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Today’s Wednesday Writer’s guest is author Viola Russell.  Viola will be talking about the hero of her historical romance novel, From Ice Wagon to Club House: The Life of Jude Mooney. Who inspired this character? Ana why did she choose to place him in this particular historical era? Read on to find out. Viola also included an excerpt from the book for you to enjoy.  Welcome, Viola!


Saint or Sinner: Jude Mooney


Jude Mooney is the protagonist of my novel From Ice Wagon to Club House: The Life of Jude Mooney. Many people told me that the title was cumbersome. Perhaps it was, but Jude Mooney, the protagonist himself, holds a special place in my heart.  I put Jude’s birth in 1900.  He is a young man during The Great War and a child of Storyville as well as Prohibition. The son of respectable Irish immigrants, he is a resident of New Orleans as well as a native of Ireland.  In many ways, he is based on my father, Samuel Weaver.  My dad was a young man in New Orleans during the Depression, Prohibition, and Storyville. Like Jude, my father started his career driving an ice wagon through the streets of New Orleans.  The Pelican Ice Company still exists in New Orleans, but in my father’s day, it provided ice for housewives who used it in iced boxes, keeping their food cold.  Like Jude, my father trained prizefighters and was a bookie. He also trained racehorses, and like Jude, he eventually sat in that clubhouse.  He trained horses until he died, collapsing at the racetrack.

Of course, I embellished some aspects of my novel.  Sam didn’t fight in the War for Irish Independence; Jude does engage in the fight after a stint in WWI.  I learned much about the Easter Uprising during that time, a period that has always intrigued me.  That era also introduced Jude to the fiery Maeve, the love of Jude’s wife.  The courage of the people living in that country and that era moved me.  Historical and fictional characters play a major part in that struggle.

In creating my characters, especially Jude Mooney, I wanted to show people living during a time who did what they had to do in order to survive in hard times.  I know about those times because my dad walked in the shadow of dark times. He was a man who did what he had to do to save his family.  In The Progeny, I continue the story of the Mooney family.  Like Jude, his progeny also strive to bring prosperity to themselves and their families.


From Ice Wagon to Club House: The Life of Jude Mooney

By Viola Russell


At fifteen years old, Jude Mooney is driving an ice wagon to help his struggling Irish immigrant family. An obedient son and devoted brother, he willingly works in the sweltering New Orleans heat along with his friend, Pete Saluto, to help his pious and respectable parents. When his older brother’s suicide leaves the family nearly destitute and shame-ridden, Jude seeks employment in the infamous Storyville of old New Orleans, becoming the confidante of the many characters who populated Emma Johnson’s establishment.

When his parents learn of his activities, Jude leaves the family nest, becoming even more embroiled in the seedy lifestyle until a disastrous encounter forces him to leave town and join his relatives in Ireland. It is in his ancestral birthplace that he meets the fiery Maeve and joins the fight for Irish independence and then, paradoxically, the British army when his love turns sour. Upon his return from the front, he seeks Maeve, who has had his twin sons.

Together, they return to New Orleans. A series of losses then force Jude into an uneasy alliance with the powerful mob family, the Matrangas. He rises in the ranks of the Matranga “family,” becoming a valuable cog in the wheel of their bootlegging and horse-racing empire. However, any links to the mob brings risks. How much more will Jude lose as the Feds pursue the men who supply the country with the illicit nectar?


Jude worked almost every afternoon and into the evenings at the pub. The people were genial, and drunken outbursts were rare. He sometimes heard snatches of political talk, but he rarely joined in the conversations. Rather, he waited for Maeve to return from her job. She’d make her way upstairs, slip into a long skirt and apron, and then proceed to the kitchen. There, she helped her mother with the Shepherd’s pie as well as fish and chips the patrons ordered. After helping with the cleaning of the kitchen, she headed upstairs, shutting the door behind her.

Jude imagined what it must be like in that bedroom. For weeks, he’d watched her slender form move within her modest skirts, and he envisioned a firmly toned body under her modest attire. She mostly wore her hair in a tight bun, but one night, he caught a glimpse of her when her door was slightly ajar. She’d donned a flannel gown, and her dark hair fell loosely about her shoulders. Her back was to him as she sat on the bed, and she brushed her hair with sensuous strokes. For the longest time, Jude only exchanged the most cursory of greetings with her. She was a mate’s sister, and he wouldn’t violate that street etiquette. Now that he was making money, he spent some nights with Sean prowling the city, but he ventured near no other girl. The moment he saw Maeve’s face, Jude knew no one else could compare with to her. When not with his mates, Sean was went out with an assortment of local lovelies, but Jude fantasized about marriage to one gorgeous Belfast girl.

Finally, one day in late November, Jude approached Maeve before she vanished upstairs. He’d finished wiping the bar and moved swiftly to the staircase as she placed one a foot on the first step. Clearing his throat, Jude drew near her. “I—I wondered if you’d like to go with me to the Tea Bar in the Carrich House this Sunday.” He hated himself for stammering and felt his face grown hot. “You know, the one on Lower Region Street?.”

Maeve flashed a dazzling smile that sent molten desire through his midsection. She laughed softly and gazed at him with those mocking eyes. “I’ve lived here me whole life. Yes, I know where it is.”

Jude swallowed, stood tall, and stuck out his chin. “Will you go with me? It would be Sunday afternoon, after Mass.” He’d gone with them to Mass every Sunday at St. John’s the Evangelist, strengthening Kathleen’s good opinion of him. He wondered what this beautiful girl thought of him. Did she see him as some wayfarer to be avoided? Some rough young thug on the sea?

Her lips curved into a seductive but kind smile. “Of course, I’d love to go to tea on Sunday.”

Want to read more? You can buy From Ice Wagon to Club House: The Life of Jude Mooney at Amazon  Also available at Amazon

The Progeny: The Legacy of Jude Mooney


About the Author:

Viola Russell is the pseudonym for Susan Weaver Eble.  A homegrown New Orleanian, she holds a doctorate in English literature from Texas A & M University.  She has traveled far and wide and relishes the memories she has made in places as distant as England, Ireland, Canada, and Jamaica and as near as Mississippi, Texas, Oklahoma, California, and Massachusetts. She lives with her husband Ben, the love of her life, in a New Orleans cottage and is most comfortable at her computer creating the worlds that drift into her imagination.

You can find Viola Russel at Facebook, Twitter or her website.