Laurie R. King Virtual Book Club discussion

Girl Waits with Gun (Kopp Sisters, #1)
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Archived VBC Selections > Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart - VBC Jan 2018

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Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
By popular request, this month we're reading Amy Stewart's Girl Waits with Gun. This historical mystery starts out with Constance Kopp and her two sisters getting into an auto accident with a puffed up silk factory owner and continues on when the sheriff asks for her help in convicting the man and his bullies.

The series is based on real people and events, which makes this mystery extra fun to read. And Ms Stewart has shared some great tidbits about people on her website if you want to check them out.

Have you started reading yet? Were you one of the many people who requested that we discuss this book? What are your thoughts so far?


Isabella Troxell (isabelredfox) | 19 comments My books is on it's way and I'm so looking forward to starting it


message 3: by Ana (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ana Brazil (panab) | 43 comments I got an ebook from the library & am halfway through. Good, fresh story!


message 4: by Emily (new)

Emily | 341 comments I had never heard of it and didn't realize it was based on real events until I read the author's note, and would never have guessed that. (Except I thought the selection of names was very odd - I would not expect to find a Norma and Fleurette in the same family.) I will have to look at the link and learn more.


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Mary (storytellermary) | 261 comments I am on the third book MISS KOPP'S MIDNIGHT CONFESSIONS and these books should come with a "won't get anything else done" warning. I can't quite define what makes me as a reader care about the characters, some balance of good with human foibles, but I know when I'm in the grip of it, and Amy Stewart has it, along with writing that flows beautifully. Strong, intelligent characters, humanity, and enough unexpected twists to keep things lively.
I came across GIRL WAIT WITH GUN in, of all places, the Costco newsletter. ;-)


Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
I totally book shop at Costco every time I'm there. Even when I know that all I need is like toilet paper or whatever, I immediately head to the book section to see what they have.


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Mary (storytellermary) | 261 comments I generally get books from the library these days . . . overflowing bookshelves, retirement income, but I am delighted by the book section. It does my heart good to see the children eagerly selecting books. Hope for the future.


message 8: by Dayna (new)

Dayna | 204 comments Picked up the book from the library yesterday and began reading last night. Love Constance and her sisters, and Stewart’s prose is at the same time uncomplicated and engaging. I’m really going to enjoy this book!


message 9: by Ana (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ana Brazil (panab) | 43 comments Emily wrote: "I had never heard of it and didn't realize it was based on real events until I read the author's note, and would never have guessed that. (Except I thought the selection of names was very odd - I w..."

I was immediately struck by the sisters's names and thought that it was the author's (very successful) way of differentiating the characters. A Norma is always going to be viewed differently from a Fleurette!


message 10: by Emily (new)

Emily | 341 comments Ana wrote: "A Norma is always going to be viewed differently from a Fleurette! .."

Of course, what a name connotates will vary over the years, too - there's a line in one of the Anne of Green Gables books where one of the characters, called by her middle name, wishes she could be called by her "beautiful and dignified" first name - Bertha.


message 11: by Erin (new) - rated it 3 stars

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
The age range of the siblings is just crazy to me. Constance is old enough to be Fleurette's mother! Fleurette must have been a surprise baby.

Also, I find it kind of funny that Francis keeps referring to Constance and Norma as "girls" when they are both in their 30s.


message 12: by Emily (new)

Emily | 341 comments Keep reading...


Antoinette | 186 comments I reserved it at the library today.


Ellen | 56 comments I just finished it. It was interesting, especially given that it is based on real people and events. I had never heard of it before, so I'm glad it was suggested! I look forward to the discussion.


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Carole (thegoodwitchofmarytavy) | 86 comments Erin wrote: "The age range of the siblings is just crazy to me. Constance is old enough to be Fleurette's mother! Fleurette must have been a surprise baby.

Also, I find it kind of funny that Francis keeps refe..."


Welcome to my crazy family! My youngest sister is 21 years younger than I. Definitely a surprise.


message 16: by Erin (new) - rated it 3 stars

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Given how much of the book is based on real people and their real stories...can you tell which parts are made up?


message 17: by Emily (new)

Emily | 341 comments Erin wrote: "Given how much of the book is based on real people and their real stories...can you tell which parts are made up?"

