Kitty Weeks, Welcome to the Big Time!

So many things to like about this one… I think my favorite fact about Capability “Kitty” Weeks (other than the fact that her name is Capability) is that she drives her own car. So awesome. And of course, it’s also great that she’s paving the way for women journalists everywhere and investigating a murder, too.

(Come on, Hollywood! Why don’t you turn THIS into something for me to watch with my kids?)

The book is available now at

You can also listen to my conversation with the author, Radha Vatsal:

The History of Literature Episode 40 – Radha Vatsal, Author of “A Front Page Affair”


Host Jacke Wilson is joined by special guest Radha Vatsal, author of the historical mystery A Front Page Affair. Radha starts by talking about her own adventure leaving India to study in America at the age of 16, which eventually led to an interest in the action film heroines and female journalists at the start of the twentieth century. Radha also recommends four books for listeners and describes the historical research necessary to create the character of Kitty Weeks, a plucky female journalist in 1910s New York City who owns her own car and wants to write about more than fashion and gossip.


Works Discussed:

A Front Page Affair (Kitty Weeks Mystery) by Radha Vatsal

The Forgotten Female Action Stars of the 1910s” by Radha Vatsal (article in The Atlantic)

The Waterworks by E.L. Doctorow

The Vertigo Years: Europe 1900-1914 by Philipp Blom 

Front-Page Girls: Women Journalists in American Culture and Fiction, 1880-1930 by Jean Marie Lutes

Out on Assignment: Newspaper Women and the Making of Modern Public Space by Alice Fahs

A FRONT PAGE AFFAIR description:

New York City, 1915

The Lusitania has just been sunk, and headlines about a shooting at J.P. Morgan’s mansion and the Great War are splashed across the front page of every newspaper. Capability “Kitty” Weeks would love nothing more than to report on the news of the day, but she’s stuck writing about fashion and society gossip over on the Ladies’ Page―until a man is murdered at a high society picnic on her beat.

Determined to prove her worth as a journalist, Kitty finds herself plunged into the midst of a wartime conspiracy that threatens to derail the United States’ attempt to remain neutral―and to disrupt the privileged life she has always known.

Radha Vatsal’s A Front Page Affair is the first book in highly anticipated series featuring rising journalism star Kitty Weeks.

Advance reviews:

“The fascinating historical details add flair to this thoroughly engaging mystery starring an intelligent amateur sleuth reminiscent of Rhys Bowen’s Molly Murphy. Vatsal’s debut will leave readers eager for Kitty’s next adventure.” – Booklist

“This lively and well-researched debut introduces a charming historical series and an appealing fish-out-of-water sleuth who seeks independence and a career in an age when most women are bent on getting married, particularly to titled Englishmen. Devotees of Rhys Bowen’s mysteries will enjoy making the acquaintance of Miss Weeks.” – STARRED Library Journal review; March Debut of the Month

“[A] spirited debut…Vatsal deftly intertwines the tumult of the era, from emerging women’s rights to spreading international conflict, into this rich historical.” – Publishers Weekly

“This first in a planned series is a nice combination of mystery and thriller seasoned by historical facts and a look at women’s lives before woman’s liberation.” – Kirkus

About the Author:

RADHA VATSAL was inspired by 1910s action-film heroines to create a heroine, Capability “Kitty” Weeks, an aspiring journalist who finds herself plunged into the tumultuous world of 1910s New York. Vatsal was born in Mumbai India, and has a Ph.D.from the English Department at Duke University (with a focus on silent-era film history). She lives in New York with her husband and their two daughters.You can find Radha at or on FacebookTumblr or Goodreads.

Show Notes:

You can find more literary discussion at and more episodes of the series at

Contact the host at or by leaving a voicemail at 1-361-4WILSON (1-361-494-5766).

Music Credits:

Handel – Entrance to the Queen of Sheba” by Advent Chamber Orchestra (From the Free Music Archive / CC by SA).

“Bass Walker” by Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

Female Action Movie Stars… in the 1910s!?!?

Wow. It has been a long time since an article has made me think (and rethink and rethink) as much as this piece in The Atlantic, The Forgotten Female Action Stars of the 1910s. I can’t get over it.

Just take a look at this publicity shot from 1918::


Here’s the description:

A city editor orders an armed female reporter to chase down a con man and “get the story.” A railroad telegrapher seeks vigilante-style justice against two robbers who attacked her. An adventure-seeking heiress outruns a giant boulder Indiana Jones-style … decades before Harrison Ford was ever born.

What? Did you know that this existed? Me neither!

More please!

In the current movie landscape, female action heroes tend to be so few and far between that their mere existence seems like an accomplishment (think: Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road, Rey in Star Wars, or the four stars of the upcoming Ghostbusters reboot). But more than a century ago, before women had even won the right to vote in many countries, actresses headed up some of the U.S’s most popular and successful action movies—even if they performed stunts in skirts that ended only a few inches above their ankles.

Incredible. So what happened? How did this come about?

And more importantly: why did it end?

The author of the piece, Radha Vatsal, has some ideas.

I invited Radha Vatsal onto the History of Literature podcast to discuss the article. She has her own book coming out, too: a murder mystery with a plucky female journalist at the center. In New York City. In 1915. What a fantastic idea – I can’t wait for my copy of the book to arrive (it’s available now for pre-order at

Radha and I talk about her research process, the rise of female journalists in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the changes in the film industry, and developing the character of Kitty Weeks. Oh, and she picks four book recommendations. We discuss those too.

I’ll be posting the episode the first week of May. In the meantime, check out the Atlantic article. And imagine a time when Hollywood didn’t quite have such a stranglehold on the industry…and we could see different kinds of movies…maybe in the past…maybe in the future…