A NOVEL. A CASE—BASED DOWNTOWN
Inside the pages of “The Katie Dugan Case,” the first female detective of the Wilmington police force rushes to solve a turn-of-the-century crime while proving herself to colleagues back at the police headquarters inside the city’s town hall on Market … and just about all of that, except for poor Katie Dugan, springs solely from the imagination of writer William Francis.
William’s work of Wilmington fiction, first published in November, has been racking up five-star reviews on Amazon. (“Amazon is now saying there are only four copies left, so I guess somebody's buying them,” William says.) Though there’s a true unsolved cold case at the heart of William’s story, much of the narrative is an extended work of “What If?” So to separate some fact from fiction, we asked the author to join us inside Old Town Hall to chat…
“I stuck my detectives upstairs just so I could use this building. In reality, there was an annex building that the police used, so they probably would have been in there. But they did actually have the courtroom here. The description I have, from a guy who actually worked here, was that there were walls, and the courtroom was separate. At 9 a.m., they'd just open the doors and let the public walk in to the courtroom. It was kind of like theater for the poor. If they couldn't afford a ticket at the opera house, they would just come in here, keep warm and watch the proceedings to see who was arrested and fined or whatever.”
“The Grand Opera House, that shows up in the book, and it's still here. It hasn't changed that much either. I was reading that back then, you'd walk in through the vestibule doors and the ticket booth would be by the right in the wall, and it still is. The manager that's described in there, he was real. He was known to be very fastidious, very clean, and very straightforward, so were all of his shows. He wouldn't have any foul language. He made it so the kids could come in to watch.”
“We had a world famous hotel right next door. It's The Queen now, but in its day, it was a 100-room hotel with the first elevator in Wilmington, and it had two banks in it that helped build the thing. On the other side, you had Mullin’s men’s store. It was one of the first ones to do pre-fitted clothing. This was the banking district and it was also the shopping district, for dry goods. It was just a very popular spot.”
“Outside, you’d have trolley tracks on Market, two sets of trolley tracks, one for going this direction and one for coming that way. It would be stones, some brick, and some flagstone in the sidewalks. Of course, you'd have horse and buggy traffic going by. You'd have piles of manure. You'd also have the cleaning crew, these guys in white outfits with the little bucket that they would push along. They were responsible for keeping the streets clean.”
“I've done four books for Arcadia Publishing, those vintage photograph books with pictures from way back and captions. Just researching those books, these things pop up. There's a story of a pirate who left his treasure somewhere along Route 40. There’s all kinds of interesting stuff that you find. And of course you have to research everything, because someone will probably write to you and say, ‘I don't think that's right.’”