I have forever been infatuated by the swing club culture of World War II. During the darkest of times, their seedy facades welcomed those who needed somewhere to let loose and celebrate life.
These bold rebels dressed loudly, danced inappropriately, and even had their own underground jargon, saying things like: “Do you dig this jive?” and “Hey man, you’re comin’ up on the wrong riff!”
In the initial brainstorming for my upcoming novel, Beneath the Satin Gloves, I knew I wanted to immerse myself in this rich, lively environment, somehow incorporating my performance background throughout. As a lifelong dancer, I didn’t want to take the obvious route with my main character, making her a gyrating Swing Kid. Instead, I envisioned her name in lights, the essence of retro glamour, commanding a stage and captivating a crowd.
I am the worst singer in the world. Really…can’t carry a tune in a bucket!
I barely even sing when I’m alone in my own house. Why, do you ask? Because my cats protest. They awake from their deep, daytime slumber, rush over to paw at me, and carry on with strange protesting sounds…“Mommy, shh!”
Without a doubt, I knew my main character had to be a lounge singer. I mentioned in my previous post, Berlin: My Scarred Muse, she is a modern day woman who wakes up in the past. She discovers she is a spying lounge singer, thrown into the middle of war-torn Berlin in 1943.
She is catapulted into a time she previously knew through history books and old movies. Seen through her eyes, the disorientation and awe she experiences is constant throughout the story.
An excerpt from Beneath the Satin Gloves…
Alina looked around in awe at the scene before her. Café Rouge could only be described as a place of utmost warmth and brilliance, overcoming the stark hallway and frigid weather. Everything was tinted in a red and gold haze—plush seating, lazy tablecloths, and opulent curtains created a haven of chic seduction. Early winter nights gave some an excuse to party sooner—the other population simply went to bed.
Although the night was just getting started, a few amateurs were sloshed and sweaty. The opening band was incredible, gold instruments creating genius undulations of sound, blasting the audience with a feast for the ears. A clan of stylishly dressed individuals bombarded the dance floor, dancing with unclean movement highly representative of swing culture.
Men flipped women over their shoulders or between their legs, skirts flew up around heads—it was just another seamless part of the show. Hard stomping, spastic jumping, and shameless gyrating permeated the floor; meanwhile, foul-mouthed dwellers drank and smoked at the wobbly tables. Reflections of the mad room swam in Alina’s effervescent eyes.
It was raunchy. It was beautiful.
So, do you cats dig this excerpt? : )
I’m still wrapping up my novel, but it will be out soon (phew!). In the meantime, please enjoy my favorite scene from the movie Swing Kids.