Racconigi Castle

This gives me some great ideas for describing the interior of Racconigi Castle.. though I wish the film-makers had spent a little less time watching the dancers as walking through the Palace….


CaseBook Titles

bunch of books on their sides
a series in order!

Ok, don’t laugh, but as I write casebook 7 of the Portia Adams Adventures, I am forgetting the order. How is that possible you ask? Sigh, editing, re-editing, transcribing, re-reading, and re-ordering… its bound to make a girl confused.
So here is an ordered list of the completed casebooks in the series:

1. Jewel of the Thames
2. A case of darkness
3. Unfound
4. Thrice Burned
5. Box 850
6. Truth be told (title picked by the faithful readers of this blog!)
7. Principessa (tentative)
8. Settling the Score (title picked by the faithful readers of this blog!)

A funny thing happened while writing Book 6

Letters spelling truth
Truth be Told (tentative title to Book 6)

… It ended and I started Book 7. That’s never happened before — that I finished one scene in one book, fully intending to write the next scene, and four paragraphs in realized that.. ‘Hey! That back there was a great ending to Book 6!’

AND it happened exactly as I was finishing one moleskin notebook and starting a new one (while cursing that I hadn’t managed to finish Book 6 in the other moleskin). This probably doesn’t make sense to anyone but me, but I believe in signs, and this, my friends, was a sign. That was the end of Book 6. Underline. <fin>

So…. Draft 1 of Book 6 is done! Off to transcribing land I go!

Dinner and a Movie in 1931

Coronet Theatre at Notting Hill
Coronet Theatre at Nottinghill Gate as taken from http://www.arthurlloyd.co.uk/CoronetTheatreNottingHillGate.htm

I just wrote a scene where Portiais sitting on the roof deducing that Brian Dawes has just come from dinner and a movie with his girlfriend Annie Coleson, and I need some details.

Firstly, yes, cinemas existed in 1931 in London.

At first I thought the Gate Theatre (originally a studio near Covent Garden, opened I. 1925) would suffice, but it was for plays, not movies. I’ll hold onto that one for some later use.

I think the Nottinghill Coronet would be a reasonable choice.. located at Pembridge Road and Holland Park ave in Notting Hill Gate in London, it’s close enough to Baker street to make it the ‘local’ theatre.

This is from the Wikipedia article:

In 1916, films were shown at the theatre for the first time, as part of variety programmes mixing live and filmed performance.
In 1923, it became a cinema full time, and capacity was reduced from 1,143 to 1,010 seats, but it retained, as it still does, its original theatre interior, consisting of stalls and two upper tiers (a dress circle and a gallery). However, the boxes at each side of the auditorium, next to the stage, were removed in 1931. The stage has been blocked off, and the cinema screen is placed within the proscenium arch. The projection equipment is housed in the former dress circle bar.
In 1931, the cinema became part of Gaumont British Cinemas, and it was at this time that the theatre boxes were removed.

That leaves the dinner, somewhere Brian could have oysters with a special aoli Portia would recognize. This area I think has been known as Nottinghill for some time, and seems to have a rich restaurant district. I think this spot works.

Getting to the point

Holy abusive Batman! But we get your point...
Holy abusive Batman! But we get your point...

I wrote a lot today, and I have next week off work so I am hopeful that I will finish Book 6 by this time next week (cross your fingers kids!) but I am struggling with something I am sure that a lot of writers struggle with – getting to the point.

But maybe I’m struggling with the opposite of what everyone else is struggling with – I know the point – I want to get to to it, but I have to write all this exposition for that point to make sense. Get it? No? Let me explain:

I want Portia to discover the hidden compartments behind the fireplace in her apartment at 221 B Baker street, but now that I know I want that to happen, I had to write out the scene where she discovers it. So four pages later, she has been working in her attic for an hour, trying to find a good disguise for her the case she is on, and she notices the wall is an odd shape up here… different than the same wall down on the floor of her apartment. She of course gets down there as quick as she can, and after a bit of physical exploration discovers the hidden compartments (described below in my post on the diorama).

Those four pages were hard to write, and I had to keep reminding myself NOT to rush to her discovery, but to play it out, to lead the reader there while giving everyone (Portia, me, the reader) something to look forward to.

The number one complaint from people who have read books 1-3 so far is that there is not enough detail in the writing, that the ideas are great, the cases fun and interesting, but that there were a lot of opportunities to insert depth and exposition into the scenes I was writing about. I’m going to have to go back to those books and ADD more detail, but while writing Book 6, I am trying to anticipate (almost wrote pre-anticipate there but that’s not a word) the complaint that it lacks detail.

Do you have trouble writing detail, or do you have the opposite problem: taking too long to get to the point?

I need a celestial event!

