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I have just had another lovely review for “The Man in the Canary Waistcoat”, and one of my favourite lines from it is this: “There are also lots of fascinating details about daily life in the criminal world, including how the jail system worked, woven into the story and leaving the reader much more knowledgeable without feeling that he’s had a history lesson.”  As I said the other day, I find that I write the sort of books I would like to read, and for me one of the most painless ways of learning about something is to read it as the background to a fiction story.  So, for instance, much of what I know about the Henry Ford era of early American industrialisation comes from a series of family sagas by Susan Howatch; I would never have read a book on that subject, but I was very happy to absorb it alongside the drama.

So I am thrilled to find that I am doing this for my readers too.  It’s rather more selfish than that, as I simply love doing the research; leave me in the Regency history section of a library for a day, armed with a notebook and a large bar of chocolate, and I am one happy bunny.  But there is one downside to research, which is that you sometimes end up learning things you wish you didn’t know…

For “Plank 3”, I have had to do a bit of research into what we call STDs and they called the pox, the clap or the Covent Garden ague.  I really only needed to know the basics – available treatments, public attitudes, etc. – but with my inability to stop reading, I now know all about symptoms (complete with full-colour photos – eeeek!), hideous “cures” (including amputation…) and gruesome deaths.  Don’t worry – none of that will find its way into “Plank 3” – but it’s now in my head, and it will certainly make me look far more suspiciously at those portraits of grand ladies with very pale faces and lots of beauty spots.

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