The Secret Aldwych

These are the photographs taken on our visit to the disused station at Aldwych. Of course, I wasn’t there for the history. I was there to check I’d got the description right.

From top to bottom they show:

1. The unfinished lift shafts 2. A very substantial door 3. Condensation and damp on the passenger tunnels 4. Platform one – which was used until its closure in 1994 (although notice only part of the station ceiling was tiled). 5. The never used second platform 6. Tiling patterns – tested at Aldwych before being rolled out elsewhere on the underground 7. The Grade One Listed tracks ( in a Grade Two Listed building) 8. The unused staircase from the unused platform to the lists. 9. The train tunnels 10. Concourse/passenger tunnels 11. Wartime posters courtesy of every film company ever to have filmed in Aldwych 🙂

Helen (the station ghost) refused to put in an appearance, as did Lucy, Mark and -thank heavens – the distortion.
If you get a chance to visit the station the next time it’s open, then do. It was a fabulous hour. And though I say so myself, I do think I got the description right 🙂

The Problem with Dressing Gowns!

I have made a decision, my  gentleman detective  needs a dressing gown.

Well, you’d have thought I’d have asked the Pope to change religion!

You see,  if I wanted an Arthur Dent style dressing gown, I’d have been fine. Not only could I have sourced one for Symington at the start of the 20th century, but I could get one for OH from Ebay…

 

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But a man’s dressing gown? Very limited stock indeed from which to choose.

See  what I mean?

Now Symington is a man of taste, suaveness and sophistication. I can’t see him in any of the above.

 

Well possibly the last one but in black and gold…

 

 

 

 

Research for Cut Throat Alley Affair 1

London's Shadows: The Dark Side of the Victorian CityI read this book as part of my research for the third book of Lucy and Mark’s adventures.

London’s Shadows: The Dark Side of the Victorian City by Drew D. Gray

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Typical researcher that I am, I’m afraid I have been dipping in and out of this book to find out what it was like to be in the East End during the 1880s. But incomplete as my reading is, I have decided to review Drew  D. Gray’s book. You see, this it well written an well researched – in a word it is a joy.

Most books that deal with this period of London’s history are sensationalist, focussing on the Ripper and his activities rather than looking at the context of the murder, the state of the East End; the ethnic mix, the geographical complexity of the situation. And for me, this is why this book scores highly.

Yes, the Whitechapel murders are the focal point of this book. It was the biggest “thing” to happen in the East End after all. And yet, through this book, I have learned about: the increasing professionalism of the police and the work of the courts; as well as what drove the women of whitechapel to prostitution and the desperate poverty and disease that was endemic in the area.

To be honest, this is one of the best books I have read about Victorian London in a a long time. If you want to know about the London underbelly you cannot go far wrong by reading this book.

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Amnesia

mr_bumpIn Book Three, Lucy suffers from Amnesia.

Obviously, I can’t tell you how it happens – well,  spoilers sweetie! But it’s violent and traumatic and not (directly) the result of travelling through the distortion.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect to find it as fascinating as I have, and I’ve had to be very disciplined not to dive in too deeply, because I’m not writing a book about trauma I’m writing fiction. So:  for the purposes of my research, I’m ignoring  amnesia caused by psychological  trauma and concentrating on what happens as a a result of physical injury.

In this case there are two types of memory loss: retrograde amnesia, forgetting things that happened before the accident which has caused the amnesia, and anterograde amnesia (where the past is crystal clear but things happening now cannot be remembered).

 

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Anterograde amnesia was not what I was looking for. Lucy is is danger because for once her encyclopedic knowledge of history cannot help her. Therefore, she has a kind of  retrograde amnesia known as post trumatic amnesia. You see Lucy’s memory loss is only temporary, unlike those who have retrograde amnesia who may have partial recall or gradual recall but rarely is the full loss restored.

Obviously, Lucy can’t lose her memory for ever, so what triggers its return?

Hollywood would have us believe a second blow to the head will bring the memories back; sometimes repeating a similar action – restores the memory of the prior event – a bit like deja vu, only in reverse.   Like putting the final set of pieces back in the jigsaw that is the brain.

 

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At the moment, I don’t know if I want Lucy’s memory to return over time, or suddenly, which is holding up writing book three.

All I do know is that it has to return before she is murdered.

 

chalk-body-outline-murder-scene

The importance of image

I’ve been playing with the headings for the website that’s on the bookmarks we’re currently distributing as promotional materials for  the books

And,

well,

I just don’t know.

