Meet Geoffrey Hunter from Rosemary Simpson’s Death Brings a Shadow

Geoffrey, thank you for sitting down to this interview.  I am glad I could catch up with you as you travel with Prudence MacKenzie from New York City to the Georgia coast. You must have many mixed feelings since you are originally from the South and saw how the Civil War devastated the area.  But, Prudence, your partner in the Investigative firm has tried to keep you on level ground.   Unfortunately, once the murder took place feelings began to unravel, especially with the death of the bride to be.

Elise Cooper: How would you describe yourself?

Geoffrey Hunter: Physically I’m tall, dark-haired, dark-eyed. My brief career as a Pinkerton sent me into dangerous situations and I learned early that in order to extricate myself I needed to be in the best physical shape possible. I took up amateur boxing and I’m an expert rider, dating back to when I was put on horseback as a child. We were also taught how to move silently, how to hide in a crowd, and how to disguise ourselves. I’m a gentleman.

EC: How has your Southern background influenced who you are today?

GH: It’s both who I am and who I am not. I have found it difficult to condemn everything Southern, as some would like me do, because I cannot entirely renounce family ties. But at the same time, I condemn a way of life that depended on the enslavement of an entire people based solely on the color of their skin. Slavery was wrong, no matter how hard or how often our Southern preachers tried to justify it. 

EC:  Do you ever feel conflicted between loyalties to your family, your culture, and the wrongness of certain customs?

GH: All the time. The only way I can deal with these loyalties is to compartmentalize them. In my heart and in my thoughts, I separate my family from the culture in which most of my relatives still live. I have to see them as individuals, not as representatives of a way of life I have renounced. Distance makes that easier. I have no wish to spend time in the South and my family has no desire to travel north.

EC: How would you describe Prudence?

GH: She is the most intelligent woman I’ve ever met, and certainly among the most challenging. I think she tries to be as honest and open as her upbringing will allow. She has a warm, generous heart and a terrible addiction she has to battle every day of her life. She’s also very beautiful.

EC: How would you describe your relationship with Prudence?

GH: I don’t know the exact moment when I fell in love with her, but I do know that what I feel is deep, sincere, and will endure for the rest of our lives. But Prudence is like a skittish horse who has to be won over without breaking its spirit. I dare not make demands on her that she cannot meet or that frighten her with their intensity. I proceed as slowly as I can bear. I respect her immensely.

EC:  Why did you choose Prudence as a partner in an investigative firm?

GH: I think we chose one another. Circumstance brought us together, chemistry binds us. On the practical side, having her as my partner means I have good excuses to be by her side for as many hours of the day as I can manage.

EC: Do you think the Bennetts who were the groom’s family, represent the best and the worst of the Southern culture?

GH: They may have some of the best and some of the worst characteristics, but taken all together I find them rather typical of their class. There was really almost nothing about them that surprised me.

EC: How would you describe them?

GH: Aurora Lee and Maggie Jane, the sisters of the unfortunate groom-to-be, represent a certain type of woman who was found everywhere in the South for as far back as I can remember. These women play games in order to fulfill the only destiny they deem worthy of them—to marry well. They have little or no interest in anything else and if they do not marry, they consider themselves failures. So does everyone else.

The father, Elijah Bennett lives in a world that doesn’t exist anymore. His entire life was defined by a war his side lost. He doesn’t accept defeat but he also doesn’t know how to live in a new era without slaves and inherited wealth.

The groom-to-be, Teddy, and his brother, Lawrence, are two sides of a coin, the one epitomizing acceptance of change and generosity of spirit, the other a younger version of their father.

EC: You were the second for a duel-don’t you think that is an archaic tradition?

GH: Archaic only because it is against the law to duel. But it was once the only way a gentleman could preserve his honor in a dispute or after an insult had been dealt him. When I was growing up, it was made clear to me that every gentleman had to be prepared to defend his good name and reputation. Even though dueling may not have been as common then as it once was, it was nevertheless held up as the ultimate test of courage. So when Teddy decided it was the only way to resolve the wrong of Eleanor’s death, it seemed utterly right and fitting that he should choose to do it through a duel. Perhaps that’s difficult for you to understand, but it was so ingrained in me that I never doubted it was the right thing to do.

EC: Did you ever know someone like Aunt Jessa or Queen Lula?

GH: Mama Flore was our home plantation’s voodoo woman. I grew up around her incantations and I believed in them. Nobody dared challenge her powers.

EC: How would you describe them?

GH: Aunt Jessa and Queen Lula were spirit sisters. Their main purpose in life was to link the world of the dead and the world of the living. They believed utterly that some people could cross back and forth between the two worlds, and that their curses, juju dolls, and spells were what made those passages possible.

EC: How would you describe Wildacre and did it bring back memories?

GH: Wildacre was very like my home plantation of Sandyhill in eastern North Carolina, in that it was the beating heart of a miniature society. Large, isolated, requiring the upkeep of at least a dozen house slaves. By the time Prudence and I went to Bradford Island, Wildacre was showing the effects of years of declining fortunes and neglect, but seeing it as it was then made it easy to imagine what it must have been like in its heyday. Whitewashed brick, tall pillars, acres of green grass, a long alleyway of soaring trees. And the screech of peacocks. I’ll always associate that noise with how we used to live in the South.

EC: How would you compare New York where you currently live to the South?