I would not have guessed had I not read the author's note - looking back on it, it is true that the book doesn't have quite the plot arc one would get from a made-up story (no second corpse, as it were, or particularly satisfying ending). She doesn't have diaries or anything, does she? I presume everything about Constance's thoughts is her re-creation.


message 18: by Erin (new) - rated it 3 stars

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Reading through the material on the author's webpage, it looks like most of her research was newspaper articles, so probably most of Constance's thoughts are made up (or rather, inferred from her newspaper interviews).

In the Q&A sections on her webpage, Amy Stewart says that she has actually met some of the Kopp family, though! She found Fluerette's son and Francis' grandson via Ancestry.com, so I imagine she was able to get some extra personality anecdotes.

I just find the history so fascinating.


Elisabeth | 113 comments The history is what drew me to this book, and I was pleasantly surprised to find it also so well-written and engaging.

The author recently appeared at an event near me so I was able to ask her about how she decided where to use fact and where to use fiction. She said there was so much good stuff that really happened, she only fictionalized some small elements in order to serve the needs of the mystery genre and give each book a closed arc. (And there's nothing to say that the stuff she made up didn't also happen! ;) ) She herself is a pretty interesting person and her research drive is incredible.

She also said she got a good sense of the personalities from her interviews with the family, so she felt she was able to be pretty authentic with her characters.


message 20: by Erin (new) - rated it 3 stars

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
It's the 10th, y'all; spoiler away!


message 21: by Emily (new)

Emily | 341 comments Erin wrote: "It's the 10th, y'all; spoiler away!"

So now do you understand why Constance is old enough to be Fleurette's mother?


message 22: by Erin (new) - rated it 3 stars

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Emily wrote: "So now do you understand why Constance is old enough to be Fleurette's mother?"

Ha! Yep; I caught that. That is one of the questions I was thinking about when I asked the fact/fiction question. Was Fleurette really Constance's? Or was that a made-up bit for the story to give her something to connect with Lucy on?


message 23: by Emily (last edited Jan 11, 2018 01:22PM) (new)

Emily | 341 comments Erin wrote: "Emily wrote: "So now do you understand why Constance is old enough to be Fleurette's mother?"

Ha! Yep; I caught that. That is one of the questions I was thinking about when I asked the fact/fictio..."


I thought that one of the author's notes said that, but I can't find it at the moment. I agree it was a little confusing at the beginning - I kept saying to myself, "So who is Fleurette? A cousin? A foster child who's been taken in?", so when you finally learn the truth, it makes sense why the description was a little off for widely-spaced sisters.

One thing is how large Constance would have been for the time. 6 feet! I had some sympathy with the woman who wouldn't hire her as a detective because she'd stick out too much.


message 24: by Elisabeth (last edited Jan 12, 2018 09:20AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Elisabeth | 113 comments Fleurette was really Constance's, that part was not made up. IIRC her dad was really a sewing machine salesman.

Lucy was made up. :)


message 25: by [deleted user] (new)

Hi, I’ve just joined this reading group.... Hi! Will be doing a quick catch up read of this month’s book. Looks intriguing.


Mkotch I really enjoyed this book. Thanks to whoever suggested it. I love the time period, between horse-and-buggy days and the automobile age. My brother lives in Ridgewood, NJ, so it was interesting to think that area, now so suburban and busy, actually had a history.


message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

I am half way through this book and like others on this forum think that it a great choice. There is a very sinister build up of tension which I cannot think will end well for the protagonists. On a personal level my blood boils for the women who are facing a world where not only is the law on the side of the rich but also on the side of men. (How much has that changed?) The scales of justice are not balanced. But also as a very tall woman myself I also know how intimidating (I was frequently told as a young woman) a tall woman can be. That it is articulated by another woman (Norma, I think) is not untypical but infuriating. A great read so far, all the more intriguing as the background story is true.


Elisabeth | 113 comments Pam wrote: "I am half way through this book and like others on this forum think that it a great choice. There is a very sinister build up of tension which I cannot think will end well for the protagonists. On ..."

It struck me as I was reading how many parallels remain in the "modern" world. Stewart mentioned at her presentation noticing the same things as she was researching and writing the book, that much has changed but so much hasn't changed much, or hasn't changed enough.


message 29: by Erin (new) - rated it 3 stars

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
I think the thing that I've been thinking about the most is current law vs old law.

