Hello, book people. I am fascinated by genealogy, especially other people’s genealogical discoveries. One of my favorite television shows is Finding Your Roots on PBS with Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. (and no, it’s not because he’s a fellow West Virginian…although that’s a plus). It’s intriguing to me to learn about family histories, whether known or unknown. I’m pleased to welcome the author of historical fiction, R.J. Koreto. Mr. Koreto’s most recent release is The Greenleaf Murders. As with some authors, Mr. Koreto focuses not only on historical fiction but his books are usually set in New York. Today he explains just his genealogy influences his books. Thank you, Mr. Koreto, for joining us today. I can’t wait to learn more about the basis for your writing and will now turn the blog over to you.
Why My Books Are Set in Old New York
by R.J. Koreto
In 1896, my great-great-grandmother Julia Lowey, a trained midwife from Hungary, delivered her grandson—Robert Feldman—in her Bronx apartment.
A century before, in 1799, Alexander Hamilton and his friend Archibald Gracie met in Gracie Mansion to found a paper that would support their Federalist ideals—the N.Y. Post. In 1942, the mansion became the official residence of the mayor of New York. It needed upgrades, and one of the electrical workers brought in was Robert Feldman. Meanwhile, his wife Ellen took care of her three children and in the afternoon, she read Hamilton’s paper, the New York Post.
The N.Y. Post by then was owned by Dorothy Schiff, a daughter of one of the richest families in the country. Her grandfather, Jacob Schiff, was a German-Jewish immigrant who made a fortune on Wall Street. He was the first banker to see that Japan was a rising world power and floated it major loans, which enabled Japan to beat the dying Russian Empire. Schiff despised Russia for its anti-Semitism and was glad to see it defeated. For those loans, the Japanese emperor personally presented Schiff with the Order of the Rising Sun, the first Westerner so honored.
Schiff gave huge sums to charity, including Zionist causes. One ardent Zionist was George Gutfarb, sister of Ellen Feldman, and brother-in-law of Robert Feldman. At age 16—when World War I was underway—he hitchhiked from New York City to Canada. Lying about his age and nationality, he enlisted in a Canadian regiment destined for the Middle East, believing that the key to a Jewish homeland was freeing the area from the Ottoman Empire. He saw action, but to the day he died in an upstate nursing home, he never spoke a word about the war to anyone.
Meanwhile, Robert and Ellen Feldman had two sons and a daughter. The daughter was named Vivienne, from the French “lively,” because her Hebrew name was Chaiya, “life.” She obtained a BS and MA from City College and was appointed a teacher by the Board of Education. The board had been established by Mayor Strong, who had run the city when her father had been born.
She accepted a job at Andrew Jackson High School. (Its famous students over the years include the girl group Shangri-Las and rappers 50 Cent and LL Cool J.) In 1959 she married Paul Koreto, whose father, Abraham Koreto, had fled the pogroms in Russia that Jacob Schiff had fought against.
Abraham worked in the garment district. He joined a union and owned a copy of the Communist Manifesto in Yiddish. He married and they had one child, Paul Koreto—a common anglicization of Pinchas. Paul entered the burgeoning advertising industry in the “Mad Men” era. Paul and Vivienne’s firstborn, Richard Joshua Koreto, was born in 1962, and then in 1965 came a daughter, Abigail, named for Abraham Koreto, who died shortly before she was born. The family soon moved to the Upper East Side, just a few blocks away from Gracie Mansion, birthplace of the New York Post. When John Lindsey ran for a second term as Mayor of New York, Vivienne found herself at the same polling station at the same time as Lindsey himself. She pushed Richard forward. “Shake the mayor’s hand,” she said. Lindsey, at 6’4″, didn’t see Richard, but his wife did: “John—this young man wants to meet you.” He leaned down and gravely shook his hand. “Pleased to meet you,” he said.
Ellen Feldman lived into her 90s. She and Robert are buried together, in New York City, in a Hungarian-Jewish cemetery. Their plots are near that most famous Hungarian Jew, Erik Weisz, better known by his stage name: Harry Houdini.
