As part of my research for book 4, I’ve been reading up on morphine addiction in the early part of the 20th century. I found out, for example, that Sigmund Freud died of a morphine overdose that was administered by his own doctor in an assisted suicide (Freud had mouth cancer and decided he was done at the age of 83 in 1939).
Addiction to morphine was called the ‘soldiers disease’ as many fighting men came back from the first world war (and second) addicted to the pain killer.
Laudanum (a pill or tincture made from opium and sometimes the addition of saffron, castor, ambergris, musk and nutmeg) was widely used in the 16th century, and well into the 20th.
Although many drugs containing opium were required to be labelled at the beginning of the 20th century, they were also commonly available without a prescription.
My first exposure to an opium den was in Arthur Conan Doyle’s story “The Man with the Twisted Lip,” one of my less favourite Holmes tales. Watson goes to find Holmes in the opium den down a “vile alley” on Upper Swandam Lane. In London in the 1930s, opium dens could be found in and around Pennyfields and the Limehouse Causeway.
From what I’ve read, the description of the seediness and danger around these drug dens were both racially charged and more negative than real. But, any drug den, whether it’s in the 1930s or today, will attract a certain kind of customer, so the danger was probably accurately described. For example:
In a talk at the Docklands Museum on 28th January 2007, Dr. John Seed from Roehampton University explored some of the realities of Chinese life in Limehouse from 1900 – 1940. He showed how public responses to several drug scandals, to interracial marriage, to housing shortages and unemployment, contributed to an enduring myth: the idea of a Chinatown in Limehouse that never really existed. Read more here.
An anti-opium movement sprang up in response, mostly as a method of controlling the populace from “deviant” behaviours, but doctors were still prescribing various opioids as a method of pain control.
I’m writing a scene today where Portia catches sight of a suspect standing on the platform of a London tube stop, and I always like to watch this video when writing about that specific setting (and I’m very lucky such source material exists).
It’s from the 1930s, and hosted by the Kinolibrary Film Collections:
Just so you know, publishers LOVE it when pre-sales of books go well. And happy publishers usually leads to happy authors, so if you were thinking Pickles might make an awesome gift OR you just wanted to be the first to get your hot little paws on a copy, this is your chance!
For those of you following along with the development of book 4 in the Portia Adams series, I think I’ve got a new tentative title: The Detective and the Spy.
It turns out the spy that Portia runs into in act 1 of the story, is becoming quite significant to the storyline. He started out as a Christopher, but in reading more about spies in the 1930s, I’m becoming enamoured of naming him after Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond series. Ian’s middle name is Lancaster, so here’s my question for all you fab fans out there, what do you prefer as a spy name?
One of the best things about Fierce Ink Press (my first publishers, who have since gone out of business) was that they introduced me to Emma Dolan, the illustrator who created all the covers for the Portia Adams Adventures.
Well, it would seem destiny (and Emma’s considerable talent) have brought us together again, because DCB has commissioned her to create the book cover for Pickles vs the Zombies!