Friday, 22 August 2014

Work in Progress

I'm currently working on a murder mystery set in Victorian London. I hope to publish it in the New Year.

From a research point of view, Victorian London is an excellent setting for a novel. There is so much  material available online. I've been able to do all the necessary research without stepping away from the computer. Pre-internet, it might have taken months or years to find this amount of information. And then one would have to photocopy it, or transcribe it by hand.

On the other hand, from a research point of view, Victorian London can be a bad choice of setting because there is so much material available online. There is always more research that can be done. This is true of course even when the subject is not Victorian London and whether one is talking about a fiction or non-fiction project. One can spend forever researching and never get around to writing anything. But it is much easier to procrastinate when the source material is a click of a mouse away at any time of day or night, rather than requiring a journey to a record office which is only open for limited hours.

It's also possible to become excessively bogged down in detail.  I work on the principle of 'if you can't find out, leave it out' and gloss over minor points if they aren't essential to the plot. The main thing in historical fiction, I think, is to be true to the time and place and the mindset of the people who lived in it, rather than obsessively trying to recreate the period by describing every little detail.

Even when I have been able to find out something, I sometimes ignore it! I've been able to discover the exact layout of a particular location I'm using for a key development of the plot. On referring back to it, having written the chapter, I've found that the action I've described doesn't quite fit the layout. I've decided that artistic licence is permitted here. My plot is  not affected one way or the other. The location no longer exists (although I have Google Earthed the place where it was, and I may go and visit it one day)  and it would have to be a very nitpicky reader who went to the trouble of tracking down the source I've used and comparing it with what I've written.

I also have a minor plot problem. I need a fairly minor incident to occupy my character away from the main storyline for a short time. I had an idea for this, but have decided it's good enough to develop into a story in its own right. So it's back to the planning stage on that one, and a bit more reading round the subject to see if anything inspires me.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

The Plantagenet Mystery available on Kindle

My new novel is now available on Kindle. The Plantagenet Mystery is set in the present day, but the mystery begins in the fifteenth century and touches the lives of many people through generations.

Historian Rob Tyler finds himself involved in a mystery which has its origins in the times of the clash of dynasties, of battles, treachery and treason, when having the wrong bloodline could be enough to send a man or woman to the executioner's block. As Rob uses his skills as a historian to uncover the secret he finds his courage and determination tested and discovers that the the difference between right and wrong is not as clearcut as he had thought.

See more at my Amazon page.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

'The lamps are going out all over Europe'

War has inspired great prose and poetry in the English language. Churchill's speeches in the Second World War. The poetry of Owen, Sassoon and others in the First World War. One liners by military and naval men such as Wellington and Drake. The Anglo Saxon Chronicle for the year 878. 

Among the most elegant, and most prophetic, words spoken about war were those of Sir Edward Grey, the Foreign Secretary, on the evening of 3rd August 1914. Britain was not yet at war, but the belief was that British participation in the already ongoing European war could not now be avoided. 

Grey's words have become so closely associated with the outbreak of war that they have been taken as the theme for this week's commemoration. 

In a generation of politicians that included David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill, Grey was not the most charismatic nor the best orator nor the greatest man of letters. But it was his speech to the House of Commons on 3rd August that defined the British position and caused the majority, in Parliament and in the country, to accept that Britain had just cause to go to war. It was 'a statement destined to remain memorable in the history of the world', said the Times

According to his own memoirs, it was after making that speech that Grey, while looking out of the window of his rooms in the Foreign Office, spoke the words to a friend who was with him. 

'We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.'

The Great War changed Europe and the lives of many families not just for Grey's lifetime (he died in 1933) but forever. 

Four Empires fell - the German, the Austrian, the Russian and the Turkish. The consequences are still being felt in parts of Europe and in the Middle East today. 

The Peace of Versailles, which was recognised as flawed almost before the ink was dry, contributed to the great financial problems of Europe in the 1920s and to the Second World War, which in turn led to the Cold War. 

Grey's own party, the Liberals, yielded to a Coalition government in 1915. The party was deeply split and never again held office.  

The Great War had a much greater impact on the people of Britain than any previous war. Every family must have been touched by it  in some way. 

For Britain, this was the first war fought with a conscript army (from 1916). 5.7 million British men served in the Army at some time during the war. A further three million Imperial and Commonwealth troops served. Men also served in the Royal and merchant navies and the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force.  About one million died. Many more were left disabled, with lasting impact on their families. 

Millions more men and women worked in munitions and other industries related to war. Many moved away from their homes to do so, sometimes taking their families with them, changing the course of their lives and those of their descendants. 

This war was fought on the Home Front, something which the Britain, as an island, was not accustomed to. Aerial warfare brought civilian casualties. The U Boat campaign brought the country near to starvation.  

This week we should remember not just the men who went to fight and who died, but also those who came home disabled, and the women and children whose lives were changed by the war.