Alistair Carter, one of the two main protagonists from Lost in Time and Shadows on the Border, is a Detective Inspector with the Metropolitan Police. I imagine him as looking quite like the chap on the left on the cover of Shadows, although with a raincoat and a Homberg hat.
He’s in his mid-thirties at the start of Lost in Time in 1919, which means he was born in the late 1880s, to quite a well off middle class family who were pretty upset when he joined the police instead of becoming a solicitor or another professional. He was in the Military Police in the war and served on the Western Front. Afterwards, he came back and took up his old job with the department and works out of the Poplar area of London, at Wapping Police Station, on the Thames. He was promoted to Detective Inspector when he came back from the army and is quiet and insightful and good at working out what people mean from what they don’t say.
His brief, abortive marriage to Kitty has left him with a big empty house next to Hamstead Heath and a lot of guilt. He married a woman because it was expected of him and he could have made it work if they’d become friends, but she was really only interested in being a trophy wife and by the time she died, although he was devastated, there was also an element of relief because he was so unhappy.
He’s cross most of the time for reasons he can’t really put his finger on. Unsettled in his skin. And that only gets worse when he meets Lew Tyler during the course of a murder investigation. He isn’t unused to finding men attractive and has had liaisons before and one particular person he was very drawn to, but no-one as strongly as Lew.
Alec is probably my favorite character from the two books. He’s grumpy and defensive and not at all in touch with his emotions. It makes him really interesting to write.
The last few weeks’ research rabbit-holes have been pretty varied. I’m still flailing around in the Himalayas and in eighteenth century India for Flowers of Time and on top of that I’m still fact-checking for Inheritance of Shadows. This is the stack of reading I took away on holiday last week.
It turns out that Rob in Inheritance needs to know about Trench Code, which I didn’t even know was a thing until I started researching codes used by the British in World War One. I’m reading Secret Warriors by Taylor Downing to get some background on Rob’s career in Signals. Or… was he involved with something more Intelligence-led? I’m also reading A Country Twelvemonth by Fred Archer to give me a chronological background to the farming year in the 1920s and I may give Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee another read – I haven’t touched it since it was one of the set texts for my O-levels in 1986. Although I enjoyed it before then, deconstructing it for an exam completely soured me to it.
The pile also includes a couple of books about Kew and Marian North, who was a Victorian plant collector and illustrator. Edie in Flowers of Time is inspired by her, although Edie predates Marian by a century.
Tabs open in my browser this morning include Keeping Clean in the Eighteenth Century, Ladakh, the index to Lady’s Magazine, a google search for images of deserted forts of the Himalayas, a page about the monastery of Phugtal Gompta, the abstract of an article about eighteenth century circulating libraries, and (still) the article about the eighteenth century seed trade, because I keep going back to it to absorb a bit more.
That’s it for this time!
This week’s post is a lazy one, just a heads up to a couple of other things I’ve written in the last few weeks. (I’m on my holidays this week, in Devon with the family).
Firstly, my monthly newsletter has got some ramblings about where I am with work and dachshunds, plus a link to some free LGBTQ+ books on Bookfunnel and new releases by Elizabeth Noble and Julie Bozza. You don’t have to sign up to look at it, because I am a positively amazing technical wizard and have worked out how to link to the web version from here. (If you want to though, that would be lovely! There’s a sign-up form here).
And secondly, I’ve committed to writing a few posts for Scott over at Queeromance Ink and this month I’ve introduced myself and talked about being semi-closeted in rural England. I’m taking suggestions for future topics, so please do let me know if you have any ideas or questions. I love QRI – it’s one of the places I go to find new LGBTQ+ reads and they are a lovely bunch of people. Also, Queer Sci-Fi. What’s not to like?
That’s it! I told you I was being lazy.
(I’ve experimented with iFrames to embed those posts here and if it’s rubbish for whatever device you’re reading on, please let me know and I will find another way if I do it again)
I’ve done a load over the last month, but not much of it actual writing.
Because of the shenanigans with MailChimp pricing levels, I’ve ported my newsletter over to MailerLite, which I think will be a good thing long term, but was a pain in the neck to do at the time. And I’ve done the same for Mr AL, who has a much more complex set-up than I do, so it took ages. That done, I’ve also set myself up a proper Ko-fi page that will act as a sort of combination of things I blog here and exclusive content that first goes out to newsletter subscribers.
I’ve also committed to doing some posts for the Queeromance Ink Blog, about author-life in general rather than more bookish things. This involves me sitting down and actually writing them, but they’re coming together in my head.
Which brings me to actual writing! Inheritance of Shadows has another three thousand words, which went out yesterday – newsletter usually goes out on the first Tuesday of the month, barring disaster. If you’d like to get the monthly installments of Matty and Rob’s adventures, just hop on here. You will also be able to follow on Ko-fi as a supporter if you’d rather do it that way. I’m reading Secret Warriors: key scientists, code-breakers and propagandists of the great war by Taylor Downing as background, because Rob needs to know some stuff and I need to know the stuff before he can know the stuff. It’s fascinating.
Flowers of Time has had another few thousand words, but I’m still sidetracked by Katie Hickman’s She-Merchants, Buccaneers and Gentlewomen and feel like I need to get that under my belt before I write any more. I’m writing completely outside both my historical period and my geographical area and I don’t want to mess either up.
This month promises to be more of the same, hopefully with less opportunities for prevarication. Watch this space!
I lived in York for three years during college. It’s a beautiful city, small and full of history. My degree was a joint effort in history and archaeology and it was a privilege to just be able to wander round and soak up all the different eras.
I kept a narrow focus on medieval Britain in my studies and retrospectively I wish I’d been more open to learning about other parts of the world. There seemed so much to learn about my own country though – and I wanted to know it all.
I have very little interest in Kings-and-Queen type history, or even political history. It’s the day to day minutiae that interests me. What did people eat for breakfast? How did they repair their shoes? How did you keep warm in winter? How long did it take to walk from one place to another? York is chock-full of museums, you can’t chuck a rock without hitting one. And they’re all fascinating. But the things that fascinate me most are the little things. The faces on the gargoyles and grotesques in the Minster – are they carved in anyone’s likeness? How long did each one take to make? Or taking a walk along the walls or down The Shambles and thinking about all the people over the last couple of thousand years who have done the same. What were they thinking? Where were they going?
Pondering these questions in part has led me to where I am writing today. I like writing about people, rather than situations. Yes, my stories have situations in them, because doh, that’s life. But it’s how my characters work things out, how they deal with the day to day minutiae of living that drives me forward.
Despite all its grandeur and all its opportunity for historical and archaeological research, my main memory of York is of the waterfowl on the university campus grounds.
That’s social history for you. Forget the cathedral. It’s too big to carry with me. Let me take away my pictures of the geese.