Researching for Historical Fiction: Victorian London

Researching for Historical Fiction: Victorian London

In this week’s blog, I thought I would share some of my notes on how I’ve been researching my historical fiction series, The Clearwater Mysteries.

My Clearwater ‘bible’ and some research.

Let’s start with the obvious question. “What is historical fiction?” Now, let’s reply with the obvious answer. “Historical Fiction is a literary genre in which the plot takes place in a setting located in the past.” Clearly, that’s not yesterday, but some time further back, and in my case, we’re talking about Victorian times, specifically 1888 and 1889, and even more specifically, England, London in particular.

So, what do I know about Britain 130 years ago? History at school was either 1066, The Tudors, or the Arab-Israeli conflict of the 1960s, not really much help. I do, however, have an interest in Jack the Ripper (1888), have read a few books around the subject and the times, but, until recently, that was as far as my knowledge stretched.

Not the best foundations on which to build a historical fiction series set in the late Victorian period, so, what’s the answer?

Here is a tip: The answer is always research.

You don’t have to be an emeritus professor of literature and history to write historical fiction and, despite what someone might have told you, you don’t have to write about what you know. Tom Clancy didn’t know anything about submarines when he wanted to write ‘The Hunt for Red October’, so what did he do? He researched. Similarly, all I knew about life in Victorian London was from watching TV shows and films, which are not always the most accurate of study tools, nor are some documentaries. So, what did I do?

‘You researched.’
Good, you’re paying attention, but how did I do it, and can I offer any tips for anyone else wanting to write historical fiction? Rather, anyone who wants to write it well? I accept I am not (yet) in the same league as Hilary Mantel or Ken Follett, but whatever I am doing seems to be working. Coming into the genre untrained, as it were, I can also offer some examples of where I’ve gone wrong which may help you avoid the same pitfalls.

So, here are a few of my tips on making your historical fiction more accurate, and, as we’re talking about London in the 1800s, we’ll start at the Ohio State University in 2015.

I found a page on their website that summarised an article, ‘7 Elements of Historical Fiction‘ by author, M.K. Todd, and here, in brief, is my interpretation of those seven elements, with some notes on how I deal with them in the Clearwater Mysteries, set in the late 1880s.

Characters, real or imaginary, must act appropriately to the time.

I am writing about upstairs/downstairs life at Clearwater House and Larkspur Hall, and one thing Archer, Lord Clearwater, would love to do, is treat his servants as his friends. Simply put, he can’t, or at least, he can’t be seen by the outside world to do so, because it simply wasn’t done. That wasn’t how it worked, though there are records of noblemen treating their staff well, even having consensual affairs with, or marrying staff. So, what does Archer do? He promotes them, makes his lover his private secretary, his best friend, his butler, and, in the case of James Wright, makes him a businessman.

My tip here is not to push what was ‘the done thing’ too far, although I do it by making Archer an overly generous man, which, in turn, causes resentment from his peers, and thus gives me some juicy conflict to inject into what are generally feel-good stories.

Dialogue should be accessible to today’s reader with enough about it to appear real for the time.

Yeah, well, okay, but, you know… whatever. Recently, I realised I had used the word ‘okay’ in dialogue in a couple of the Clearwater books, but I am gradually editing out that and other time-inappropriate words. The word okay didn’t come into use until the mid-20th century. Similarly, it’s unlikely anyone said whatever in the way we hear it on TV now, so it’s not just words we must be aware of but turns of phrase. Similarly, many of my characters are gay, but they can’t be, because homosexuality wasn’t in usage until after 1900, and gay, even later, so those words are out.

Tip: If you want to check the usage of a word against your era, Google the word’s definition, and you will find the online dictionary gives the etymology and a convenient graph of instances of usage and popularity. If the graph is flatlining in your era, don’t use that word in dialogue.

Setting. The reader should be placed in the setting of the time from the start, and fall deeper into it as the story goes on.

