Toronto Newspapers of the 1930s

The Daily Star on sale.
The Daily Star on sale (from the BlogTO article – 2011, originally from the Toronto Archives)

I’m researching Toronto newspapers today and thought I would share some of my findings with you interested folks!

BlogTO has done a lot of my work for me in this piece from 2011.

It looks like The Globe and Mail was still called The Globe as of the early 1930s (this is prior to their merger with Mail and Empire in 1936). It would have been a viable source of news for Portia and Annie as they navigate the streets of Montreal and Toronto. Here is the wikipedia article for The Globe and Mail.

The Toronto Evening Telegram was a local Toronto paper which would have been hard to get one’s hands on outside of the city and folded in 1971. It was in direct competition with the Toronto Star, which back in the 30s was called The Toronto Daily Star, and was supposed to better represent the ‘common man’s interests. You can read more about the history of the Toronto Star on their website here.

The Montreal Gazette (just called Gazette in the 30s) it turns out has been around forever – founded in 1778 if you can imagine – and was in a dual French-English format. The competing Quebec Gazette is an English-language weekly these days but back in the 30s was a dual French-English weekly.

So there you have it. All the news our girls could want in print form!

Research trip to London

I'm clueing for looks!
I’m clueing for looks!

Despite having lived in London for the first six years of my life, and visited the city for a few days at a time in the years since, this was the first time I got to focus on research for my Portia Adams series.

Here is my Sherlockian itinerary:

  • Sherlock Holmes Museum (at the actual 221 B Baker Street)
  • Holmes exhibit at the Museum of London
  • Old Scotland Yard (and new Scotland Yard)
  • 10 Downing Street
  • Regents Park
  • The Strand
  • Westminister, Waterloo and London Bridges

Click below to see pics and my take on each of those fabulous locations, but suffice to say, I’m feeling even more inspired to keep writing about Portia’s adventures in London!

Sherlock Holmes Museum (at the actual 221 B Baker Street)

Actually located on Baker Street (unlike where the current BBC Sherlock is filmed on North Gower Street in London), the private museum had to get special permission from the City of Westminster to call itself 221B even though it is located between numbers 237 and 241. Downstairs you will find the shop of wonderful memorabilia, but upstairs they have attempted to recreate the original canon-descriptions of the offices of Holmes and Watson circa the 1880s. You find the sitting room, Sherlock’s little laboratory and Dr. Watson’s room laid out with medical books and equipment. It’s lovely and quaint but SO tiny. It made me really wonder how two men could plausibly live in such a tiny space. Not sure if the dimensions are different than those Conan-Doyle intended or if a lifetime of living in Canada has spoiled me for open-spaces.

Holmes exhibit at the Museum of London

Sherlock Holmes Exhibit poster from the London Museum.
Sherlock Holmes Exhibit poster from the London Museum.

This was just a lucky coincidence that my trip to London lined up with this exhibit at the London Museum. Sub-titled “The man who never lived and will never die” it features some fantastic original Conan-Doyle manuscripts, all kinds of movie posters, an interview with the author about his creation and vintage costumes and a lot of little details even I (an aficionado if there ever was one!) didn’t know. Like for example: did you know that the original names of the detective duo were J Sherrinford Holmes and Ormond Sacker? I knew about Sherinnford, but wow, Ormond Sacker instead of John Watson? Yikes.

Old Scotland Yard (and new Scotland Yard)

Great Scot(land Yard)!
Great Scot(land Yard)!

Now called the Norman Shaw buildings, Old Scotland Yard is both romantically beautiful and very business-like in its architecture.

I sat on a bench at 4 Whitehall Place for a half hour imagining Portia running up and down in pursuit of clues and following Brian around as he does his work.

10 Downing Street

I should have known this I suppose, but when you get to Downing street, you are confronted by a large fenced in area and you can go no further. It was disappointing, but when I turned around I saw a lovely sculpture dedicated to the women for World War II, so I felt rewarded for hiking all the way to that location.

Statue on Downing Street
Statue on Downing Street

Regents Park

This park is huge, I don’t think I had an appreciation for Portia and Nerissa’s favourite stomping ground until I actually walked around for 5 hours in it! It’s gorgeous and green (even in March) and filled with people, critters and ponds. I could see spending hours writing on a park bench if it were a bit warmer.

The Strand

Back in Portia’s day, the area of London called ‘The Strand’ was the centre of nightlife and theatre. She visits the area often because King’s College’s main campus is located here, and she takes a few classes, and meets up with friends there. These days it has theatres, lots of shops and is a major tourist hot-spot. I visited King’s College on the Thames and it is a beautiful campus with white stone buildings and lovely statues of Sappho and Sophocles. I think Portia, Beans and Gavin would have spent many a happy hour on this campus.

