Friday, December 28, 2012

A Hero with a Secret Identity

My newest digital release, Promise Me, features a hero with an interesting secret life. Everyone in Willow Creek Montana believes he’s a prosperous businessman, the owner of a successful sawmill.

But one other man, his partner – knows the truth. They’re in town to investigate a consortium of mine owners who are plotting to control the supply of silver and undermine the fragile post-Civil War economy.

Sam is a Secret Service agent, and that raises some questions from folks who have heard me talk about the book or read the excerpt on my website. Because most people know the Secret Service as the agency entrusted with one of the most important jobs in government, to keep the President, his family and other government leaders safe.

But on July 5, 1865, the first head of the agency, William P. Wood, was sworn in by the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. The agency was given one main objective, to track down counterfeiters in order to help restore faith in the currency of the newly reunited United States of America.

 That’s right, as much as we value our political leaders, everyone in the country also values money. And protecting it has been the key mission of the Secret Service. Much like our financial problems today, the country faced a banking crisis. This one was due to the tremendous amount of counterfeit money circulating. Unlike today, with the Treasury responsible for printing all the money, at the time of the Civil War, state banks designed and printed their own currency. Imagine several thousands of currency printed and the opportunities for criminals to step in and print their own.

In 1862, Congress passed the Legal Tender Act, setting up a national currency system. The “coney” men, or counterfeiters, still found many ways to create and circulate fakes.

Wood recruited ex-soldiers, police officers, or detectives to serve as agents who were expected to on duty 24 hours a day, with no days off. They were required to maintain peak physical fitness and swear utter, unquestioning obedience to the agencies directives. In other words, if you were a Secret Service agent, your job was your life.

I loved the idea of putting a man devoted to his job and mission in circumstances that made him question those ideals when faced with a woman who melted his heart and made him wish for the comforts of a home and family.

Have you ever encountered a counterfeit bill? I’d love to hear about your experience!
Learn more about books by Deborah Schneider at and

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