| Joe Steele |
Relevant POD: July, 1932
|Novel or Story?:||Novel only|
|Type of Appearance:||Direct|
|Spouse:|| Mike Sullivan (div. 1939)|
Stella Sullivan, née Morandini, was the first wife of reporter Mike Sullivan. She was a rather petite woman, who was unafraid to speak her mind, a fact that attracted Mike to her in the first place. Her parents were Italian immigrants. They disapproved of her relationship with the Irish-American Mike. Mike's parents also disapproved, but to a lesser extent because Mike's brother, Charlie, was engaged to a Hungarian Jew named Esther Polgar.
During the Democratic National Convention in July, 1932, Mike, who was employed by the New York Post, was sent to Albany to cover a press conference held by Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt, one of the two front-runners for the Democratic presidential nomination. Roosevelt's rival was Congressman Joe Steele of Fresno, who was secretly at the Convention in Chicago. Charlie, a reporter himself, was also in Chicago.
As the election approached, Charlie shared with Mike, Stella, and Esther how he'd overheard Steele's aid, Vince Scriabin, relaying ambiguous orders on a long-distance phone call. While all agreed that Charlie hadn't heard Scriabin specifically order the fire, they also agreed that it was possible that Scriabin was nonetheless giving the go-ahead.
However, as Mike began investigating the fire after Steele won in November, he became convinced Steele was in fact responsible for the Roosevelts' death. He was also critical of Steele's increasingly authoritarian actions. Stella frequently tried to convince Mike to keep his head down after each fresh outrage, with mixed success. When the Supreme Court Four were convicted of treason in September, 1934, Mike, in a vulnerable moment, proposed to Stella, and she accepted.
Sullivan and Stella married a few weeks later. Charlie Sullivan was Mike's best man. Even at his reception, Mike Sullivan expressed anger at Joe Steele and frustration with the public's complacency. Charlie managed to calm him down, and Mike quietly enjoyed the remainder of his big day. However, Stella asked Charlie to try to keep Mike under control. When Charlie pointed out that Stella was now Mike's wife, Stella reminded Charlie that she was not a journalist, and that Charlie would have more influence on that basis.
Mike finally pushed Steele too far in Summer, 1937. He wrote a piece entitled "Where is Our Freedom Going?", which attacked Steele's sweeping arrests of so-called "wreckers". While Stella expressed concerns, Mike got the piece published in the Post, and was arrested by the GBI the following night. He was convicted of libel, and sent to a labor camp in Montana.
Stella turned to Charlie for help. Charlie had developed fairly close ties to the Steele administration, and had previously had interceded on his brother's behalf. However, he could do nothing.
In September, 1939, after Mike had been imprisoned for two years, Stella couldn't take the situation any more, and filed for divorce. Mike received notice in Montana. She maintained some contacts with her former in-laws in the years that followed. In 1945, she was engaged to Morris Cantor, a booking agent. The two married not long after.