Girl in the River — A Novel

A Woman Caught in the Whipsaw of History

Mae Rose, a high dollar hooker, icy and independent, has risen to the top of her game by sexually dominating the rich and powerful within the corrupt world of men who operate World War II era Portland to their own considerable advantage. She manages to juggle a District Attorney who is dangerously obsessed with her and two love affairs on the side until each demands an exclusive relationship at the very moment she becomes pregnant. She seeks an end to her pregnancy from the premier abortionist of the Pacific Northwest, the flamboyant Dr. Ruth Barnett. Her love life in tatters, she quits hooking to work for Ruth and patches things up with her one true love. All is well until the war ends, Dottie “Do-good” Lee is elected Portland’s first lady mayor on an anti-vice platform, and the political tides shift. Mae is nabbed in a police raid on Ruth Barnett’s abortion clinic, landing Mae back in the clutches of the DA, who is now uniquely positioned—if she refuses to service his sexual needs—to destroy her life.

Girl in the River is a portrait of the intimate lives of women during one of the most corrupt periods in Portland history. It’s an unflinching look at the power dynamics of sex; a glimpse into the work life of a call girl; an improbable love story; the tale of post-war assaults on reproductive rights; and a tribute to two remarkable and remarkably different women who shaped the lives of Portlanders during those tumultuous times: Dr. Ruth Barnett and Mayor Dorothy Lee.

Release date: August 20, 2015 by Bygone Era Books.

Available in E-Book and Paperback

Another Read Through (Portland, OR) available only on the shelves



Reviews of Girl in the River

Girl in the River starts with a bang and hums right along—like one of those hardboiled film noir movies. Smart and raw, full of sassy dialog, the novel touches on issues of morality and justice, propriety and decency. The 1930s and 40s may have been a simpler time, but the corrosive impact of the corruption […]

Girl in the River — Quick Look

A working girl’s tale of desperation, desire and defiance, set in Portland, Oregon during the corrupt and permissive years of World War II and the crackdown that follows.

Start Reading Girl in the River

Even after a good stretch of untroubled time a girl might fret over which one of her mistakes was the worst ever. Until one day it struck her, when the biggest mistake barged back into her life. Bill Warsham was his name.

People, History & Politics

Girl in the River is a work of fiction. But many of the characters are actual historical figures and many of the events took place in that realm of experience we call reality. If you don’t want to spend your time puzzling over who’s who, here’s a cheat sheet.

The Places

Aside from the raid on Ruth Barnett’s clinic and her subsequent trial, the scenes in Girl in the River are products of my imagination. But many of them are set in well-known and beloved Portland places. Nearly all have vanished into history. The venerable Broadway Building still stands. Below are some of the settings, accompanied […]