1939), about an Oklahoma family who migrates to California looking for work during the Great Depression; a classic rather than a true historical novel since Steinbeck researched and wrote it during the Depression.

Emma Straub, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures (2012), about a Wisconsin girl who marries and goes to Hollywood shortly before World War II.

Rhea Tregebov, The Knife Sharpener's Bell (2009), about a girl whose Jewish family decides to leave Canada in the 1930s to settle in the Soviet Union, where she struggles to adapt to life under Stalin and survive the anti-Semitism that follows World War II.

Gore Vidal, Washington D.C. (1967), about a conservative senator with presidential ambitions, a congressional aide, and a newspaper tycoon during the 1930s into the 1950s.

Gore Vidal, The Golden Age (2000), about a Washington D.C. newpaper publisher and her nephew who publishes an intellectual journal from 1939-1954.

Alice Walker, The Color Purple (1982), about a young black woman in an abusive relationship in rural Georgia during the 1930s; won a 1983 Pulitzer Prize.


The Great Depression: Mysteries

Click on the title for more information from Powell's Books or another online source, or if you're outside the U.S., try The Book Depository.


Megan Abbott, Bury Me Deep (2009), about a young woman abandoned by her doctor husband in 1931 who becomes involved with a fast crowd and falls for a charming but roguish politician; inspired by a sensational actual crime.


Susan Wittig Albert, The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree (2010), about garden club ladies in a Depression-era town in Alabama whose acquisition of a new clubhouse comes with a series of mysteries to be solved; #1 in the Darling Dahlias mystery series.

Susan Wittig Albert, The Darling Dahlias and the Naked Ladies (2011), about garden club ladies in a Depression-era town in Alabama who meet a famous dancer and find that big-city crimes seem to be coming to their town with her; #2 in the Darling Dahlias mystery series.

Susan Wittig Albert, The Darling Dahlias and the Confederate Rose (2012), about garden club ladies in a Depression-era town in Alabama who find themselves in difficulties when money goes missing from the county treasury; #3 in the Darling Dahlias mystery series.

Susan Wittig Albert, The Darling Dahlias and the Texas Star (2013), about garden club ladies in a Depression-era town in Alabama who become involved in solving a crime when a famous aviatrix comes to town, bringing trouble with her; #4 in the Darling Dahlias mystery series.


Toby Ball, The Vaults (2010), a thriller about an archivist responsible for the criminal records in the city hall basement of "the City" in 1935.

William Bernhardt, Nemesis: The Final Case of Eliot Ness (2009), a thriller about Chicago lawman Eliot Ness on the trail of a serial killer in the fall of 1935 after he has moved to Cleveland.

Robert Clark, Mr. White's Confession (1998), about a police detective in 1939 Minnesota who becomes obsessed with unraveling the oddities in the case against a reclusive photographer for the murder of two dance hall girls.

Babette Hughes, The Hat (2011), a thriller about a young woman who marries a bootlegger after being fired from her job during the Great Depression and later, as she and her lover try to free her from her husband, discovers a connection to a Mafia murder.

Bev Marshall, Walking Through Shadows (2002), a literary murder mystery set in 1941 Mississippi.

Francine Mathews, Jack 1939 (2012), a thriller which imagines that Franklin Roosevelt sent future U.S. President Jack Kennedy to Europe to spy for the U.S. in 1939.

Sharyn McCrumb, The Devil Amongst the Lawyers (2010), about a journalist in Appalachia in 1935 who competes with a hoard of non-local journalists as he tries to uncover the truth behind a woman's trial for murder with the help of his cousin Nora, gifted with second sight.

Jayne Anne Phillips, Quiet Dell (2013), about a Chicago newspaperwoman who covers the case of a family found dead after a charming man beings courting the widowed mother; based on the true story of a con man who preyed on widows in 1931 Chicago.

Linda L. Richards, Death Was the Other Woman (2008), an old-fashioned hard-boiled mystery set in 1930s Los Angeles, with a twist: the private eye's secretary is the real sleuth; #1 in the Kitty Pangborne mystery series.

Linda L. Richards, Death Was in the Picture (2009), about a private eye's "girl Friday" who discovers the seamy side of Hollywood after her boss is hired to investigate a murder case; #2 in the Kitty Pangborne mystery series.

Andrew Rosenheim, Fear Itself (2012), a thriller about an FBI agent who goes undercover in Chicago to find out the plans of a German-American pro-Nazi organization in the years leading up to World War II.

Andrew Rosenheim, The Little Tokyo Informant (2013), about an FBI agent who travels to Los Angeles to find a Japanese informant who may be able to provide information about Russia spies infiltrating USA government in 1941, on the eve of the Pearl Harbor attack; sequel to Fear Itself.


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