The Italian Job

Coat of Arms of the King of Italy
Coat of Arms of the King of Italy

As you probably know if you read one of my earlier posts, Book 7 centers around a royal client – the youngest of the Princesses in the House of Savoy. In 1931 when this latest book is set, Victor Emmanuel III is the King, Elena of Montenegro his wife and Maria Francesca Anna Romana (1914–2001) is their youngest daughter.

Castle of Racconigi
Castle of Racconigi

There are quite a few Residences listed as part of the Royal House of Savoy, but after reading through many of them, I think Castle of Racconigi is the best choice of setting for the majority of the book.

Unlike many of the other residences I read about, it had not been donated to the state (a rampant habit of Victor Emmanuel it seems!) or used as a barracks for World War One.

Racconigi is a town in Piedmont, Italy located in the province of Cuneo, 40 km (25 mi) south of Turin, and 50 km (31 mi) north of Cuneo by rail.

How does one travel from London to Italy in 1930? So glad you asked!

Well, Portia would have to travel by train from London to one of the ports (Folkestone for example) and then take a boat across to Calais, France. From there she would take the train towards Turin, Italy through France.

The train system in Italy was very well developed by the 1930s (you can read all about it at Wikipedia here)

Google Map
The train trip through France to Turin

I updated my Google Map (called Portia’s London – click on the map on the left there to see the full GoogleMap) to include this trip.

The idea is that you can take the train straight through (except for the English Channel of course).

The distances are:

Train from London to Folkestone: 64.8 mi
Boat from Folkstone to Calais: 31.23 mi
Train from Calais to Lille: 57.92 mi
Train from Lille to Paris: 126.72 mi
Train from Paris to Chambéry: 283.77 mi
Train from Chambéry to Modane: 43.75 mi
Train from Modane to Turin: 50.37 mi

For a grand total of about 750 miles.

Trains at this time traveled at about 70-80 mi/hour, so I’m going to say a total of two days of travel for Portia to get from London to Turin. She could surely get from London to Lille in one day, and then spend the entire next day traveling from Lille to Paris, but let’s assume that there were wait times etc.

How the heck and I going to get THAT fact-checked? Where is Marty McFly when you need him?


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!)

Dinner and a Movie in 1931

Coronet Theatre at Notting Hill
Coronet Theatre at Nottinghill Gate as taken from

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.

More mapping

Screen cap modification of a Google Map
Portia's London

Still working on learning about Portia’s London, so I started a map (available here).

In Book 4 she makes her way out to a farm that has recently been burned to the ground. I need it to be in Sheep-farming land, so I picked Sussex county as a location where Southdown sheep grazed. Read more about Sussex county on Wikipedia here.

The Chalk Downlands (also called the South Downs) area seems to be decent farmland for sheep farming.

The Amberley railway station was built in 1923, so she could have taken a train from Victoria station in London to Amberley to get to the Coombs farmhouse. It would have taken about an hour to get there.

For the church in book 6, i’m thinking about All Hallows by the Tower