Putting the date at the top of the first chapter is handy. I first did this in ‘Unspeakable Acts’, the third in the series, and I did it as part of a newspaper headline. The article that followed, written in a style inspired by newspapers of the time, also set up the place and background to the story. It also adds another layer of realism to the book.

That’s another trick I use from time to time, adding in realistic newspaper articles in the correct style as they can give the reader not only a feel for the time, but information and background which might otherwise sound clunky in the narrative. Bram Stoker did this masterfully in Dracula.

Themes must be explored within the context of the time.

The theme of the Clearwater Mysteries is male bonding, which we can then break down into bromance, gay relationships and acceptance of homosexuality. Or, if you like, the theme is about how my gay men survived at a time when prejudice was rife and homosexuality illegal. At the heart of the series is a set of characters who must survive being illegal and unacceptable, a state that surrounds their personal conflicts and happiness. I believe that, as the series develops, the reader takes in the theme subliminally and that heightens the romances and platonic friendships, giving us more fulfilling feel-good moments. You could use this theme in stories set in any era, but the pressures that bear on the characters will vary according to time and place.

Plot must be historically viable of course, and will be shaped by events of the time.

Some of my plots revolve around fictionalised real events, such as the Ripper murders of 1888 (in my case, the victims being rent boys, not women). Other mystery plots in the series involve real people of the time such as Stoker and Irving, places of the time, such as the Royal Opera House, employment such as telegram messenger boys and servants, and even real ships and trains. You’ll see in ‘One of a Pair’ (due out next weekend), there are references to chemicals and medical research that existed in 1889 but were called different names then, and genuine poisoning cases. Even the Adriatic sail-steamer of the White Star Line gets a look-in and description, but the 1871 ship that was replaced with a more famous steamer in 1906, and all travel details in the story are taken from timetables of September 1889, exactly when the story is set. Oh, and many of the laws referred to in ‘Artful Deception’ are, or were, real.

Conflicts must be appropriate to time and place.

Archer’s conflict (wanting his servants to be his friends) is time appropriate, and the gay characters living in times when homosexuality was illegal, are time appropriate, as are the troubles in Andrej (Fecker’s) Ukraine. There are other conflicts, such as Silas and Andrej surviving the streets of the East End by becoming rent boys, because many people turned to prostitution to survive. Other conflicts in the series include Mrs Norwood divorcing her cheating husband without losing her respectability, and Jasper’s treatment at the hands of Earl Kingsclere, which he can do nothing about.

World building. Readers must live in a world of your time beyond your story.

I take this as meaning, you can’t just tell a romantic story in a drawing room, one afternoon in late spring, not unless you are putting on a dodgy amateur dramatic play. The Clearwater world ranges from the intimate, i.e. Archer’s dressing room where his valet dresses him, to the wider world of the servants’ hall below stairs and their everyday life in service. It also ranges from the house to the city around it, and on to the country, and in ‘Artful Deception’, even to Europe. But it’s not just a case of location, there are also things like attitudes, religion, politics, beliefs, manner, etiquette and costume, all of which must be appropriate to the period. These things impact on the behaviour and attitudes of characters both major and minor, and their inclusion, makes the story more believable.

So, how do you achieve all that?
The answer, again, is and always will be, research, which brings me on to a few more tips and recommendations.

Be wary of documentaries.
I was watching an esteemed TV presenter narrating a respectable British series on the Victorians and chatting away knowledgeably about the state of London streets in 1870. One clip they ran showed cars driving around Piccadilly Circus. Er, maybe several years later post 1892, but certainly not in 1870. As the programme didn’t say when the clip was from, it was misleading.

Tip: I watch documentaries and make notes about dates and events, people mentioned and so on, and then double-check them elsewhere, just to be sure.

Read books
Other people’s historical fiction, yes, but again, I’d still check for accuracy unless I’m reading Hilary Mantel or someone I really trust – no offence to fellow writers.

