The Physicists’ Daughter: A Novel
by Mary Anna Evans
About The Physicists’ Daughter
The Physicists’ Daughter: A Novel
Poisoned Pen Press (June 7, 2022)
Paperback : 352 pages
ISBN-10 : 1464215553
Digital ASIN : B09TGB4BVK
The Nazis are no match for the physicists’ daughter.
New Orleans, 1944
Sabotage. That’s the word on factory worker Justine Byrne’s mind as she is repeatedly called to weld machine parts that keep failing with no clear cause. Could someone inside the secretive Carbon Division be deliberately undermining the factory’s war efforts? Raised by her late parents to think logically, she also can’t help wondering just what the oddly shaped carbon gadgets she assembles day after day have to do with the boats the factory builds…
When a crane inexplicably crashes to the factory floor, leaving a woman dead, Justine can no longer ignore her nagging fear that German spies are at work within the building, trying to put the factory and its workers out of commission. Unable to trust anyone—not the charming men vying for her attention, not her unpleasant boss, and not even the women who work beside her—Justine draws on the legacy of her unconventional upbringing to keep her division running and protect her coworkers, her country , and herself from a war that is suddenly very close to home.
Great Escapes Praise for The Physicists’ Daughter: A Novel
by Mary Anna Evans
Sabotage, espionage, and lots of science combine to make THE PHYSICISTS’ DAUGHTER an enthralling novel filled with cunning characters, growing friendships, and cloak and dagger adventure.
~Cozy Up With Kathy
The Physicists’ Daughter delivers a wartime thriller from a fresh perspective—espionage on the home front.
The Physicist’s Daughter feels like a very scientific mystery. The narrative is very analytical, detailed, and thorough. I give the author kudos for her cartoonal of women’s roles at home during this fascinating time period.
~Mysteries with Character
It is my pleasure to welcome Mary Anna Evans
to Escape With Dollycas today!
Getting Comfortable in the 1940s with The Physicists’ Daughter
I’ve been writing mysteries about archaeologist Faye Longchamp for twenty years, so I’ve done a lot of digging around in history. To get an idea for the next book, I’d decide on a setting, then I’d read about its history until I came up with something cool for her to dig up. (Or for something cool for her to find at a library, since archaeologists “dig” there, too.)
To write Justine Byrne’s story in The Physicists’ Daughter, I did much the same thing. During a visit to New Orleans, I toured The National WWII Museum and was fascinated with the importance of the war work that was done right there in a city that was just a hundred miles from where I grew up. How could I not have known that the famous boats that carried troops ashore on D-Day—the duckbilled boats that we’ve all seen in photos and newsreels—were built in New Orleans? The same factories built PT boats like the one John F. Kennedy commanded. They built airplanes and much, much more.
And, because D-Day came so late in the war, I realized that many of the people building those world-saving war machines would have been women. By 1944, women all over the country were doing jobs that had always been reserved for men, and they were doing them well. When I imagined Justine Byrne, twenty-one years old and alone in the world, using the welding skills that her physicist parents taught her to fight back at the Nazis, I knew I had my story.
But people are more than their jobs. I needed to be able to imagine Justine’s world as it was in 1944. Fortunately, there are books, libraries, and the internet in this world. I actually already owned a critical book, the Federal Writers’ Project’s New Orleans City Guide, published in 1938. It was intended for travelers planning a vacation to New Orleans, so it gave me enough information on night clubs for me to invent my fictional TickTock Club, where Justine breaks up a bar fight with her shoe. It also gave me a sense of the city’s waterfront in those days, when it was much more of a working port than a tourist destination.
A Sanborn Fire Insurance Atlas helped me choose the neighborhood where her rooming house would be, and it helped me plan how she would get around, since a woman earning her salary at that time wouldn’t have been able to afford a car. An article on historic preservation in New Orleans told me that her neighborhood would have been posh in the 1800s but pretty grimy in the 1940s. An old newspaper article told me about the air raid drills the city experienced during the war.
And the war pervaded everything in those days. Scrap metal was too valuable to waste, and food was rationed, but people are creative. I found a fabulous article on newspapers.com that included recipes designed to use what people tended to have in their pantries. Sugar was rationed, but people will always want treats to keep their hopes up, so one of those recipes was for a chocolate cake sweetened with corn syrup. It was shelf-stable, which meant that many cooks had it on hand for times when they couldn’t get sugar. I like to imagine people celebrating their birthdays with that chocolate cake, laughing and smiling despite the hard times.
To make Justine’s world seem real, I learned about the jitterbug and about victory roll hairstyles. I learned about the peep-toed shoes that Justine used to stop that fight. I learned about the landscape around the real-life manufacturing plant where she worked, a facility where NASA now builds rockets. I looked at a 1940 yearbook for Tulane and at historic maps for Sophie Newcomb College. I read about the history of New Orleans’ famous streetcar lines.
And I learned about the history of science, especially the history of women in science. Justine saves the factory where she works, she saves her friends, and it is entirely possible that she salvages victory in a world war, because she understands physics. She understands how things work. Women were often prevented from learning science in those days, so the science she learned from her parents sets her apart. It makes her who she is. Take a trip to mid-twentieth-century New Orleans with Justine and see how she uses knowledge, facts, and most of all, science to save the day.
Thank you Mary Anna for visiting today!
More About Mary Anna Evans
Mary Anna Evans is the author of The Physicists’ Daughter, the first in her series of WWII-era historical suspense novels featuring Rosie-the-Riveter-turned-codebreaker Justine Byrne. Her thirteen Faye Longchamp archaeological mysteries have received recognition including the Benjamin Franklin Award, a Will Rogers Medallion Award Gold Medal, the Oklahoma Book Award, and three Florida Book Awards bronze medals. She is an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma, where she teaches fiction and nonfiction writing, including mystery and suspense writing. Her work has appeared in publications including Plots with Guns, The Atlantic, Florida Heat Wave, Dallas Morning News, and The Louisville Review. Her scholarship on crime fiction, which centers on Agatha Christie’s evolving approach over her long career to the ways women experienced justice in the twentieth century, has appeared in the Bloomsbury Handbook to Agatha Christie (coming September 22, 2022), which she co-edited, and in Clues: A Journal of Detection. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Rutgers-Camden, and she is a licensed Professional Engineer. She is at work on the second Justine Byrne novel, The Physicists’ Enigma.
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