Phases of the Moon
Phases of the Moon

….and other impossible things in Book6.

I had this dream last night about how to involve Sergeant Michaels in Portia’s latest case, and for it to work, I need a celestial event to occur in the summer of 1931 that is visible from London.

No prob, right?

Wikipedia has a listing on Eclipses by century:

1930 Apr 13 5:59 Partial D 111 0.955 1.132 0.112 76 13.42 -8 5:21 6:37
1930 Oct 07 19:07 Partial A 116 -0.981 1.117 0.03 42 0.87 4.6 18:46 19:28
1931 Apr 02 20:08 Total D 121 0.204 2.489 1.508 208 90 12.75 -4.6 18:24 19:23 20:53 21:52
1931 Sep 26 19:48 Total A 126 -0.27 2.432 1.325 228 84 0.18 0.9 17:54 19:06 20:30 21:42
Southern Delta Aquarids
Southern Delta Aquarids as interpreted by http://astrobob.areavoices.com/2011/07/25/uptick-in-meteors-as-summer-ripens/

How about the Delta Aquarid meteor shower instead?

The Southern Delta Aquariids are a meteor shower visible from mid July to mid August each year with peak activity on July 28 or 29 July. The shower originated from the breakup of what are now the Marsden and Kracht Sungrazing comets.

The meteor shower was first recorded by G. L. Tupman in 1870, and was further studied well into 1933. A journalist and astronomer named Ronald A. McIntosh studied the meteor shower in the 1920s, and I think I can therefore extrapolate that Portia Adams, an avid reader, might have come across his articles on the phenomenon.

The viewer/victim would have to be ‘facing South East’ to see the shower (according to this article I found on SpaceDex.com) and would have to be watching before dawn on the 28 or 29th of July.

additional info on lighting

Prompted by the comments below, I’m doing some research today on light pollution and whether it would be possible to see a meteor shower from downtown London in 1931. Here is some helpful data from UK Roads:
“The gradual spread of street lighting across the UK led to the first set of national standards being established during 1927. Due to efficiency and economic constraints, the standards required lighting accompanied by reflectors which would direct all light into a narrow channel in the roadway. This resulted in no uniform illumination of the roadway, causing pavements and large parts of the carriageway to remain unlit. And a large amount of glare where the road was lit!”

Adding some locations from Book 6 to the Google Map

Screen cap modification of a Google Map
Portia’s London

I added two more locations to Portia’s London – that of WhiteChapel, where Portia’s newest clients are from and ply their trade, and of Mecklenburgh Park where they meet.
There is a lot of history to the area, and after Portia’s time, quite a few famous authors and literary types called Mecklenburgh home. Read more about it at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mecklenburgh_Square

UPDATE: The WordPress Daily Challenge for Jan 7, 2013 was called ‘Map it Out‘ so I totally nailed that one friends!

Looking for a London newspaper in 1930

The Daily Mirror
The Daily Mirror front page as taken from http://tottenham-summerhillroad.com/tottenham_outrage1909.htm

Spending a bit of time this morning researching newspapers that were publishing in London in the 1930s.

I’m thinking of using The Daily Mirror as the oppositional newspaper to Annie Coleson’s work at The Sunday Times.

From the Wikipedia article on The Daily Mirror

Leigh Brownlee went into newspapers and he is picked out as one of the senior figures representing the Daily Mirror at the funeral of the newspaper’s then editor, Alexander Kenealy in 1915.[10] Brownlee was himself editor of the Daily Mirror from 1931 to 1934, though this was a difficult period for the newspaper, which had fallen significantly from its achievement of the first one million circulation in 1918 because of price cutting by rival newspapers. The Mirror was sold by Lord Northcliffe in the mid-1930s and Brownlee appears to have left then: the newspaper relaunched as an American-style tabloid after he left. He went into partnership in a news agency, but the partnership was dissolved in 1936.

Box 850 done – time to transcribe!


It’s still a tentative title, but Book 5: Box 850 is done.

Box 850 is the colloquial term for the British Intelligence Service, specifically MI6, which wasn’t actually acknowledged as existing until 1994.

At the time of the book, the Chief of MI6 would have been Admiral Sir Hugh Sinclair (1923–1939) and operated at the time out of  54 – Broadway, off Victoria StreetLondon.

It seems that MI5 concentrated more on internal threats, and MI6 more on external, but in the case of Mr. Howard, it is not made clear what his connection is to the Secret Service, it is only intimated that he comes from those offices. MI5 has its own colloquial name: Box 500 (after its official wartime address of PO Box 500).


So I suppose I could scoop that as a name instead. What do you think? I don’t know why but Box 850 sounds cooler and more mysterious than Box 500. But maybe that’s just me.