As you can see from the photos, I have a wealth of books on my shelves that cover Victorian architecture, life in stately homes, books on 19th-century fashion, and in particular, ones written by scholars or people of the times. (Tip: Sketches by Boz, Charles Dickens, is a good place to start, especially for the 1830s.) I also have a fair few railway timetables, maps and dictionaries of rhyming slang, dialects and the etymology of words. I love buying books, but when I need a quick-fix fact-check, I download to Kindle as it’s much quicker than waiting for a delivery.

Use the internet wisely
Double-check everything. Don’t take Wikipedia as gospel, it’s much better to search out specialist sites.

Dictionary of Victorian London (click to go to the site)

On which note, I want to finish by pointing you towards The Victorian Dictionary. This invaluable archive was compiled by the author, Lee Jackson, a writer of fiction and fact, some of whose books are also on my shelves. This website has become my first go-to place for research because it gives examples of the time. For example, there are descriptions by writers who visited the London Docks in 18-whenever or saw the depravity of the East End first-hand. Similarly, there are snippets from newspapers and periodicals and other writings of the time about all aspects of life. It has a searchable database with subject headings too, and a bibliography. There’s even a database of Victorian slang which I love to dip into. (It’s mainly from around London as the site is actually http://www.victorianlondon.org/) I’ll do that now and leave you with a couple of random words that you might want to use in dialogue when appropriate to your characters.

Tulips of the goes – the highest order of fashionables
Romoners – fellows pretending to be acquainted with the occult sciences, fortune tellers
Bender – a shilling
Diddle cover – the landlord of a gin shop

I could go on, but I’ve already gone on long enough. My last tip would be, when thinking about writing historical fiction, do your research and make it fun. I have learnt so much over the past couple of years, I am now at the point of being able to insult people without them having a clue what I’ve said!

I will see you next week with details about the next release, ‘One of a Pair’ the Clearwater Mysteries Book Eight.

Coming Next: One of a Pair

Coming Next: One of a Pair

This week, I’m giving you a cover release, or at least, a draft cover release because it’s not quite finished yet. I also want to whet your appetite for the story – without giving away any spoilers.

The next book in the Clearwater Mysteries series is called ‘One of a Pair’ and it follows on from ‘Home From Nowhere’, starting about six weeks after that story finished. For those who enjoyed the start of Jasper’s story in ‘Home’ (and the feedback suggests that was everyone), you’ll be pleased to know that it continues in ‘One of a Pair.’

Now then, I can’t give too much away, but ‘One’ is a mystery, though not in the same vein as the earlier action-led mysteries like ‘Fallen Splendour’ or ‘Artful Deception.’ This is a calmer mystery, though still with tension, and a race to beat the clock. Our lead character is James Wright, now a private investigator in his own right. Here is part of the blurb for the back cover:

Enlisting the brilliant but scatter-brained Dr Markland for help while mentoring Jasper through the pain of first love, James embarks on a mystery that takes him from the Greychurch morgue to Queenstown in Ireland where tide and time wait for no man. It is a journey of discovery, both scientific and emotional.

I had great fun writing this one because it involves a suspected poisoning. Not that someone being poisoned is fun, but researching poisoning in Victorian times was. The fun part was finding something that was not your standard 19th-century toxin (and I can’t tell you what those were without spoiling the story for you), and I turned to my brother for help. My brother, by the way, is not a poisoner, but he was a chemist, as in, someone who works with chemicals. My nephew was of great help too as he studied medical genetics, and from that, you can see where the scientists are in our family! They were of great help in identifying the more unusual and little-known facts about certain chemicals and helped me put some of the scientific parts of ‘One of a Pair’ together. My problem was then finding out what such things were called in 1889 when the story is set. All I can tell you is that much of what you read is factual, or at least, possible, but some of the chemical names I have used are made up.

