Maude Brown's Baby is a delightful first novel by local West University Place author Richard Cunningham. The book is an historical murder mystery set in Houston and Galveston during World War I. Richard was inspired to write this book by an actual photograph.
I adore historical novels, so this book was an enjoyable read for me. But like a roman a clef, the extra special fun is in spotting the local landmarks and events. I was completely hooked when I read this...
"Them cups? They was the first things I remember buyin' when we come here from Galveston after the Great Storm." Clarence raised his voice so Naomi could hear. "Remember, Mama? That feed store over on Washington had 'em two for a nickel... "
Of course, we MUST be talking about the Wabash Antiques and Feed Store, located at 5701 Washington, right??? Which is incidentally one of Houston's Best Kept Secrets, and probably the only place within spitting distance of downtown Houston where you can still buy roosters, feed and hay.
In Maude Brown's Baby, two of the characters work as photographers for the Houston Chronicle at Travis and Texas, which is still occupied by its massive printing presses. The reporters write their articles on classic Underwood typewriters, of course. Troop trains full of wounded soldiers from the battles in Europe disembark at the old Union Station, now the site of Minute Maid Park. The Fourth Ward, Freedman's Town, white mansions in the Heights, and the Interurban Trolley all wind their way through the story line. In 1918, Galveston is just a short train-ride away. The Galveston Seawall is under construction, and the town's honkey-tonk industry is beginning to organize itself along mafia lines.
I highly recommend Maude Brown's Baby, both for the story itself, and for its backwards glimpse of a youthful Houston and Galveston.
Roger Martin Properties