The Bridges

This is Tower Bridge which I did not walk across, but saw from the Tower of London
This is Tower Bridge which I did not walk across, but took a photo of from the Tower of London

So, I walked across Westminster Bridge, where the jewels were actually tossed into the Thames, and where Portia does her midnight stakeout. It was busy in the middle of the day, but when you lean over the side, you can imagine what it was like 100 years ago because it quite simply has not changed that much. Well, except for the garbage. Back in Portia’s day the Thames was still being used as a sewer, a garbage dump and God knows what else. In 1957 it was actually declared ‘biologically dead’ if you can imagine.

Waterloo Bridge I crossed while on a tour bus (when your feet get tired, it’s the best way to travel!) and London Bridge I hopped off and walked across on my way to the Monument to the Great Fire of London.

Pedro Mendes on 1930s Mens Fashion

From Flux magazine online

The following is a guest post by men’s style expert Pedro Mendes.

The 1930s are widely considered the apex of modern men’s style. After the restrictive and drab dress of the Victorians and Edwardians, but before the grey uniformity of post-WW2, the 1930s saw men’s fashion express itself like never before, and perhaps, like never since. Despite the Great Depression, this was not a time of deprivation in clothing – like the rationing to come in the 40s that almost killed three-piece and cemented flat-front pants. Instead, the biggest change from the 1920s was a sobering of colours and patterns. The wild abandon of the Gatsby era was toned down, with a return to more sober greys, blues and subtle patterns. That’s not to say that there wasn’t colour in the 1930s, it just wasn’t the rainbow of the previous decade.

The other great development that was born in 1930s London was the “drape” suit. Meant to enhance and exaggerate the male form, more fabric was used in the torso and the jacket was shaped to nip in at the waist while tapering in the sleeve. Pants continued to be wide, but again tapered at the ankle. It all was meant to broaden the shoulders and lengthen the legs, making men look more muscular and manly. Perhaps this was an emotional reaction to the Depression – all the unemployment had undermined men’s self-worth and their roles in society. But more likely it was simply an evolution in taste as English tailoring began to be influenced by Italians – who used more fabric, less structure, and a severe V shape in their tailoring.

Over in the United States, young men started challenging the norm by wearing blazers and sport jackets in town, mixing athletic wear with suits and ties. Button-down collars with ties and tweeds, Fair Isle sweaters and the more relaxed “sack suit.” As society became more casual, and young people, especially in university and college started to have more influence on fashion, odd jackets became more acceptable. Some of this look was itself influenced by England’s Prince of Wales on his journeys across the pond. Unlike his father, the Price was a much more casual and relaxed dresser and a huge influence on British style.

All of the above, however, relates mostly to the upper and moneyed classes. The regular person on the street kept wearing what they had been wearing for years, unlike today when clothes are regularly thrown away and replaced every year or two. Perhaps you could afford to have a suit made at a local tailor and so you could follow the trends of the day, which at the time were reinforced by Hollywood movies. One way the average person was able to afford more clothing than before the Depression was the widespread popularity and availability of off-the-rack. But whereas today you can find some off-the-rack of exceptional quality, the first mass produced suits, when seen with a keen eye, were miles away from custom work.

Pedro Mendes in Leon Drexler homburg-style hat.


Pedro Mendes is an expert in men’s style and the editor of The Hogtown Rake, which you should check out and follow immediately!

Follow the Hogtown Rake on Tumblr, on Instagram, and on twitter.

Time Magazine photo gallery of Scotland Yard

I have no idea how it took this long to stumble across this, but check out this awesome photo gallery of Scotland Yard over the decades on Time Magazine’s website:

Click here to go to the photo gallery!
Click here to go to the photo gallery!

I was doing research at the time into police training in the 1930s, so here are some of my findings:

Writing a Teacher’s Guide: Links

Teachers are the best! Photo Credit: Jennifer Brouwer Interior Design Projects

My friend Joyce Grant is an expert in teaching kids (see her website Teaching Kids News for an example of her prowess in the field) and suggested I start a Teacher’s Guide for Jewel of the Thames. She’s right, I’ve also had this request from teachers themselves.

So I’m reading up on some Guide’s for books written for the same age group (12+) – if anyone has a suggestion, please add it to the comments below?

Meanwhile, here is where I am collecting useful links:

British coinage and slang

Love this image from Foyle’s War even though its not for the TV show but the soundtrack.

I’m watching Foyle’s War these days (another addictive BBC program) and I was getting confused by all the slang used to describe money and decided to make myself a primer for my own writing.