Don’t think that ‘One’ is going to be all formulas and compounds, it’s not. I have injected some humour into the story, as well as love and ‘ah’ moments, pace and tension. You’ll find Thomas isn’t too happy about… something, Mrs Norwood is playing ‘mother’ to the boys, Dr Markland shows his genius, and there’s a fair amount of domestic detail below-stairs at Clearwater House. As usual, I turned to another friend of mine for train journey details and all things railways, and the timings are accurate based on his ancient copy of Bradshaw’s Railways Timetables, as are the details about the White Star Line and their liners.

Enough about the story, back to the cover. I thought about this for a long time because I wanted to show a representation of one of the characters. I’m never sure whether this is a good idea, because every reader forms their own image of what the characters look like, and to put one so obviously on the cover can distract the imagination. I did it for ‘Deviant Desire’ where you can clearly see Archer and Silas, and the same model appears as Silas on the cover of ‘Unspeakable Acts.’ For other covers, Andjela K, my cover designer, has used silhouettes, so for ‘Twisted Tracks’ we see Archer and Silas running for a train, ‘Fallen Splendour’ shows a man on a charger, and the man could be Archer or Fecker. The cover of ‘Bitter Bloodline’ shows the back of Dorjan, the assassin, and ‘Artful Deception’ shows a man on fire, but we can’t see his face. ‘Home From Nowhere’ is obviously Jasper and Billy up on the roof, but we don’t see their faces, but for ‘One of a Pair’ I thought we should see Jasper… or is it someone else? The image isn’t yet finished because the chap on the front should be holding a smoking test tube which Andjela K hasn’t yet fitted in, but otherwise, it’s there.

Before you scroll down to the cover image, if you haven’t already, I just want to let you know that ‘One of a Pair’ is going off for proof reading on September 10th, and that means, it should be available around the 24th, maybe sooner. You’ll know when it’s available from my Facebook page, and you can always sign up to the newsletter to get more news. I send out a newsletter each month to keep in touch with everyone, and unlike other authors, I don’t use them to advertise everyone else’s books, only my own, so there is also a newsletter when a release happens.

And finally… The cover as it stands now.

One of a Pair

One of a Pair, the Clearwater Mysteries, book eight, draft cover

Ps. I had to disable comments on the blog/site because of spammers, but if you have any comments about the cover or anything else, feel free to put them on my Facebook page.

 

 

Hot and busy here in Greece

Hot and busy here in Greece

My husband took this the other day at sunrise

Yesterday was July 1st. The temperature in the courtyard, in the shade, was 28 degrees at 6.30 in the morning. The day before, it had reached 36 at four in the afternoon, in the shade in the courtyard. For those who don’t know, I live on a Greek island (hence the photos). It relies on tourism to survive, but so far this year, we’ve had no-one visit. That’s starting to change now, and hopefully, local businesses will be able to start picking up the pieces. Meanwhile…

My latest story, ‘Artful Deception‘ was published last month (“I think this is one of the best in the series.” Amazon review), and the next one, ‘Home From Nowhere’ is about to go off to the proofreader, and should be out by the end of this month. Meanwhile, I have started tinkering with a new novel, another in the on-going Clearwater saga set in 1889.

To that end, I now have a shelf of books about the period including books about Jack the Ripper (1888), clothing and costume of the 19th century, real accounts from those living below and above stairs, Mr Beeton’s book of household management, a few more books about being in service, stately homes (including floor plans), and books about the railways with maps. I think I need a new bookshelf. I also have a couple more books on the way, one more about costume, a dictionary of Cockney rhyming slang with notes on whether the slang is new or old, 20th century or earlier. What I need to look at next is arsenic poisoning. Well, you have to, don’t you?

