BY JUDI KETTELER
WHEN AMY STEWART was
researching a gin smuggler
for her book The Drunken
Botanist, she accidentally
stumbled upon an intriguing ;;;; New York Times
article. The author of six
nonfiction books quickly
felt herself being wooed.
“This happens all the time when you are
doing research, and usually you have to move
on,” Stewart tells The Connection, speaking
from her home in Eureka, California. “But I was
so fascinated with this story.”
The article told of a yearlong saga that began
with silk factory owner Henry Kaufman care-
lessly slamming his car into the buggy of sisters
Constance, Norma and Fleurette Kopp, and
ended with nothing short of a sting operation,
involving Constance Kopp on a street corner
with a gun, helping police catch Kaufman. Once
Stewart dug into the story of the Kopp sisters
and learned how that single car accident
changed the trajectory of their lives over a ;;-
year-period, there was no walking away from
it—or from them.
But how best to tell the tale? “I knew right
away that it should be fiction, not nonfiction,
and that it should be a series,” says Stewart,
a Costco member and owner of Eureka Books.
Girl Waits with Gun is the first book in the
series. The second, Lady Cop Makes Trouble, is
already in print, and the third is expected out
later this year. Using fiction allowed Stewart
to fill in the gaps in the story. Though she stuck
to the newspaper accounts, she did invent
side plots to keep the narrative interest strong.
(Her source notes at the end make clear what’s
real and what’s invented.)
The on-the-cusp-of-war ;;;; time period
may resonate with fans of Downton Abbey—
though the Kopp sisters’ farmhouse at the
edge of Paterson, New Jersey, is a far different
world from the Downton estate. But conflicting
ideas about women’s roles as modernization
begins to take hold is very much a theme of
the book. The more the reader gets to know
Constance Kopp—not just her spunky side, but
also her hidden past—the more interesting the
There is an airiness and humor about Girl
Waits with Gun, beginning with the first sentence. Stewart thought carefully about how to
craft the work’s voice, which she instinctively
knew needed to be Constance Kopp’s voice. “I
wanted it to sound spoken, to read as if she was
sitting in an armchair telling the story,” she says.
One of the things Stewart did was to watch a
clip of her own great-grandmother speaking.
“She was born in ;;;; in Pennsylvania, so is as
close to anyone in that age group I’ve ever
known. She spoke in a very forthright manner,
without the same uncertainty and verbal tics we
Stewart took that insight, along with images
she found of Constance Kopp and newspaper
accounts that described her, and began to build
the voice. Once she had that, the characters
came to life. “I had very clear pictures of them
in my head,” she says.
Before writing Girl Waits with Gun, Stewart
was known for her nonfiction, including four
New York Times best-sellers. “The Kopp sisters
are my whole life now,” she admits.
There is no set plan for how many books will
be in the series, only that it will cover the ;;
years the Kopp sisters were involved in fighting
crime. There may be more ahead, too:
Brownstone Productions has optioned the
books, and Stewart says that two female screen-writers are working on writing a pilot.
Writing a series can be demanding for sure,
but Stewart sees it as an honor. “These could
have been any three women plucked out of his-
tory. They are not famous. But I want to tell
them: You are not forgotten.”
Readers who enter the world of the Kopp sis-
ters will not soon forget them either. C
The author of two other books, Judi Ketteler is
currently working on a young adult novel.
THIS MONTH my book buyer’s
pick is a great example of
early 1900s girl power: Amy
Stewart’s Girl Waits with Gun.
The novel was inspired by
the true story of a silk factory
owner destroying the Kopp
sisters’ buggy in a traffic
accident. When the factory
owner refuses to pay for
damages, the town prosecutor
says he won’t help. The county
sheriff, however, teaches all
three sisters to shoot, and
the oldest one, Constance,
becomes one of the first
female deputy sheriffs of the
early 20th century.
I can’t help but praise
Stewart not only for how she
fleshes out the events in this
story, but also for the way she
brings to life these highly
unusual sisters and the times
in which they live.
Girl Waits with Gun (Item
#1126042) is available now in
most Costco warehouses.
For more book picks,
see page 122.
—Pennie Clark Ianniciello,
Costco book buyer
Girl Waits with Gun plucks three women out of history
Kopps and robbers
Costco has 50 signed copies of Amy Stewart’s
Girl Waits with Gun with signed book plates to
give away. To enter, go to costcoconnection
NO PURCHASE, PAYMENT OR OPT-IN OF ANY KIND IS
NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN THIS SWEEPSTAKES.
Purchase will not improve odds of winning. Sweepstakes
is sponsored by Costco Wholesale, 1045 Lake Drive,
Issaquah, WA 98027. Open to legal residents of the U. S.
(except Puerto Rico) who are age 18 or older at the time of
entry. One entry per household. Entries must be received
before the February issue is available online, which will
happen around January 25, 2017. Winners will be randomly
selected and noti;ed by mail on or before March 1, 2017.
The value of the prize is $14.95. Void where prohibited.
Winners are responsible for all applicable federal, state and
local taxes. Odds of winning depend on the number of
eligible entries received. Employees of Costco or Houghton
Mif;in and their families are not eligible.
SIGNED BOOK GIVEAWAY