March 17, 2024 at 7pm

James R. Benn, Avery Cunningham, Robin Olivera, Heather Webb

James R. Benn

Winter 1944: Months after the Liberation of France, ex-Boston cop Billy Boyle finds himself in a Paris reeling from the carnage it has endured but hopeful that an end to war is in sight. When Billy finds a rare piece of artwork after a tense shoot-out in the Père Lachaise Cemetery, he thinks it could be connected to the Syndicat du Renard, a shadowy network of Nazi sympathizers known to be smuggling stolen artwork out of France.

Trailing the Syndicat, Billy discovers that someone with a high level of communications clearance—someone in the Phantom regiment of the British Army—may be using his position to aid the thieves. Billy, determined to stop the abettor, heads up to the frontlines where he experiences a last-ditch battle against overwhelming odds. There, the ruinous Battle of the Bulge unfurls in the Ardennes Forest. Can Billy and his team survive the bracing onslaught and return the stolen artwork to its rightful protectors?

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The Phantom Patrol

inter 1944: Months after the Liberation of France, ex-Boston cop Billy Boyle finds himself in a Paris reeling from the carnage it has endured but hopeful that an end to war is in sight. When Billy finds a rare piece of artwork after a tense shoot-out in the Père Lachaise Cemetery, he thinks it could be connected to the Syndicat du Renard, a shadowy network of Nazi sympathizers known to be smuggling stolen artwork out of France. Trailing the Syndicat, Billy discovers that someone with a high level of communications clearance—someone in the Phantom regiment of the British Army—may be using his position to aid the thieves. Billy, determined to stop the abettor, heads up to the frontlines where he experiences a last-ditch battle against overwhelming odds. There, the ruinous Battle of the Bulge unfurls in the Ardennes Forest. Can Billy and his team survive the bracing onslaught and return the stolen artwork to its rightful protectors?

Avery Cunningham

Avery Cunningham is a resident of Memphis, TN, and a 2016 graduate of DePaul University’s Master of Arts Writing & Publishing program. She has over a decade of editorial experience with various literary magazines, small presses, and best-selling authors.

Avery grew up surrounded by exceptional African Americans who strived to uplift their communities while also maintaining a tenuous hold on prosperity in a starkly segregated environment. The sensation of being at once within and without is something she has grappled with since childhood and explores thoroughly in her work of historical fiction.

When not writing, Avery is adventuring with her Bernese Mountain Dog, Grizzly, and wading waist-deep in research for her next novel. She aspires to tell the stories of complex characters fighting for their right to exist at the fringes of history. The Mayor of Maxwell Street is her debut novel.

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The Mayor of Maxwell Street

The year is 1921, and America is burning. A fire of vice and virtue rages on every shore, and Chicago is its beating heart. Nelly Sawyer is the daughter of the “wealthiest Negro in America,” whose affluence catapulted his family to the heights of Black society. After the unexpected death of her only brother, Nelly becomes the premier debutante overnight. But Nelly has aspirations beyond society influence and marriage. For the past year, she has worked undercover as an investigative journalist, sharing the achievements and tribulations of everyday Black people living in the shadow of Jim Crow. Her latest assignment thrusts her into the den of a dangerous vice lord: the so-called Mayor of Maxwell Street. Born in rural Alabama to a murdered biracial couple, Jay Shorey knows firsthand what it means to be denied a chance at the American dream. When a tragic turn of fate gave Jay a rare path out, he took it without question. He washed up on Chicago’s storied shores and forged his own way to the top of the city’s underworld, running Chicago’s swankiest speakeasy, where the rich and famous rub elbows with gangsters and politicians alike. When Nelly’s and Jay’s paths cross, she recruits him to help expose the Mayor and bring about lasting change in a corrupt city. But Jay also introduces a whole new world to Nelly, one where her horizons can extend beyond the confines of her ivory tower. Trapped between the monolith of Jim Crow, the inflexible world of the Black upper class, and the violence of Prohibition-era Chicago, Jay and Nelly work together and stoke the flames of a love worth fighting for.

Robin Oliveira

Robin Oliveira is the New York Times bestselling author of My Name Is Mary Sutter, I Always Loved You, Winter Sisters, and A Wild and Heavenly Place.

She holds a BA in Russian and studied at the Pushkin Language Institute in Moscow. She received an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is a former registered nurse, specializing in critical care. She lives near Seattle, Washington.

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A Wild Heavenly Place

Hailey MacIntyre seems conjured from the depths of Samuel Fiddes’s loneliness. Caring for his young sister in the tenements of Glasgow, Scotland, Samuel has known only hunger, while Hailey has never known want. Yet, when Samuel saves Hailey’s brother from a runaway carriage, their connection is undeniable. Through secret meetings and stolen moments, their improbable love grows. But then the City of Glasgow Bank fails, and Hailey’s bankrupt father impulsively moves their family across the globe to Seattle, a city rumored to have coal in its hills and easy money for anyone willing to work for it. Samuel is haunted by Hailey’s parting words: Remember, Washington Territory. Armed only with his wits, he determines to follow her, leaving behind everything he has ever known in search of Hailey and the chance of a better life for his sister. But the fledgling town barely cut out of the wilderness holds its own secrets and will test them all in ways unimaginable. Poignant and lyrical, A Wild and Heavenly Place is an ode to the Pacific Northwest, to those courageous enough to chase the American Dream, and to a love so powerful it endures beyond distance, beyond hope.

Heather Webb

Heather Webb is the USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of nine historical novels, including her up and coming Queens of London set to release in 2024, and her most recent novels, The Next Ship Home and Strangers in the Night. In 2015, Rodin’s Lover was a Goodread’s Top Pick, and in 2018, Last Christmas in Paris won the Women’s Fiction Writers Association STAR Award. Meet Me in Monaco, was selected as a finalist for the 2020 Goldsboro RNA award in the UK, as well as the 2019 Digital Book World’s Fiction prize. Three Words for Goodbye was a Prima Magazine’s 2022 Book of the Year.

To date, Heather’s books have been translated to seventeen languages. Heather’s new solo novel, Queens of London, is about an all-female gang in 1925 London, led by the notorious Diamond Annie and the Forty Elephants. She has also joined forces again with her beloved writing partner, Hazel Gaynor, for a fourth collaboration at William Morrow entitled Christmas with the Queen, coming in fall of 2024. She lives in New England with her family and a mischievous kitten.

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Queens of London

1925. London. When Alice Diamond, AKA “Diamond Annie,” is elected the Queen of the Forty Elephants, she’s determined to take the all-girl gang to new heights. She’s ambitious, tough as nails, and a brilliant mastermind, with a plan to create a dynasty the likes of which no one has ever seen. Alice demands absolute loyalty from her “family”―it’s how she’s always kept the cops in line. Too bad she’s now the target for one of Britain’s first female policewomen. Officer Lilian Wyles isn’t merely one of the first female detectives at Scotland Yard, she’s one of the best detectives on the force. Even so, she’ll have to win a big score to prove herself, to break free from the “women’s work” she’s been assigned. When she hears about the large-scale heist in the works to fund Alice’s new dynasty, she realizes she has the chance she’s been looking for―and the added bonus of putting Diamond Annie out of business permanently.

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The Back Room is the brainchild of best selling authors Hank Phillippi Ryan and Karen Dionne. Each event they are host to a lively discussion with a panel of authors.

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