A suitable get-away car

Brocklebank
The 1928 Brocklebank

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brocklebank_(automobile)

I need a suitable get-away vehicle for the art thief to escape in Book 5, and I think a 1927 Brocklebank may be my car.

Big enough to accommodate all the wedding gifts that disguise the true purpose, it came in two and four door options.

I think it was also rare enough in the UK at the time to be more easily ‘chased’ by the Police (in other words, there are not hundreds on the road, and therefore its not easy to lose in a crowd of traffic).

Another little bit of Latin

a little bit of latin
a little bit of latin

I am going to need this note from my would-be art thief in Book 5 (tentatively titled Box 850), so I started exploring it:

How about this for an evil note from our would-be art thief?
I wait for you to be in your most joyous celebration
and that is when I will strike
and take back what is mine
the archer of my village
and you will never see me
or know I was there
– Zeus

So in Latin (Lord send me someone who can make this accurate please) could be:
Exspectabo te laetus in celebratione
et quod suus cum percutiam
et retro quid nostra
in pandus mei castellum
et numquam videre me
vel scio erat

– Zeus

Why having an editor really is vital

Tongue in cheek editing (Barb's WAY better than this)
Tongue in cheek editing (Barb's WAY better than this)

My editor Barb is all kinds of fabulous but she made a couple really good catches this weekend while doing a final vet of Books 1-3.

1. In Book 3 I make reference to a District Attorney in Scotland. Turns out Scotland didn’t call their District Attorneys that at all, especially in 1930; after a bit of research, I think the character could be what is called a Procurator fiscal who “present cases for the prosecution in the Sheriff, District and Justice of the Peace Courts” .

Sound right? I will have to do some more research to be sure.

2. In Book 3 again, Portia refers to the fate of one of her earlier clients, Mr. Barclay as “living out his days at Wandsworth Prison.” Thing is, as Barb pointed out, Mr. Barclay was proven to have pre-meditated the murder of his father, and perhaps would have been given the death penalty rather than life in prison.

The Death Penalty in England was not abolished until 1969 according to Wikipedia.
Two current (for the book’s setting) examples given in the Wikipedia article were:
  • 1923, 9 January: Edith Thompson and Frederick Bywaters, in London’s Holloway and Pentonville Prisons respectively, for the murder of Thompson’s husband. The case was controversial because, although the two lovers had discussed the possible elimination of her husband in advance, Thompson did not directly participate in the murder for which she was hanged.
  • 1931, 3 January: Victor Betts for murder committed during the course of a robbery. The case had established that a person need not be present when a crime is committed to be regarded as an accessory after the fact.[45]
BUT
“Between 1900 and 1949, 621 men and 11 women were executed in England and Wales. Ten German agents were executed during the First World War under the Defence of the Realm Act 1914,[6] and 16 spies were executed during the Second World War under the Treachery Act 1940.[7] “

I <think> I am safe in leaving Charles Barclay, a member of the elite of London, son to a highly respected judge, to live out his days at Wandsworth.

Historical accuracy

Philippa Gregory
Philippa Gregory

Historical fiction seems to be about a careful weaving of facts that can be verified and the stories you tell around them. This is most evident in Philippa Gregory‘s books about the royals in Britain, a series of books I think I own entirely in hardcover (demonstrating my respect for them).

In an interview posted on AbeBooks, she says ” In historical fiction, you have to imagine conversations that may have happened, based on the historical facts.”

I wonder if that also extends to deaths of historical figures where the cause of death goes undocumented (as far as I can tell through my research)?

First submission is away!

Crossing Fingers
Keep Crossing Fingers

My heart was in my throat, but I handed my package containing the first edited chapter of Book 1 to the kind lady at the Canada Post office today. It cost $2.10 to send it to the first publishing house. I can’t believe it was that cheap, but I seriously fought hand-delivering it myself because I thought it might seem desperate/creepy/annoying.

Now I wait.

Oh, and do this 10 more times for another 10 publishers.

A challenge for clarity

A poster advertising the reintroduced first class service in 1924 -- the image was also used on the covers of the passenger lists of the day (Swann Galleries)
A poster advertising the reintroduced first class service in 1924 — 
 (Swann Galleries)

I was separating out my first ten pages of Book 1 today to start submitting to potential publishers (yes, it is time to start praying for me friends) and I was challenged for details on how Portia left New York by ship and landed in London.

So, to clarify, she took the S.S. Minnetonka II from NY to London on January 18, 1929. How can I be so exacting with my times? Glad you asked, because you wouldn’t BELIEVE the detail you can get from the internet.

This is a listing of ships that left New York bound for London in 1929 and this is some photos and details about the Minnetonka!

Read more about the Atlantic Transport Line here.

It is amazing how much information you can find at the tip of your fingers!

Back to editing… yes, I’ve read these ten pages 100 times, yes, I must read them 100 more times…

 

 

Possible artwork

From Wikipedia: Colonel Acland and Lord Sydney: The Archers

One possibility for part of the collection at Lancaster House in 1931 is this piece by Sir Joshua Reynolds entitled: Colonel Acland and Lord Sydney: The Archers.