Draft cover

As for ‘Home From Nowhere’, this is a slightly different Clearwater novel. I thought it was about time we saw the characters from someone else’s point of view and found out what affect Archer’s generosity has on other people. There is a mystery. It comes in the shape of Jasper Blackwood, who you would have met briefly in ‘Artful Deception’ at Kingsclere House. Typical of me, the mystery revolves around music and messages from the past, and the ‘crew’ are the ones to solve it. This means we see Archer, Tom, James and Silas at work in their detecting venture while learning about what goes on below stairs with the other servants, mainly Jasper. Another new character is also introduced, Billy Barnett, and as you will see when the new book is out (hopefully later this month), Jasper and Billy will be an on-going feature for another book or so, at least.

Our home – on the right.

Anyway, I don’t want to give too much away, just to say, I am having so much fun writing these tales that I intend to carry on, even if the series runs to ten or more, I’ll keep going until the time feels right to stop. Although I won’t rule out pausing now and then to write something different, as I did earlier this year with ‘The Students of Barrenmoor Ridge’, which, I am pleased to say, continues to do well.

That’s it for now. Stay safe wherever you are, remember to like and follow on Facebook and leave reviews where you can, drop me a line if you’ve got anything you want to say or ask, and look after yourselves. Right! Now I am heading back to September 1889 because I have Clearwater book eight to think about, and it’s time we had a poisoning…

Home From Nowhere

Home From Nowhere

Hello everyone. I thought it was about time for another blog post, just to check in and let you know what I am up to.

As usual, I have been writing. In this case, I have been working on a new Clearwater mystery, ‘Home From Nowhere’ (book seven). I don’t know how long a series is meant to go on for, but I am enjoying writing this one, so I’m carrying on regardless. However, I felt the murder and mayhem, wild adventures and on-going battles of the Clearwater Crew needed a breather, so book number seven will be different.

This chap reminded me of Thomas Payne, Archer’s best friend and butler.

I thought it was time we saw the crew from someone else’s point of view, and experienced life at Clearwater House from a new character’s perspective. So, ‘Home From Nowhere’ breaks from the two-word titles from the past and starts us on a different kind of mystery; no ‘meet a deadline or be dead’, no nasty villain, just a gentle mystery and the start of a love story that will continue in part eight. The sort of story you can put your feet up and relax with, and come away from with a sense of feel-good, like watching an episode of Downton Abbey.

This doesn’t mean there’s no mystery to solve, and Archer, James and Silas are the ones to take the mystery and work out the clues, but they are doing it on behalf of the new character who, if you have read ‘Artful Deception‘ you would have briefly met at Kingsclere House.

As usual, I have mixed real people, times, events and facts with some fictional ones, and there is a background theme, in this case, it’s music.

‘Home From Nowhere’ is currently in draft one stage, which means I’ve told myself the story on paper and now need to rest it for a few days before I return to it and a) check the mystery ties up, b) check consistency generally, c) see to as many of my typos as I can find, and d) improve, edit and cut.

Clearwater House ground floor (click to enlarge)

Meanwhile, my cover designer is working on a cover image and, to give myself a break from typing, I set about drawing a floorplan of Clearwater House. As you will see, I am no technical drawer or architect, though I based some of the details on a book I have that gives floorplans and elevations of Victorian houses – none of which fitted Clearwater House exactly. I doubt that if a house was built to my plans, it would stay up for very long! Still, I thought I would share my amateur attempt to give you an idea of how I see the house laid out (sorry about it being a bit squiffy and blotted with smudged felt-tip pen). I’ve only done the ground and first floors so far, I still have the basement and top floor to go. The shaded areas are the servant’s department, the backstairs and servery etc.

Clearwater House 1st floor plan (click to enlarge)

As for other news… Over here in Greece, the island on which I live is very quiet. We are starting to see a few tourists arrive, and we have had no cases of you-know-what, so people are worried about visitors coming from more infected countries. My husband, Neil, is working back at the bar he looks after seven afternoons per week until October, but so far, has had only local customers, while I am carrying on as usual, at home, writing. Which is what I will get back to now.

