The Darling Dahlias and the Silver Dollar Bush

The Darling Dahlias and the Silver Dollar Bush

  • Hardcover
  • ISBN 9780425260609
  • 304 Pages
  • Berkley
  • Adult


National bestselling author Susan Wittig Albert takes readers back in time to small-town Darling, Alabama, in the 1930s—where the Darling Savings and Trust has just closed and the women of the Darling Dahlias’ garden club are betting their bottom dollar there’s going to be trouble…

It’s the spring of 1933 and times are tough all over. The only businessman not struggling is moonshiner Mickey LeDoux, though he still has to steer clear of federal agents. But banks are closing all over the country, and the small town of Darling is no exception. Folks are suddenly caught short on cash and everyone is in a panic.

Desperate to avoid disaster, several town leaders—including Alvin Duffy, the bank’s new vice president—hatch a plan to print Darling Dollars on newspaperman Charlie Dickens’ printing press. The “funny money” can serve as temporary currency so the town can function. But when the first printing of the scrip disappears, the Darling Dahlias set out to discover who made an unauthorized withdrawal.

Meanwhile County Treasurer Verna Tidwell questions whether she can trust Alvin Duffy—and the feelings he stirs up inside her. And Liz Lacy learns her longtime beau may be forced into a shotgun wedding. Seems other troubles don’t just go away when there’s a crisis. There’ll be no pennies from heaven, but if anyone can balance things out, folks can bank on the Darling Dahlias…

Includes Southern-Style Depression-Era Recipes
The Darling Dahlias and the Silver Dollar Bush

The Darling Dahlias and the Silver Dollar Bush

Susan Wittig Albert


Praise for the Darling Dahlias Mysteries:

“The prolific Albert excels at the period piece, with a gracious plenitude of Southern color and Depression-era detail, and again offers an uplifting meditation on how friends, neighbors, and strangers combined to help each other during America’s darkest economic days.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch

“This sweet book captures the true tone of a small town.”—The Times-Picayune

“Captivating…Charming characters, a fast-paced plot, and a strong sense of history help make this a superior cozy.”—Publishers Weekly

“Cozy fans will be delighted…Another exceptional series.” —Booklist (starred review)

“Plenty of charm and period detail.”—Kirkus Reviews

“The author of the popular China Bayles Mysteries brings a small Southern town to life and vividly captures an era and culture—the Depression, segregation, class differences, the role of women in the South—with authentic period details. Her book fairly sizzles with the strength of the women of Darling.”—Library Journal


Dear Reader Letter

Author’s Note

If you’ve been following this series, you know that it is set in the 1930s, during the dark years of the Depression. The previous book, The Darling Dahlias and the Texas Star, took place in July 1932, when the newly nominated Democratic presidential candidate, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was squaring off against the incumbent Republican president, Herbert Hoover. Roosevelt, then the governor of the state of New York, was not widely known, and people weren’t sure what direction he might take to solve the nation’s economic woes.

But as many historians have pointed out, it didn’t matter much whose name was on the ballot, because folks were voting for A.B.H.—Anybody but Hoover. With unemployment above 20 percent and rising, Hoover didn’t have any strategies to turn the economy around. Roosevelt won with 57 percent of the vote, while the Democrats took control of the Senate and expanded their control of the House. Around the country, the jaunty tune “Happy Days Are Here Again”—FDR’s campaign song—could be heard everywhere.

Those “happy days” were years in the future, however, and the four bleak months between the election and Roosevelt’s March 4 inaugural witnessed the worst banking panic in American history. Fearing that their local banks would close and their funds would suddenly vanish, people rushed to withdraw their money and stash it under their mattresses or in coffee cans buried in the backyard. Before the end of February 1933, so much money had drained out of the banking system that banks couldn’t cover the losses and a dozen state governors had either frozen withdrawals or declared a “bank holiday.” By the final weeks of Hoover’s presidency, some 5,500 banks in thirty-one states were on “holiday,” their windows shuttered and CLOSED signs hung on their front doors.

And for many communities, this was a tragedy. As far as commercial businesses and individuals were concerned, the closing of the local bank meant that there was simply no money. Companies couldn’t meet their payrolls. Stores couldn’t stock their shelves. People couldn’t buy milk or bread or put gasoline in their flivvers.

But Americans are resourceful, and if the banks weren’t handing out enough cash to keep the wheels of commerce turning, by golly, the citizens themselves would make some. Thus was born the concept of Depression “scrip”: paper currency that was produced locally—by merchants, by merchant associations, or by municipalities—to solve local money problems. It wasn’t the solution to the banking crisis, but it did help businesses meet their payrolls, put groceries on the shelves of local stores, and enabled mothers to buy a quart of milk for their babies and baloney for their husbands’ sandwiches.

And when it came to scrip, even the funnyman Will Rogers found something to chuckle about. “Everybody is all excited over ‘scrip,’” he wrote on March 6, 1933. “We are all for it. The way it sounds all you need is a fountain pen and a prescription blank. That’s what we been looking for for years, a substitute for money.” So bring on the scrip, he added. It might not be money but it spent like money, which was going to make everybody want to buy something.

And that, of course, was exactly what the economy needed: lots of people buying lots of stuff—except that in little Darling, Alabama, things didn’t quite work out that way. And thereby hangs a tale: The Darling Dahlias and the Silver Dollar Bush.

* * *

A word about words. Writing about the rural South in the 1930s requires the use of images and language that may be offensive to some readers, especially words that refer to African Americans, such as “colored,” “colored folk,” and “Negro.” Thank you for understanding that I mean no offense.

Susan Wittig Albert

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Fun Fact

Elvis Presley is born in 1935 and, a little over 20 years later, he would have his first #1 single on the US charts, forever changing the landscape of popular culture and ushering in a new age of celebrity superstardom.

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