It was created in the late 1700s and was sold in 2005 for £2.5 million.

Dimensions: 238.7 cm × 184.2 cm (94.0 in × 72.5 in)

Watson and the Shark

Another option is for Watson and the Shark, which has the added link to Portia that I like, but less of an ability to easily play with the title (more cryptic than I mean it to be, but I don’t want to give away the premise of the first chapter of the book – sorry!).

This oil painting came from the same era exactly, but was painted by John Singleton Copley. The vertical copy of this piece is now in the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. It was sold off in 1963.

Dimensions 182.1 cm × 229.7 cm (71¾ in × 90½ in)

Problematic for a few reasons: it never seemed to make it into the London Museum (and therefore never made it to Lancaster House), there are three copies, making it less valuable and like I stated earlier, the title is harder to work with.

Apollo from Pompeii (statue, from getty.edu)
Apollo from Pompeii (statue, from getty.edu)

An additional piece that I could relate to the first painting above is the bronze statue of Apollo from the ruins of Pompeii. The following text and image is from getty.edu: “In June 1817 the majority of the Apollo, broken into three pieces, was found just north of the forum in Pompeii, not far from the Temple of Jupiter … its reconstruction was complete by 1825.

So if this could have been in the collection at Lancaster House (which I suppose it could have been, on loan from some museum in Italy I have been unable to find so far) then this could mesh nicely with the kernel of a story I have in my head.

Dimensions: 147 (h) x 55 (w) x 114 (d) cm

I’d like to know the weight of this statue, but have been so far unable to find that.

Scouting locations

In addition to always keeping my map front of mind, I spent most of today researching (yay – Wikipedia is back!) appropriate locations for Elaine Barclay’s extravagant wedding.

Elaine is of course from Book 2: A Case of Darkness, and has returned for a brief cameo in the form of her wedding that will take place in Book 5, which I am currently writing.

Lancaster House layout from Wikipedia
Lancaster House layout from Wikipedia

I think Lancaster House (renamed from its original name Stafford House in 1912) is an apt location for both such an event and for the items I need to be present during the reception (mysterious enough for you? 😉
One of the main reasons to use this building is that “From 1924 until shortly after World War II, the house was the home of the London Museum, but it is now used for government receptions and is closed to the public except on rare open days.” (Source: Wikipedia)

Perfect. Next step: figure out what could have been part of the collection being housed at the Lancaster House in 1931.

Guns and Fashion

Just finished transcribing ‘Thrice Burned!’

That seemed to take forever, but I think it was because I was adding so much stuff on the way. Its the longest story so far, but I think it holds interest all the way through – will have to see what the first readers of it have to say on that and everything else.

I still feel like I need to speak more to the beginnings of a relationship between Benjamin Charles and Portia, but I am looking for reasonable places to insert that character development.

NOTE: Rethinking Benjamin Charles’ name.. seems too plain to me.

Luger Pistol (image from Wikipedia)

I also need to do some more research into guns and fashion in the 1930s (which, now that I think about it, is a much better title for this blog post, so I’m changing it!).

I’m thinking the Luger P08 Pistol might be reasonable for Portia to start carrying (in book 5, already started) but it might be too big or have too much recall, I need to know more about it. Certainly, it seems readily available at the time, and was still a popular sidearm into the second world war.

Ideally, I would want a pistol that I could link some kind of history to (though not as having belonged to her grandfather’s (Webley’s No.2 .320 calibre bore) but one I can link backwards at some point. I’d like it to be as easy to use as possible, with bullets readily available in London, but knowing so little about guns, I’m going to have to depend on the internet, and your help dear readers to sort it all out.

Too many mysteries to tie together?

Sigh, Book 4, and I have to tie together clearing Annie’s good name, solving the whole arson thing and dealing with a brand spankin’ new Arch Nemesis. I may have bitten off more than I can chew.

Why did I do this again? Oh yes, character development. Everyone who read books 1-3 tells me they want to know more about Portia, and that is why this book is so bloody complicated.

Ok, so the whole Pigeon thing.. how about if two chefs at the Palace were feuding and one accused the other of using pigeons in the chicken pot pie instead of, well, chicken? Ok, Annie reports this, the accused Chef is summarily dismissed, Annie’s story is retracted because the feud is discovered, and now this disgraced Chef is struggling in the market. Oh, but the crown prince misses his chicken pot pie (which was chicken after all that) so the kitchen staff try and fail to make it to the original Chef’s standard. They are forced to head down to the market and purchase a contract with the original Chef to create his masterpiece once a week for the Prince.

What if the bitter cuisinier decided to really stick it to his former employer and ACTUALLY serve pigeon in his much sought after pot pies? That would work, but wouldn’t he be arrested or at least run out of town for doing that to the Royals? Yeah, that’s where this goes off the rails. Who hires a vindictive Chef who’s been outed for switching pigeons for chickens? Um yes. Problem. Unless the next person who hires him values his culinary skills and has no love for the British Royals…. hmmm..