August 19, 2018

Winnipeg
22° C, Overcast

Full Forecast

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Code-breaker's dirty little secrets sizzle

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/6/2017 (428 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Award-winning Vancouver-based journalist and author Alisa Smith, best known for her 2007 hit The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Eating Local, tries her hand at fiction with her new release. Her debut novel Speakeasy tells the fascinating story of Lena Stillman, an elite code-breaker who tries to keep a shady past hidden from co-workers at the Esquimalt base on Canada’s West Coast during the Second World War.

Inspired by a great aunt who worked as a code-breaker during the war, and drawn to stories about notorious real-life bank robber Bill Bagley, Smith’s Speakeasy jumps between Lena’s escapades with Bagley’s “Clockwork Gang” in the 1930s and her work in the military’s examination unit in the 1940s.

Sucked in by Bill’s charm and penchant for adventure, Lena leaves her boring bank job in Vancouver to join an unruly crew of crooks chasing fame and fortune. At first, the robberies are exhilarating, and the spoils sweet. Doted on by Bill and adored by Byron, another member of the gang, Lena is treated like a queen and has the jewels and clothing to prove it. The gang lives luxuriously between jobs, renting out mansions and partying at Seattle’s best speakeasies.

But as the robberies get riskier and Bill gets more dangerous, Lena begins to feel uneasy. When a heist takes a bad turn and an unhinged Bill takes his anger out on her, she dreams of making her escape.

Get the full story.
No credit card required. Cancel anytime.

Join free for 60 days

After that, pay as little as $0.99 per month for the best local news coverage in Manitoba.

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Join free for 60 days

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Subscribers Log in below to continue reading,
not a subscriber? Create an account to start a 60 day free trial.

Log in Create your account

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Mon to Sat Delivery

Pay

$34.36

per month

  • Includes all benefits of All Access Digital
  • 6-day delivery of our award-winning newspaper
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/6/2017 (428 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Award-winning Vancouver-based journalist and author Alisa Smith, best known for her 2007 hit The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Eating Local, tries her hand at fiction with her new release. Her debut novel Speakeasy tells the fascinating story of Lena Stillman, an elite code-breaker who tries to keep a shady past hidden from co-workers at the Esquimalt base on Canada’s West Coast during the Second World War.

Inspired by a great aunt who worked as a code-breaker during the war, and drawn to stories about notorious real-life bank robber Bill Bagley, Smith’s Speakeasy jumps between Lena’s escapades with Bagley’s "Clockwork Gang" in the 1930s and her work in the military’s examination unit in the 1940s.

Sucked in by Bill’s charm and penchant for adventure, Lena leaves her boring bank job in Vancouver to join an unruly crew of crooks chasing fame and fortune. At first, the robberies are exhilarating, and the spoils sweet. Doted on by Bill and adored by Byron, another member of the gang, Lena is treated like a queen and has the jewels and clothing to prove it. The gang lives luxuriously between jobs, renting out mansions and partying at Seattle’s best speakeasies.

But as the robberies get riskier and Bill gets more dangerous, Lena begins to feel uneasy. When a heist takes a bad turn and an unhinged Bill takes his anger out on her, she dreams of making her escape.

Years later, Lena has managed to keep her past under lock and key, and has worked her way up the ranks to become one of the best code-breakers on the West Coast. Excellent at keeping secrets and solving complex puzzles, she impresses her superiors.

But her carefully composed life is threatened when Bill is captured and sentenced to hang. Worried that her past will be revealed, she becomes more cautious in her work. But when a spy emerges at the base, she’s hand-picked to source the mole. Even friends come under suspicion, and Lena must decide where her loyalties truly lie.

With two captivating storylines (and each era just as exciting as the other), it’s like a tale of two Lenas: one is young, reckless, and fearless; the other is cunning, wise, and no-nonsense.

Lena is a refreshing narrator, one whose perspective is often missing in history — that of a strong, independent woman. Smith has a knack for storytelling and it’s a good thing, too — her protagonist’s story is expected to continue in Smith’s second novel, Doublespeak.

Speakeasy is an entrancing tale of Prohibition-era gangsters, Gatsby-esque living, and wartime intrigue. Mixing real people and events with unforgettable characters and unbelievable exploits, the novel is a true West Coast caper and a winning debut.

Katrina Sklepowich is a lover of all things literary, and creator of the Literally, Katrina podcast and blog at LiterallyKatrina.com.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective January 2015.