GH: There is no comparison. It’s a different world entirely. One in which I now feel completely comfortable. It’s only if I meet a fellow Southerner and slip accidentally into the accent of where I was born that I am momentarily jarred into nostalgia.

EC: If you could make a wish what would it be?

GH: To live the rest of my life with Prudence beside me as my wife.

EC: Do you still have hopes and dreams or do you consider yourself a cynic?

GH: Cynicism is just another word that tries to justify giving up. Not working for constructive change because you doubt it’s possible or lasting. I’m not a cynic. I’m not a pessimist. As a Pinkerton, I saw some of the worst in humankind. Choosing the life of a lawyer and private inquiry agent also brings me into close contact with the criminal element. I knew that when I chose it. I still have confidence that most men and women strive to be something better. 

THANK YOU!!

The fourth Gilded Age Mystery, “Death Brings a Shadow,” was published in November 2019, and the fifth book in the series will be out in late 2020. Rosemary is also the author of two stand-alone historical novels, “The Seven Hills of Paradise” and “Dreams and Shadows.”.”


She is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers and the Historical Novel Society. Educated in France and the United States, she now lives near Tucson, Arizona.

All About Reggie from Rachel McMillian’s Murder at the Flamingo

Flamingo9_8_1Name: Regina Van Buren (but I only get Regina from my mother’s bridge club. I go by Reggie).

Parents: William Van Buren and Patricia Van Buren

Siblings: an older brother who is a stock broker in New York, Richard.

Places lived: New Haven Connecticut, Charlestown/Boston

Jobs: debutante (is this a job? No wonder I ran away), secretary to Luca Valari

Friends: Hamish DeLuca, Nate Reis, Vaughan Vanderlaan ( though I currently would like to throw a glass of chardonnay in his face, we are still friends).

Enemies: every other socialite at my parents’ tea socials who wish Vaughan Vanderlaan was on their arm instead of hers.

Dating, marriage: Vaughan proposed out of nowhere, in front of an entire garden party.  Obviously, I slapped him across the face and then hopped the first milk train run to Boston. Haven’t heard from him since so unsure if we’re still dating.

Children: none

What person do you most admire?  I’d love to have the panache and guts of Myrna Loy. She and William Powell just run headfirst into mystery and mayhem and adventure—and she does it with such style.  But speaking to people of my personal acquaintance, I would have to say Hamish DeLuca.  He has these episodes of nerves, see. Sometimes I think he is even having a heart attack. They can stutter his voice and cause his hand to shake but he is still determined to overcome and to see us to the end of our first amateur sleuthing opportunity. I admire his loyalty to his cousin Luca, too. Even if Luca doesn’t deserve it.

Overall outlook on life: I want adventure! And romance! And dancing! Life is exceptional, isn’t it? All the interesting people you meet and the corners to be turned … and the friends to be had.  Why, just the past Summer I met two new friends—Nate and Hamish.  Hamish of course looks at me in a way Nate never would… but he’s a dear, dear friend. Something in the tingles I feel down to my toes when we dance at the Flamingo make me wonder just how dear a friend…

Do you like yourself? I would rather be inimitable me than anyone else in the world! I mean look at the adventures I am having!  Cannoli every day, an office in the North End, a glistening world of night clubs and enough mystery to keep me jogging in my oxfords around the cobblestoned streets of Boston’s North End during the day.

What, if anything, would you like to change about your life? I wish that I didn’t feel guilty about the amount of wealth I had while so many have had nothing. Of course, Roosevelt’s New Deals are going a long way and I mean to start volunteering at Mildred Rue’s Temporary Employment Agency: but I have never known loss or suffering. I wish there wasn’t such a great divide between those who have and those who have not.  I am seeing it more and more as I work in the office for Luca Valari while he gets his Flamingo Club up and running.

How are you viewed by others?  I suppose as another New Haven debutante.  As someone who ought to be more graceful than she is. I feel like a dandelion at the end of a long line of roses.  But I am trying. I know that Hamish thinks me trustworthy and Nate thinks I am smart and Luca thinks I have the taste and class to help him manage before his club’s opening.

Physical appearance:

Eyes: brown

Hair: brown. I try to set it in finger waves carefully but the Boston humidity can wreak havoc on all my efforts. And unlike home when there was always someone to do it for me, it’s gotten harder.

Voice: Hamish says I have a bit of the Brahmin about me. Crisp glass like Clara Bow or Katharine Hepburn.  Alto.

Right- or left-handed? Right.

Characteristics: I have freckles.

When are you happy?  The first bite of Mrs. Leoni’s cannoli, ripping up the dance floor with Hamish.

What do you like best about the other main characters in your book? I like Luca’s suave sophistication and the way he can Clark Gable a room, I like that Hamish has a good heart and a need to see everything right. Not to mention his loyalty to Luca.  I like Nate’s sense of humour.

What do you like least about the other main characters in your book? I don’t trust Luca Valari as far as I can throw him.

Thanks for visiting with us today on PASTimes, Reggie!

Rachel McMillan is a history enthusiast, lifelong bibliophile, and author of the Herringford and Watts series. When not reading (or writing), Rachel can be found at the theater, traveling near and far, and watching far too many British miniseries. Rachel lives in Toronto where she works in educational publishing and is always planning her next trip to Boston. Facebook: RachKMc1; Twitter: @RachKMc; Instagram: RachKMc.

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