Welcome to RobertBrightonAuthor.com!

Greetings, I’m Robert Brighton, and I appreciate your coming to spend a few minutes with me. 

I hope to be your guide back in time, into the real Gilded Age, in all its splendor and squalor ... and to introduce you to fascinating characters you'll come to love and hate ... in my Avenging Angel Detective Agency™ Mysteries.

My books are set in the late Gilded Age, roughly 1900-1905, and mostly (though not exclusively) in Buffalo, New York. I think you’ll find them intriguing, absorbing, sometimes funny – and that they cover the full spectrum of human experience and emotion.

But why, you may be wondering, the Gilded Age?  Why Buffalo?

I’ll tell you more about my thoughts about the Gilded Age in a forthcoming post, but for now suffice it to say that I think it’s a very misunderstood period in history. Usually either glamorized or demonized, and never much in between. But like life at any time, the Gilded Age had its high points and its low. And when I decide to write this series, I resolved to show it all -- good, bad, and ugly.

And why Buffalo? That one’s easier. First, it’s my hometown, so I have a natural affinity for the place.  And even today, history seems a little closer to the surface there than it does in most other American cities. But there’s a lot more to it than that. Buffalo, in the early twentieth century, was like Silicon Valley is today -- a hive of industry and innovation, and the center of the grain, lumber, and electrical industries. The Erie Canal, multiple railroads, and of course the chain of the Great Lakes all converged at Buffalo. The city was a wealthy, growing, and generally happy place -- the nation’s eighth-largest, and closing in on the Top Five. Yet at the same time it was a famously (notoriously?) ‘wide open’ city – a Gilded Age term for corrupt, rife with graft, justice-for-sale, and politicians more interested in lining their own pockets than in looking out for their constituents.

The first challenge was to prepare for this undertaking.  How could I recreate the feel of Gilded Age Buffalo in words? I’m not a historian, and I’m not writing history, but rather historical fiction. That said, I want my writing to be real and true to the time.  I wanted to get as close to original sources and voices as I could.  But in that I had begun a little too late. Not a single soul who lived in the Gilded Age is alive today, and even very few of their children or grandchildren.

Where to go next? Television programs and movies weren’t an option: They are inherently dramatic interpretations of source material, not the sources themselves. And the period motion pictures – which are very intriguing so far as dress and architecture, particularly city life – are good, but short and scarce.

Fortunately, I live within a short drive of the Library of Congress, so I trolled downtown and began to climb the mountain by scrounging up as many original sources as I could find. Recorded music, those short films, but – most important – I started reading every single issue of several Buffalo and New York City newspapers, cover to cover – news, editorials, want ads, and the Sunday funnies – from 1898 to 1904.

That took some time – more than eighteen months of steady effort. But it paid off.  As time went by, I started to absorb the ‘vibe’ of the period. The way people said (and didn’t say) things. What things cost, how much people were paid, and of course the clothing and daily requirements of life – food and drink, transportation, and housing. And of course politics and international affairs, and how they were perceived by Americans of the time.

Armed with a headful of old newsprint, I found that stories and characters started to visit me without my doing much of anything but letting them in. In fact, I began to feel that some of my ‘fictional’ friends were beginning to invite me to watch them as they went about their lives and business, and take notes that to share with you. (I know it sounds crazy, and it probably is, but I hope that by being a spectator and not a creator, I can get us closer to an immersive experience in the real Gilded Age.)

And that’s the goal. Introduce you to fascinating people and tell interesting stories that will, I think, seem at once very strange and very familiar. And my fondest hope is that my vision or reimagining of the Gilded Age will become for you a place you enjoy visiting, and that my characters will become as real to you as they are to me.

But enough of my story. Now it’s time for you to dive into the story.  Ready?


Robert Brighton

November 2022