St. Nicholas of Hell’s Kitchen

St. Nicholas of Hell's Kitchen by Cora BuhlertChristmas time in 1930s New York. After escaping through the chimney of an orphanage in Hell’s Kitchen, Richard Blakemore a.k.a. the masked crimefighter known only as the Silencer is mistaken for Santa Claus by one of the children and learns that the orphanage is under siege by both a gang of brutal racketeers and an unscrupulous landlord.

Richard vows to help the children and their guardians. However, it turns out that the attacks on the orphanage are only part of a much larger plot, when Richard’s quest for justice leads him into the upper echelons of Manhattan’s high society.

Soon, the Silencer finds himself face to face with one of the most powerful men in the city, while Richard and Constance struggle to save the orphanage and give the children of Hell’s Kitchen an unforgettable Christmas.

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More information:

  • St. Nicholas of Hell’s Kitchen is a novella of 29000 words or approximately 100 print pages in the Silencer series, but may be read as a standalone. This story is a digital premiere and has never been published previously.
  • I’d always intended to write a Silencer Christmas story, when the right idea presented itself. The right idea finally presented itself in the form of a scenario, where the Silencer is forced to escape through a chimney and finds himself mistaken for Santa Claus.
  • In the initial idea, Lucy, the little girl who mistakes the Silencer for Santa Claus, was a kid living in a tenement whose family was at risk of eviction. But then, I had the idea to make her an orphan living in an orphanage at risk of eviction.
  • It has long annoyed me that nuns and Catholic priests appearing in any movie, TV show or work of fiction are usually portrayed as villains. So neither the three nuns running the Littlest Angels Home nor Father O’Leary, the priest of the church of St. Nicholas are even remotely villainous.
  • The fact that Richard was raised Catholic is mentioned briefly in Countdown to Death and reappears here.
  • There also are several allusions to Richard’s none too savoury past before he became the Silencer. Though I don’t actually know any more about that, either, since Richard is rather tight-lipped about that part of his life.
  • The name of the Daredevils, the street gang that terrorises Hell’s Kitchen, is a reference to Marvel’s blind superhero Daredevil who operates in Hell’s Kitchen. As for why I decided to set the story in Hell’s Kitchen of all places, it was an immigrant neighbourhood and crime-ridden well into the 1980s, plus the religious connotations of the name were too good to pass up.
  • The church of St. Nicholas, the Littlest Angels Home and the Heaven & Hell cabaret are all fictional, by the way.
  • We meet Richard’s fiancée Constance and Edgar, the kitten he rescued in Elevator of Doom, again. Plus, there is the possibility of a further addition to the family at the end.
  • Jake Levonsky’s wife and daughter are mentioned in Countdown to Death and The Great Fraud, but in this story we finally get to meet them.
  • The description of the stretch of Fifth Avenue leading up to Grand Army Plaza is based on what it would have looked like in 1936 (with one notable exception). Hence, no mention of Tiffany’s, because they didn’t move to their current location until 1940.
  • The description of the interior of F.A.O. Schwarz is largely based on this article from 1940, which also has several photos of what the store looked like at the time. The toys described are all real toys of the time (sometimes, being a former toy collector comes in handy), though Dorothy Berwick is fictional. I also have no idea if the real F.A.O. Schwarz ever donated toys to charitable causes.
  • Initially, slumlord Paul Krays was supposed to be the main villain of the story. But then the 2016 US presidential election happened and an idea for a different villainous mastermind presented itself.
  • In addition to the obvious suspects, Reginald and Melody Rumpus were also inspired by Wallace Beery and Jean Harlow playing a crass, noveau riche couple in the 1933 movie Dinner at Eight, where they live in a very white (so white that it caused problems for the camera operators during shooting) Art Deco apartment.
  • Reginald Rumpus’ dark tower was inspired by the real life American Radiator building and RCA Victor building.
  • The Paradise Lounge is obviously a proto Tiki Bar. Now Tiki Bars are mainly associated with the 1950s and 1960s, but the beginnings of the trend lie in the 1930s. Don, the Beachcomber and Trader Vic’s (still named Hinky Dink) both opened in the 1930s in California. Actress Dorothy Lamour also first donned her famous sarong (which has very little to do with an actual sarong) in the 1936 movie Jungle Princess.
  • Oysters Rockefeller were and continue to be a popular haute cuisine dish in the US. Steak Diane was a popular haute cuisine dish in the 1950s and 1960s, but was already available by the 1930s.
  • Acrylic glass was invented simultaneously by several chemists in 1928 and commercially available by the 1930s. The name Lucite was trademarked in 1936, though it wasn’t actually used for shoe heels back then.
  • No one dies in St. Nicholas of Hell’s Kitchen, even the gang member who falls from the roof is revealed to have survived later on. This was a deliberate decision, since I felt that killing characters, even villains, was inappropriate for a Christmas story.
  • The cover is stock art by Atelier Sommerland.
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