Like the accident at the beginning of the book, for example: this would have been an insurance battle if it happened today, rather than Constance having to approach Kaufman directly, which would have stopped the entire conflict at the start. And the police would definitely have been called immediately because of injury and property damage (though I'm not sure how this works in more rural areas). If Kaufman had tried to drive off like it he wanted, he would have been libel as a hit and run.

The story would definitely have been very different if it was a different era.


message 30: by [deleted user] (new)

Interesting points about similarities and differences. I am also intrigued by the industrial relations backdrop, the lockouts, starvation of the strikers and the intimidation. Unfortunately it is a really potent ?stereotype of US labour relations (looking over from Europe, that is), but of course similar in Europe at the time (and more recently in the UK). Have labour relations changed but stayed the same too? Although set against real circumstances it does create a real baddie in the factory owner and Constance is seen in a more sympathetic light. She does mix it a bit though and head for trouble although putting it better- her moral courage gets in the way of caution, I feel. Although I am cheering her on.


message 31: by Emily (new)

Emily | 341 comments Pam wrote: "She does mix it a bit though and head for trouble although putting it better- her moral courage gets in the way of caution, I feel. Although I am cheering her on. ..."

In a book, I always cheer it on.. I suspect in person, it would come off as more scary.


message 32: by Erin (new) - rated it 3 stars

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
In a book, I always cheer it on.. I suspect in person, it would come off as more scary."

Definitely these things would be way more scary in person. I supposed I want the fictional characters I follow to be a smidge more brave than I am. Plus, since it's fiction, there's a higher likelihood that the protagonist will survive the scary situation.


message 33: by Emily (new)

Emily | 341 comments Erin wrote: "In a book, I always cheer it on.. I suspect in person, it would come off as more scary."

Definitely these things would be way more scary in person. I supposed I want the fictional characters I fol..."


Sure, in a book (or movie), I'm always like, "Stand up for what's right!", while in person, I'm sure I would think, "Why is this unhinged person yelling?"

It's certainly true that some issues never seem to go away, or get settled. "You're coddling those prisoners!", for one, and I think there is an inherent labor-management tension in any capitalist system (American or European), though the level of rancor may vary over the years.


message 34: by Ana (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ana Brazil (panab) | 43 comments Emily wrote: "Erin wrote: "In a book, I always cheer it on.. I suspect in person, it would come off as more scary."

Definitely these things would be way more scary in person. I supposed I want the fictional cha..."


But we also have to think about Constance in 1914 New Jersey. In that time and place, she certainly believes that justice *should* & *can* prevail. And believing *that* makes her braver and a more active heroine.


message 35: by Emily (new)

Emily | 341 comments Ana wrote: "But we also have to think about Constance in 1914 New Jersey. In that time and place, she certainly believes that justice *should* & *can* prevail. And believing *that* makes her braver and a more active heroine...."

It's clear that Constance thinks that, but would it really be a more general philosophy, especially for women? I'd think it just as likely that the prevailing mindset would be, "I'll never win against a rich man" or even "He's a rich man, so he must be right".

Of course, there's the theory that WWI was partially caused by men who'd read too much Ivanhoe and Tennyson and thought they were charging off to glory, so certainly some of that idealism was running around.


message 36: by Erin (new) - rated it 3 stars

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Emily wrote: "It's clear that Constance thinks that, but would it really be a more general philosophy, especially for women?"

Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. Was justice really a prominent philosophy of the time? (Honestly asking here; I have no idea). I didn't get that sense from the police in this book, when Constance went to them to report Kaufman. The sheriff was treated like a weirdo for actually wanting to stop a bad guy from harassing women, even if that bad guy was a rich white man.


Antoinette | 186 comments Mkotch wrote: "I really enjoyed this book. Thanks to whoever suggested it. I love the time period, between horse-and-buggy days and the automobile age. My brother lives in Ridgewood, NJ, so it was interesting to ..."

I agree, thanks for selecting this book. It's one I would not have picked on my own. The time period is not one I'm familiar with although my parents were born shortly before that time.


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Carole (thegoodwitchofmarytavy) | 86 comments Kindle version was only 2.99 so I've started reading it. Better late than never as the cliche goes.