There’s no definite release date for ‘Home From Nowhere’ yet, I’ve only just let ‘Artful Deception’ out of its cage, but I am going to try and be more regular with my blog posting, so there will be updates as we head deeper into the year.

Stay safe, stay well and most of all, stay reading (and putting up helpful reviews on Amazon and social media if you possibly can).

Thank you for reading
Jackson

My Facebook page

Thank you, suzunh, for the 1st review of ‘Artful Deception’

I love this series
Reviewed in the United States on June 15, 2020
All of them are good. Sure, they’re a little wild sometimes but they are a heck of a lot of fun. I like that the same characters return for every book and I’m excited they are going into business together. Can’t wait to read the next one.

Clearwater’s London

Welcome to Clearwater’s London

It has been a while since I posted on my site. That’s because I was away for a while and spending much of my time working on the sixth instalment of The Clearwater Mysteries.

Book six is now going through its second draft, and it’s a bit of a belter. A twisting tale of deception as Archer battles to outwit his arch-enemy and stay one step ahead of the game. Titled, ‘Artful Deception’, this one brings back some of the more popular characters from previous books such as the barrister Creswell and young Jake, half-brother to Silas’ sisters. The action takes us from Kingsclere House in Berkshire to Clearwater House in London and on to the Netherlands where Archer has no option but to release his murderous brother and reinstate him to the title of Viscount Clearwater.

Or does he?

There will be more information about the book’s release in time.

Meanwhile, as I was passing through London earlier this year, I took some photos of locations used in the Clearwater Mysteries and thought I would share them with you. They’re not the best photos, sadly, but I thought it was a fun exercise to see places Archer and his comrades have trod. Things look very different now to 1888 and 1889 when ‘Artful Deception’ is set, but you can still feel the original Victorian grandeur of these places.

So, just for amusement, here are some of the locations I found when I was there.

The Royal Opera House where Silas nearly dies in Unspeakable Acts.

Bow Street police station opposite the Opera House. Fallen Splendour.

The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square. This appears in Artful Deception.

The National Gallery

The Criterion. Now a theatre, Silas and Jake had lunch here (Piccadilly) in Bitter Bloodline.

The Ivy, Seven Dials, which in my books is called ‘The Grapevine’ at Five Dials. Archer and Quill lunched here in Deviant Desire.

The side of the Lyceum Theatre from Bitter Bloodline. Silas found Jake homeless on this street corner.

The side of the Lyceum Theatre from Bitter Bloodline. I imagined Stoker’s office was at the top/back (round window), but I have no idea where it really was in the building.

Charing Cross railway station will appear in Artful Deception

The Garrick Club, Archer’s club in Covent Garden. It is mentioned in several of the books.

This street doesn’t appear in the books, but it is called Archer Street. Perhaps it was named after the viscount? The Windmill revue theatre beside it is famous for its nude revues. Silas would have approved; Thomas would not have done!

Bitter Bloodline

Bitter Bloodline

Book five in The Clearwater Mysteries series is now available on Kindle, in KU and in paperback. (Links below.)

This is the first story set at Larkspur Hall, Archer’s rambling country house in Cornwall, but even down there, the ‘crew’ are not safe from the conspiracies against them and their friends, as you will see.

 

 

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07ZXD5KXS

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1704638399

Remember, if you like one of my books, please do leave a review at Amazon, mention it on Facebook pages and share the news around your FB readers’ groups if you belong to any. Your support means so much! You can also follow my Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/jacksonmarshauthor/

Welcome to Larkspur Hall

Welcome to Larkspur Hall.

Hi. Sorry I’ve not posted much of late, I have been working hard on part five of the Clearwater Mysteries, ‘Bitter Bloodline.’ It’s now done and going off to be proof read this week. meanwhile, my cover designer is working her magic on the cover, and I am writing the fourth book in my ‘Saddling Mysteries’ series, under my name, James Collins.

