My second novel, like “Fatal Forgery” before it, is in the genre of historical crime fiction. (I sometimes wish it wasn’t, as that seems to be a tricky genre for publishers to grasp and for bookshops to shelve – but that will have to be another blog post: should we write books that fit the current marketing priorities, or books that we want to write? Answers on a large postcard, please.) And to my mind, writing historical fiction brings with it very particular responsibilities.
I wasn’t absolutely clear on my take on those responsibilities before I started “Fatal Forgery”, but as I was writing it they crystallised, and I now adhere to them as rigidly as I can. And here they are:
- If I feature a person (e.g. the magistrate John Conant, who appears in both novels), I make every effort to learn as much as possible about that person, and then to ensure that whatever they say or do in my novel is in keeping with what we actually know about them.
- When my characters walk around London (both novels being set there) I have always done that walk myself, to make sure that I get the timings right. Needless to say, Sam does not hop onto a Boris bike to chase criminals.
- Any references to specific events are historically accurate. For instance, I had initially intended the events in “Plank 2” to take place in spring 1825, but then I really wanted to include a fair that happened in August – so I have moved everything by about four months to accommodate that.
I don’t want to sound smug – I am sure I will make some mistakes along the way – but I want readers to feel that I have done my very best to make my books as reliable as possible. And, to be honest, I really enjoy the intellectual puzzle of weaving historical fact and my own imaginings into a coherent whole.