Girl in the River — A Novel

A Woman Caught in the Whipsaw of History

It’s the middle of the twentieth century and Portland has fallen into the hands of gangsters. Newly orphaned Mae Rose wanders the rain-stained streets alone, on the lam from a knife wielding pimp, mustering her own worst impulses to survive. As Mae rises in Portland’s gritty sex industry, she’s pursued by a district attorney who wants to ensnare her for more personal reasons.  Meanwhile, Dr. Ruth Barnett, queen of Portland’s nightlife, runs a lucrative abortion service and it is she who eventually provides the refuge that Mae seeks. After the war, both women are caught in the cross hairs of anti-vice crusader Dottie “Do-good” Lee. Their survival will depend on their ability to outsmart the cops and politicians who no longer protect them.

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 […]