New Book Series Features Orange County History

Southern California features some of the most intriguing history of anywhere in the country and historical fiction author, D.J. Phinney, is sharing it with readers in his Red Car Noir book series. Each book explores some of the most unbelievable historical facts and events through fictionalized, page-turning stories.

In real life, the Ku Klux Klan was incredibly active in the Anaheim, California area in the early and mid-1900’s. According to a 700-page doctoral dissertation on the history of the KKK entitled, The Invisible Government and the Viable Community: The Ku Klux Klan in Orange County, California During the 1920s, by Christopher Cocoltchos, the Klan attracted attracted some of the counties most respected leaders. For example, in Brea, a small suburb of Los Angeles, according to Cocoltchos, “Five of the town’s first eight mayors were Klansmen as were six of the ten councilmen who sat on the board of trustees from 1924 to 1936. Klansmen dominated the other civic offices during these years, providing 50% of the city’s treasurers, 25% of the city’s engineers, 50% of its city clerks, 50% of its city marshals, and 67% of its fire chiefs.”

Phinney’s first book, The Anaheim Beauties Valencia Queen, incorporates these facts behind the heavy presence of the Klu Klux Klan in Anaheim during the early and mid-1900’s. The book takes readers back a century, to a time when the country was recovering from WWI, orange groves dominated southern California, Hollywood was a mecca for beautiful young women, and the Klan seemed to stand for God, family, country, and the American Way. With stealth, in 1924 the Ku Klux Klan took over Anaheim’s city council plus ten of eleven slots on the police force. In a Roaring 20’s citrus-packing suburb of 10,000 people, where the ethics of Jay Gatsby collide with those of Elmer Gantry, an aspiring high school pitching phenom, fatherless Dean Reynolds, falls under the spell of drop-dead-gorgeous Helen Webber and her agenda-driven, rich father.

In Phinney’ second book, The Cigarette Girl on the Tango, he uses the backdrop of the loophole organized crime used to offer legal gambling in the Los Angeles area in the 1920’s. In the late 1920’s gambling ships first appeared off the coast of Santa Monica, along the Los Angeles coastline. Even though gambling was illegal inCalifornia, the law only extended to three miles off the shoreline, so ferries would shuttle people back and forth from the shoreline.

Phinney uses this piece of gambling history in his book when he unveils another hushed-up chapter of California history. In the depths of the Great Depression, the Santa Ana River floods of 1938 roar through Orange County, destroying Atwood, a river-edge bracero hamlet. 19-year-old Willie O’Toole searches for his missing love, Elena Valenzuela, almost certain she has drowned. At a tamale shop near the western edge of rural Santa Ana, he meets Loretta, who looks exactly like Elena without her innocence. She claims to be Elena’s sister. But some facts aren’t adding up. Then Willie learns Elena’s corpse washed up onshore at Seal Beach, then called “Sin City”, the red-light district and gambling mecca of Orange County. 

The third book in the series, The Society for the Complete Extermination of Ethan Frome, harkens back to 1971, when the Vietnam War had the U.S. population polarized. The story captures the heightened sense of anxiety and uncertainty that permeated society through a coming-of-age historical fiction novel that mirrors the current age of privilege and shaming. 

History can be shared many different ways, and author D.J. Phinney does it through his historical fiction storytelling.

Media Contact
Company Name: The Red Car Noir Series
Contact Person: D.J. Phinney
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Country: United States