Larkspur Hall‘Bitter Bloodline’ should be available in November. Meanwhile, here is one of the images Andjela K is working on for the cover. It is the closest stock image I could find to show Larkspur Hall. I imagine it will look a lot different when she is done with it! Meanwhile, can I try out this draft blurb on you? This is what I have for the back of the book and the Amazon pages:

Following an accident, a schoolboy and a tattooed Romanian find themselves unexpected guests at Clearwater’s country house, Larkspur Hall.

But what if their presence is no accident? What if Mr Smith is Protectori, a member of an ancient order of assassins bent on destroying anyone who sullies the name of the Szekely people of Transylvania? And what do a runaway boy and an assassin have to do with Clearwater’s famed Easter dinner party and its guest of honour, the actor, Henry Irving?

Ancestral feuds, a pocket watch and a rare Romanian wine are seemingly random connections until Silas breaks into a London theatre, and James rescues a boy from drowning. Then, it’s a race against time to prevent a hideous murder and Archer’s ruin.

The Clearwater Mysteries are best read in order. Bitter Bloodline is a no-heat mystery that sees Archer’s loyal servants become their own band of Protectori.

Clearwater Mysteries

A Clearwater update

A Clearwater update

My wonderful designer, Andjela, has come up with some banners and images for me for use on my Facebook page and the blog. I thought I’d share a couple now just to let regular readers know that I am still here and haven’t forgotten about my website. I’ve just released Fallen Splendour, the 4th Clearwater Mystery and am at a bit of a crossroads. I need to get back to my other series, The Saddling, and finish the final part of that. You won’t find The Saddling Mysteries under Jackson Marsh though, they are released under my real name, James Collins.

If you want to view them, head to my James Collins author page. They need to be read in order: The Saddling, The Witchling, The Eastling and… the one I’ve yet to write. They are not MM Romance as such, though the three main characters are men.

One comes to terms with being gay through part one, finds love with the second character in part two and onwards, and the third main character is ambiguous – and may turn out to be gay in part four. But… The series is set in a village (in the 21st century) on the Romney Marshes – Kent, England, that still lives by its own ancient lore and teaching – a non-Christian, non-religious place where nature and the supernatural are the driving forces. I wrote these three before I wrote the Clearwater Mysteries and they are different, though similar (no sex), and to be honest, the Saddling started off as a one-off, but was so popular, people asked for a second and then a third, so the pressure is on to produce the fourth.

They have themes – a lot of family and other history, but also, more subliminally, the number four is important: four seasons, four festivals (two solstice, two equinox), four points of the compass and, in part four, four men banding together to save the day…I think.

I’ll leave it there and go to the writing desk to dream up some ideas. Meanwhile, thanks for your support, please share this blog and whatever you can on Facebook, Insta-what’s-it and elsewhere. If you enjoy the novels, I need your support to help others enjoy them too.

Thank you all!

Fallen Splendour

Fallen Splendour

Part four of The Clearwater Mysteries, ‘Fallen Splendour’ has just been released on Kindle and KU. There will be a print version available in the next few days.

For me, it feels like I’ve finished a sequence of four books, but there are more to come. The first four in this series take place in London 1888 and introduce us to the main five characters, Archer (Lord Clearwater), Silas (his lover), Thomas (his butler), Fecker (Silas’ bestie) and then, in part two, James (his footman).

Things laid down, mentioned or seen in one part lead to bigger things in the next, as the stories develop, usually taking two of the MCs as the main POV characters in each book. Book one, Archer and Silas, book two, James and Archer, Book three Silas and James, book four James and Archer (and Fecker), and so on.

Without giving too much away, here are the mysteries you can expect.

