Sugarland, my latest novel, was named for the corn sugar that bootleggers used to make hooch. One of the fun things about writing about the 1920s is all the great slang I could use, like hooch. My daughter has recently expressed a wish that saying “the bees’ knees” would come back into style. I agree!

Sugarland (Small)

The novel is an historical mystery, and I started thinking about it one evening years ago when I was listening to the song “Si Tu Vois Ma Mere” (If You See My Mother) with the great Sidney Bechet on saxophone. I realized that in the back of my mind I was envisioning a scene: a woman was walking along a cold winter street, looking for someone or something. That’s all I knew at the time; the rest came slowly. But to this day I can still see that woman: her back is to me, and she’s wearing a hat like one that my grandmother used to wear.

You can check out the Kirkus Review here. . .

And order it here. . .


In 1921, talented young jazz pianist Eve Riser is caught in a drive-by shooting that kills the bootlegger standing next to her. Rescued by Lena Hardy, the bootlegger’s sister, Eve recovers only to find that her pregnant sister Chickie has vanished. Navigating the back alleys, jazz clubs, and speakeasies of 1920s Chicago, Eve and Lena must fight racial barriers in order to save Chickie and learn the truth behind the murder.




Martha Conway’s novel Thieving Forest won the North American Book Award in Historical Fiction, and her first novel was nominated for an Edgar Award. Her short stories have appeared in The Iowa Review, The Massachusetts Review, The Carolina Quarterly, Folio, and other journals. A recipient of a California Arts Council Fellowship, she teaches creative writing at Stanford University’s Online Writer’s Studio and UC Berkeley Extension.

Her new novel, Sugarland, is available now.