Richard Koreto, Paul and Vivienne’s son, married, had two daughters, and wrote three novels that look back at a city his ancestors knew so well. ♦
The Greenleaf Murders
by R.J. Koreto
January 23 – February 17, 2023 Virtual Book Tour
Young architect Wren Fontaine lands her dream job: restoring Greenleaf House, New York’s finest Gilded-Age mansion, to its glory days. But old homes have old secrets: Stephen Greenleaf—heir to what’s left of his family’s legacy—refuses to reveal what his plans are once the renovation is completed. And still living in a corner of the home is Stephen’s 90-year-old Aunt Agnes who’s lost in the past, brooding over a long-forgotten scandal while watching Wren with mistrust.
Wren’s job becomes more complex when a shady developer who was trying to acquire Greenleaf House is found murdered. And after breaking into a sealed attic, Wren finds a skeleton stuffed in a trunk. She soon realizes the two deaths, a century apart, are strangely related. Meanwhile, a distraction of a different kind appears in the form of her client’s niece, the beautiful and seductive Hadley Vanderwerf. As Wren gingerly approaches a romance, she finds that Hadley has her own secrets.
Then a third murder occurs, and the introverted architect is forced to think about people, and about how ill-fated love affairs and obsessions continue to haunt the Greenleafs. In the end, Wren risks her own life to uncover a pair of murderers, separated by a century but connected by motive. She reveals an odd twist in the family tree that forever changes the lives of the Greenleafs, the people who served them, the mansion they all called home—and even Wren herself.
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: November 2022
Number of Pages: 264
ISBN: 9781685122089 (Paperback)
ISBN: 9781685122096 (eBook)
ISBN: 9798212330848 (Digital Audiobook)
ASIN: B0BKMWRJ86 (Kindle edition)
ASIN: B0BV97BWDR (Audible Audiobook)
Series: Historic Homes Mysteries, #1
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Bookshop.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible Audiobook | Barnes and Noble | BookDepository.com | Downpour Audiobook | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook | Goodreads | Level Best Books
Praise for The Greenleaf Murders:
“A delightful who-done-it in which the house is as engaging as the wonderful heroine. Readers will want to get lost in these rooms and these pages.”
Cate Holahan, USA Today bestselling author of Her Three Lives
“If you love houses and puzzles – which I do – you will be captivated by THE GREENLEAF MURDERS, the first in Richard Koreto’s new series. Equally sure-footed in the gilded age of the mansion’s heyday and the contemporary world of its decline, Koreto has woven a pretzel of a plot, introduced a charming new heroine, and whetted appetites for more grave deeds and grandeur.”
Catriona McPherson, multi-award-winning author of the Dandy Gilver series
“The Greenleaf Murders mixes a modern suspense mystery with the love of old-world mansions and iconic High Society. Buried secrets threaten a family clinging to their former glory as two murders surface, a century apart. Koreto weaves a story that creates the perfect tension between the beauty of the golden era and the fear of a killer in plain sight.”
L.A. Chandlar, national best-selling author of the Art Deco Mystery Series
“One would think that a murder mystery featuring old homes, architecture, and rich blue bloods would be a dull read, but that’s not the case with R.J. Koreto’s finely-written The Greenleaf Murders. Filled with twists and turns and sharply-drawn characters, this well-done novel is very much recommended.”
Brendan DuBois, award-winning and New York Times bestselling author
R.J. Koreto is the author of the Historic Home mystery series, set in modern New York City; the Lady Frances Ffolkes mystery series, set in Edwardian England; and the Alice Roosevelt mystery series, set in turn-of-the-century New York. His short stories have been published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, as well as various anthologies.
In his day job, he works as a business and financial journalist. Over the years, he’s been a magazine writer and editor, website manager, PR consultant, book author, and seaman in the U.S. Merchant Marine. Like his heroine, Lady Frances Ffolkes, he’s a graduate of Vassar College.
With his wife and daughters, he divides his time between Rockland County, N.Y., and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.
Catch Up With R.J. Koreto:
BookBub – @rkoreto1
Instagram – @rjkoreto
Twitter – @RJKoreto
Facebook – @RJKoreto
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