This was an historical mystery with shots of -- urban fantasy? paranormalcy?
One important point is that this list will work nicely from 1933 on. But 1933 was the year of Repeal. Before that, you're in Prohibition, and while for a teetotalling middle-class settled family that's not important, it sure changes a night out on the town.
The WPA Guide to New York. I know where to get exotic dishes like pizzas and tacos. I know what bus and subway fares are. I know where the shops and nightclubs likely are, enough for a rough draft. This is a list of all the free guides and the many more that need to be made into PDFs and put online because they were public domain since they were printed. This was published in 1939, which means the information was collected in 1937 and 1938, which is only a little late for 1934. The important fact: it tells me which neighborhoods are suitable for everything from suburban houses to derelict warehouses.
1) history outline
2) everyday life
3) General transportation
4) General costume.
5) Specific transportation
7) Spectator entertainments, whether theatre
or sports, a general overview.
8) Self-entertainments, like card games,
lawn games, and children's games.
9) Food and dining, including what sort
of public dining was available.
11) Marriage and family
12) Specific costume, for your demi-decade,
including specialty costumes for clerics.
13) A book on the religion(s) dominant
in the time and place, as practiced then, not the current version.
14) A fat history book of the area and
15) A history of the most influential country at the time (country A).
16) A history of its rival (country B).
America and ... let me think ... Japan. Britain is trying to maintain its empire, Italy is trying to build one, and the Nazis and Communists are still squabbling over Germany. The USSR is in flux. But Japan has an empire and is expanding despite Britain and America. So I read the history in Terry's Guide to the Japanese Empire: Including Korea and Formosa, with Chapters on Manchuria, the Trans-Siberian Railway, and the Chief Ocean Routes, by Philip T. Terry, 1933, Houghton Mifflin Co, Boston & NY. Wasn't I lucky on the date when I bought this ages ago? Then I read Lands & Peoples vVI: Canada & the United States; 1929-1954; The Grolier Society, NY. I really do not have to read up on more than Wikipedia: notice it doesn't say big history. Over the years, I have built very dense annals for this time, as the prelude to even denser ones on the later Swing Age.
17) A biography of the leader of country A
18) A biography of the leader of country B
Hoover and Hirohito. No, please, they really have nothing to do with this. Substitutes are Are the Jews a Menace to Civilization? The Character of the Jew Explained, 1934, which for a change is an anti-anti-Semitic anonymous pamphlet. To balance it, I read the Protocols of the Elders of Zion updated, I didn't think anti-Semitism would be big in the book, but just there, like rain, but it has actually become a tiny pivot point.
19) A history of the country you are setting
20) A history of the country you are setting
in, that era.
21) A biography of the leader of the country
of your setting.
22) An everyday life for the commoner of
your time and place.
23) An everyday life for the upper classes
of your time and place.
24) An everyday life for the middle class
of your time and place.
25) An everyday life for the women of your
time and place
26) An auto/biography of someone like your
protagonist, or a book as much as possible focused on people
27) A book on houses and furnishings of
28) A book about courting, romance, and
sex of the time.
29) A source of period names.
30.) Medicine of the time and place.
31) Climate and weather
32) Collegiate: To see real people about the age of my protagonist, and to populate the campuses she will visit, I got a mort of 1934 college yearbooks at the Internet Archive (criteria: yearbook AND 1934 NOT bible AND mediatype:texts).
33) Magazines of the Day: Wonder Stories: The Magazine of Prophetic Fiction; Volume 6, Number 3, August 1934. Published by Continental Publications, Incorporated; 99 Hudson Street, New York, New York. Why shouldn't my protagonist read science fiction as well as The Saturday Evening Post?
34) Everyday Life: Various mail-order catalogs, from Sears, Montgomery Wards, Speigel, &c., especially the Christmas "wishbooks."
35) Weirdness: Inglis, Brian; Trance: A Natural History of Altered States of Mind; 1990; Grafton Books, Collins Publishing Group, London
36) Weirdness: Fort, Charles; Complete Books of Charles Fort, The: The Book of the Damned/New Lands/Lo!/Wild Talents; 1941; 1919, 1923, 1931, 1932; Henry Holt & Co, NY; Dover, NY
37) Magic: Goodavage, Joseph F.; Write Your Own Horoscope; 1968; New American Library; Signet Mystic, NY
38) Entertainment: Stein, Charles W., ed & comm; American Vaudeville as Seen by Its Contemporaries; 1984; Knopf, NY. covers through 1936.
39) Champagne Living: Alpern, Andrew; New York's Fabulous Luxury Apartments With Original Floor Plans from the Dakota, River House, Olympic Tower and Other Great Buildings; 1975, McGraw-Hill, NY, as Apartments for the Affluent: A Historical Survey of Buildings in New York; Dover, NY; 1987.
40) Travel: Wall, Robert; Airliners;1980; Chartwell Books, Book Sales Inc, Secaucus, NJ; airplanes, airlines, dirigibles, zeppelins, travel; 1913-1980
41) Collegiate: The Federal Writers' Project, The WPA Guide to Massachusetts, 1937, 1983. Notice the original publication date here is only three years in the future, and the manuscript would have been finalized in 1936. Two years is not enough to matter.
42) Magazines of the day: Amazing Stories, May and September. I loved these for the ads much more than the fiction (note to self: remember how much better scientific romances were than this science fiction). They clued me in to two sex manuals, extension universities, &c..
43) Style: Menten, Theodore; The Art Deco Style in Household Objects, Architecture, Sculpture, Graphics, Jewelry; 1972; Dover, NY
44) Technology: Popular Science has their own archive online.
45) Language: Partridge, Eric; A Dictionary of Catch-Phrases, British and American, from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day; 1977; Stein and Day, Briarcliff Manor, NY
46) Travel: Miller, William H., Jr.; Great Luxury Liners 1927-1954; A Photographic Record; 1981; Dover, NY. They tie up at the Hudson River docks and beckon dreams to slip over the blue horizon.
47) Cussing: Because someone might do it seriously. Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing by Melissa Mohr, Oxford University Press, 2013.
48) Magazines of the day: Weird Tales volume 24 number 3 (September 1934). I also go back through my Golden Age reprints checking first publication dates. No ads in the paperbacks, but I know the stories she reads.
49) Everyday Life: Goodrum, Charles & Helen Dalrymple; Advertising in America: The First 200 Years; 1990; Harry N. Abrams, Inc. NY.
50) Music & Radio: Check Live365 for Cladrite Radio. Their logo says music of the 20's, 30's & 40's, but it's mostly later 20's and early 30's when I listen to it.
|If you need something else for your particular story around this time, maybe Historical Novelists Center can help with their Swing Age pages.|