Deviant Desire: ‘The Ripper’ is killing rent boys as a way to lure Archer to a confrontation.
Twisted Tracks: The team of five must decipher a code to reach the endgame in time
Unspeakable Acts: A murder, on stage during an opera house gala, is threatened.
Fallen Splendour: The clue is in a verse by Alfred Lord Tennyson…

Actually, there are two stories running in Fallen Splendour, two connected theatres that must be dealt with and I’m rather thrilled with what I’ve done with the story. Some of it comes from a poem I fell in love with at school, and the clues in the story are wrapped up in one verse. Basically: Where is this location?

The splendour falls on castle walls
And snowy summits old in story:
The long light shakes across the lakes,
And the wild cataract leaps in glory.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes, dying, dying, dying.
[Alfred Lord Tennyson]

You will have to read the book to find out and, as with most of my other novels, there’s adventure, tears, feel-good, a little sex and a lot of male bonding and strong friendships that are in danger of boiling over into romance. It’s all very romantic in the general sense of the word and my boys do love each other in one way or another.

Here’s the link to the .com and .co.uk pages. I hope you enjoy it, and if you do, please leave a helpful review!

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07V522JR3

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07V522JR3

All the best
Jackson

The book blurb for Fallen Splendour:

“We have his sisters. Involve your catamite, and they will die before the shortest day.”

A kidnapping, a threat and a deadly showdown force Lord Clearwater and his coachman, Andrej, on a secret mission to save two innocent girls. But where are they? The clue to the location is wrapped up in a Tennyson poem, and time is fast running out.

Left at Clearwater House to crack the code, James finds himself with another ominous responsibility when Inspector Adelaide makes an arrest. With his master missing, it falls to the footman to crack the code, fight a court case, and save Archer’s reputation.

With only three days to find the answers, all evidence points to a location known only to Tennyson himself, and an enemy thought dead.

But what if James is wrong?

An interconnected double mystery, Fallen Splendour is the fourth in the Clearwater Mysteries series. The books are best read in order.

Research

Research

My collection of research books for the new series I am writing is expanding. The Clearwater Mysteries series is set in Victorian times (1888) and set in a city which is clearly London, but because I need to take liberties with history, I have made it an ‘imaginary London of 1888’. When I say liberties, I mean, for example, in book one of the series, the Ripper is killing men, not women, and so I am mixing fact with fiction.

In my stories (The Clearwater Mysteries), as in truth, the identity of the Ripper is never known, except in my series, we do know who he is, and we see what he went on to do after those crimes ended. We also find out why. In other places, I have stayed close to the facts but not quite, using some real locations, basing characters and their names on people of the time or near the time. Example, in book four, ‘Fallen Splendour’ (still in editing and not yet published), I have a barrister called Sir Easterby Creswell. I took his name from a real judge in the 19th century called Sir Creswell Creswell (whose family name was Easterby), and so on.

Over the weekend, I received two more books to add to the collection of things to be read when I take time off from writing. So far, I have collected several actual books, which I prefer, and a few Kindles. I find Kindle good for when I want some information now and don’t want to have to wait two weeks for an online order to arrive. If the book is something I will keep and use again, I’ll then order a paper or hardback copy.

Off the top of my head (I am in the study at 4.30 a.m., and the books are scattered around the house, and I don’t want to make noise by searching for them), I have gathered books about the stately homes of England, Victorian buildings, the Cleveland Street scandal of 1889, life in Victorian London, Jack the Ripper (I already have several), a collection of writings by ordinary people of the time, first-hand accounts of daily life etc., a book on the railways, the history of the Ukraine, ‘The Sins of Jack Saul’ and Saul’s allegedly penned, er, ‘novel’ about the life of a male street worker in those days, a dictionary of Victorian slang, a Bradshaw’s guide (1886, reprint), and several railways maps from the time. There are others, but I expect you’re getting bored by now. What I am looking for next is a good Atlas of the country from around that time, something as detailed as the large, green-cover Readers’ Digest atlas we used to have when younger.

[Here’s the link to the first three books of the series, The Clearwater Mysteries]