Lenore | 1081 comments I really liked this book, and am so pleased that I have discovered the Kopp sisters!


message 40: by Erin (new) - rated it 3 stars

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Our discussion is starting to flag a little, so how about a question:

Fleurette says something toward the end of the book about how their year dealing with Henry Kaufman was the most interesting year of her/their lives and asks if her sisters really wish that they had never gotten into that accident with him. It's more a rhetorical question, so we don't get to hear what Norma and Constance think, but what do you think they think?


message 41: by Emily (new)

Emily | 341 comments It seems like Constance has gotten into a new life that is interesting to her, so she probably thinks it's a net plus. Norma seems happy to be let alone.


Elisabeth | 113 comments I agree with Emily. Norma seemed perfectly happy with her life as it was, and could have done without the disruption and stress. Constance would probably agree with her out loud - the danger to her family was certainly something she would have preferred to avoid - but secretly to herself I think she's grateful for the ideas and opportunities now open to her.


message 43: by Erin (new) - rated it 3 stars

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Elisabeth wrote: "Norma seemed perfectly happy with her life as it was, and could have done without the disruption and stress."

I really wonder about Norma. Was she really that happy with her life as it was? Or is that just how Constance sees her (since we basically see everything from Constance's POV)?


message 44: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 22, 2018 09:52AM) (new)

I agree with Elizabeth - Constance has had an interesting and exciting year but would not have wanted it such a high cost. But what of Norma, her real life character is described as having a mind like a steel trap (I probably misremember). She has very clear observations and is funny too (I enjoyed her remark about delaying unleashing Fleurette on the world) but Norma wants different things from life: the farm, her pigeons and not to be bothered. But she is also a shaper. She decided on the farm and it was she who found Constance and gave her mother a fait accompli. Norma sits and lets Constance ‘lead’ but acts decisively when required. Admirable but not cuddly.


message 45: by Emily (new)

Emily | 341 comments In the later books, Norma answers Constance's wedding proposals in properly withering style. She says she's annoyed by it, but clearly gets a kick out depressing the suitors' pretensions.

Also, in the third book, Norma is the one who makes the clear effort to get Fleurette back from the vaudeville. So that goes to Pam's point as well.


message 46: by [deleted user] (new)

Can’t wait to read the other two books Erin. Tell me no more!

On another note, what did you all think of the style of Amy Stewart’s writing. I loved it’s apparent simplicity and uncomplicated prose. A family member tells me the American writers are able to convey complexity and nuance couched in the simplest prose style. Well maybe ‘some’. Something to admire and learn from. In other words you don’t need to be clever clever and verbose (re some European writers, Dorothy Dunnett springs to mind) ) to show your literary mettle.


Elisabeth | 113 comments Style is always an interesting topic to me. My preference usually is for the style to be invisible - the writing disappears beneath the story. That's Amy Stewart's style, and Laurie King's as well. Sometimes, stylized writing can be fun - Lyndsay Faye's take on Conan Doyle's style, for example. Sometimes it becomes a part of the story, as in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Sometimes it's just annoying - I can't read The Parasol Protectorate, for example, or any Neal Stephenson, because their style just gets on my nerves.

There are ways Stewart could have used a more overt style in her storytelling - adapting a period mode, for example - but I prefer the invisible style she chose.


message 48: by Erin (new) - rated it 3 stars

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Pam wrote: "In other words you don’t need to be clever clever and verbose (re some European writers, Dorothy Dunnett springs to mind) ) to show your literary mettle."

Total tangent, but this reminded me of a conversation I was having with a friend on the way to work this morning. That a book does not need to be depressing or overly drama-heavy to be poignant. We were specifically talking about Terry Pratchett and Christopher Moore, who have both written some very thoughtful books couched in comedy.


message 49: by Erin (new) - rated it 3 stars

Erin (tangential1) | 1638 comments Mod
Emily wrote: "She says she's annoyed by it, but clearly gets a kick out depressing the suitors' pretensions."

I don't think Norma would survive long as a proper hermit. Look at all the news clippings that she holds on to to send at just the right moment. I think she enjoys passive-aggressively scolding people too much to be truly on her own.


message 50: by Emily (new)

Emily | 341 comments On a style note, for those of you who read the other books, why the switch from 1st to 3rd person in the 3rd book?


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