One shilling equals 12 pennies.
A bob is slang for a shilling.
A quid is slang for the pound (which equals 100 pennies)
A half-crown equals 2 shillings and sixpence (or six pennies which is what pence stands for)
One crown equals 5 shillings.
A halfpenny equals exactly that (half a penny) but it wasn’t created till 1971 (and is therefore not relevant to Foyle or Portia Adams)
A farthing equals a quarter of a penny and could be divided even down to a quarter farthing (which was 1/16th of a penny!)
A groat equals fourpence (four pennies)
A florin is a two-shilling coin and the slang is a two-bob bit.
A guinea is a gold coin worth 21 shillings

Any I’m forgetting friends?

Writer’s Blindness (like snow blindness except pertaining to your words!)

Ryan Gosling is poking his eye because he has Verbameakeratitis.

There truly is a name for everything on the internet. I was searching around this morning for a phrase to describe the feeling where you’re reading over your umpteenth edit of a manuscript you know off by heart and you’re not even seeing the words anymore.

Terena Scott over at Medusa’s Muse called it “Writer’s Blindness” in her post: ‘Beware the Danger of Writer’s Blindness.’

That feels apt, but to take it further, the same way snow blindness has a scientific name (Photokeratitis) I am coining a new term for writer’s blindness Verbameakeratitis. Verba mea is latin for ‘my words’

In my own case, as I get ready to hit <send> on my second-edits for Thrice Burned, I find myself using these tricks to ‘see’ my own errors and catch them before inflicting them upon my poor editor/publishers <again>.

  • Read Aloud – this is something they teach to every first year journalism student (I should know, I was one) and it really does work. You are much more likely to catch an error if you have to read your words aloud.
  • Read your writing on a different machine – I find PDFing my document and reading it on the iPad helps me not slip into complacency. I’ve caught lots of typos that way
  • Know thy faults. I have a bad habit of adding stage direction (usually eyebrows a-waggling) so I do a search of the document for my own bad habits.
  • Read the document in order: just because you’re SURE that first chapter is pristine, do not feel you can skip it. Read the whole story as if you were a first time reader to really SEE the mistakes.
  • Check all dates and locations if you write historical fiction – this is a big one. Make sure every instance of a date is double-checked and makes sense.

What are your tricks for avoiding Verbameakeratitis ?

The fashions of 1930s London

This blog post is inspired by the incredible Beverly Wolov, whom I met at the GridLock Conference last month. During a panel discussion she revealed her gift of fashion history, and I had to stop her afterwards to talk to her about the 1930s, Portia, and all the fashion issues I have. If you know me at all, you know my preferred outfit is a comic-book t-shirt and jeans, but I am expected to write descriptive scenes about Portia and the fashion she would be wearing in 1930s London.

from Fashion Design 1800-1940. The Pepin Press, Amsterdam. 2001. p.361
from Fashion Design 1800-1940. The Pepin Press, Amsterdam. 2001. p.361

This blog post is inspired by the incredible Beverly Wolov, whom I met at the GridLock Conference last month. During a panel discussion she revealed her gift of fashion history, and I had to stop her afterwards to talk to her about the 1930s, Portia, and all the fashion issues I have. If you know me at all, you know my preferred outfit is a comic-book t-shirt and jeans, but I am expected to write descriptive scenes about Portia and the fashion she would be wearing in 1930s London.

Beverly, lovely lady that she is, not only read Jewel of the Thames, but came back to me with all kinds of suggestions for future outfits/fabrics/styles for the characters in my book series!
She also sent along the images in this blog post from her collection of fashion books and magazines that I intend to harness in my writing.

  

Beverly is a guest photographer and researcher at the Smithsonian (Yes THAT Smithsonian) and has an M.A. in the History of Decorative Arts from the Smithsonian Institute-Corcoran College of Art and Design where her studies focused primarily on the history of fashion, of lace, and material culture.

  

Enjoy the fabulous images below and expect to see them incorporated into Thrice Burned and No Matter How Improbable very soon!

 

Just the Facts, Ma’am

Amazing list of advice on research for your books by my friend Christine — bookmark her website!

IRISH FIREBRANDS: A Novel ~ and Other Works by Christine Plouvier, Indie Author

Thorough research is the 4th of The 7 Reasonable Rules of Writing. Details will differ, according to exactly what our Muse has tasked us with writing: be it historical fiction, fictionalized history, contemporary life, or even fantasy world-building, which must achieve consistency and continuity between its wholly imaginary historical and contemporary aspects. But in general, this is the kind of research that writers should expect to conduct:

mooreVerify vocabulary. Outside of misspellings (including homophones and apostrophe errors), there’s nothing quite so jarring to a reader who’s in the know, than encountering anachronistic or culturally uncharacteristic bits of verbiage. Pay attention to the etymology your dictionary provides, and in particular, the dates. (My 1941 Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary also supplies a helpful “new word” list.)dictionary &amp; phrasebook

Sometimes readers quibble over local semantics. Writers who are accustomed to the U. S. cultural and linguistic melting-pot should know that there’s no such thing…

View original post 1,136 more words