 

This is the one you are all familiar with from this site:cropped-cropped-fb33-e1396707974556.jpg

This is the one I went with originally on sarahesmith.info. It goes with the grey colour scheme for the site:

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And then there’s this one, which look like the Daleks have got to it 🙂

Currently, it’s on a random shuffle ( so a bit like my Ipod I’m waiting for an image I didn’t upload to turn up). If you want to see them in situ click here

As always – your thoughts are needed chaps 🙂

Emperor Valentinian I

Emperor Valentinian is known as the last of the Warrior Emperors. He was born in AD 321 in Cibalis (Vinkovci). His father, Gratian, rose through the ranks of the army ending up as Comes Britanniae (Companion of Britain), before coming under a cloud and being stripped of his power and estates for his support of Magnentius.

 

Valentinian followed his father into the army, but he too was stripped of power by the Emperor Constantius, before returning to active service under the Emperor Jovian. When Jovian died on the 17th February 364 AD, Valentinian’s name was put forward as a potential replacement – although not as the first choice. He won the support of the army (who had marched to Nicaea) as the original candidates Aequitius and Januarius were dismissed as either too brutal (Aequitius) or too far away (Januarius).

Valentinian arrived in Nicaea on 24 February 364, the bisextile day (the Roman equivalent of a leap year), and – as it was considered unlucky to consider new business on this twice counted day – Valentinian  held off until the 25th of February before accepting the Emperorship. He made his acceptance speech on the 26th, in which he calmed the army’s fear as to where his loyalties lie.

In a stunningly clever move, and in order to prevent a repeat of the chaos which followed the deaths of Julian (the last Neo-Flavian) and Jovian , Valentinian named a co-augustus  (his brother Valens) on the 24th March, giving him  day to day control over the eastern empire.

In 365 the Alamanni invaded Gaul and Procopius began his revolt against Valens. However, instead of going to his brother’s aid, Valentinian remained in Gaul; a move which cemented his support in the region.

It also set his reputation as a warrior; an emperor not afraid of conflict. It had to. There were conflicts in Britain, Africa and amongst the Quadi in Germany – all of which were dealt with successfully. Not surprisingly during this time, the senate lost power to the army and the Imperial Court became more of a military tribunal and vehicle for social mobility, than at any previous point in its history.

The jury is out on the reputation of Emperor Valentinian. On the plus side the fragmentation of the empire halted but on the  down side, under his rule the empire fractured; society polarised and regionalism intensified. However, Valentinian is generally regarded as an exceptionally able emperor, who assumed the mantle of imperial rule with boldness. Certainly, he was an emperor determined not only to be in charge but be seen to be in charge.

Married twice: his first wife, Severa died in childbirth in 359 (his son Gratian survived), Valentinian,  who died  from a strokein 375AD,  was survived by his second wife, Justina, mother of his other three children – Valentinian II and two daughters  Galla and Justa.

Part of me can’t quite believe that Valentinian died after  losing his temper. It’s too mundane for this lesser known, warrior emperor.

As for why is his post here and not on the other blog? Oh that would be telling 🙂

Enter the “Gentleman” Detective

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Crime Fiction would be lost without the detective, whether it be the hard-nosed kind found in American crime novels – like Mike Hammer and Philip Marlowe, or their British counterparts – Sherlock Holmes, Lord Peter Whimsey  and Hercule Poirot.

European fiction tends to  favour a gentleman detective; who comes from the educated classes; is at home in a world that we like to think existed  in the years prior to the Great War and ended just after the Second World War, and who has an unusual (if not downright eccentric) manner. They are gentleman if not by birth, certainly in the way they behave; and they are members of what the Georgian world called the Ton (the top 100 families). Their detecting takes place in a cozy world – known as the locked room; their suspects are all flawed and ( for the Marxist among you) degenerate representatives of a dying and parasitic class. Not only does the detective battle against a closed society; they also clash with the professional police who are presented as dim witted, lower class fools. This is apparently a backlash against the bungled investigation into the Ripper Murders of 1888, and the popular misconception that the police were incapable of detecting crime because they were not intelligent or educated enough.

Each detective is accompanied by a companion – usually male – who acts as a sounding board. They are not always from the same social class, but their skills complement or even augment the central character.

Bizarrely the first Gentleman detective was not British – but French – and created by an American, albeit an anglophile. This detective was Edgar Allen Poe’s  C. Auguste Dupin. Making his appearance in 1841, in the Murders in the Rue Morgue (the first of three cases) Dupin was not an immediate  success and underwent quite a few changes in his  modus operandi.  But he was a Chevalier in the Legion D’honneur, and he was obsessed with collecting books. He started out as an amateur detective who would visit the crime scene and take an active part in the investigation – but only when called upon by the authorities. In book two, he had become introverted rarely leaving his rooms – the epitome of the armchair detective, and only after appalling reviews (for this second book – The Mystery of Marie Roget -1842) did Poe make the changes allowing Dupin to become what readers would now recognise as the gentleman detective (The Purloined letter (1844).

Intriguingly, Poe did not believe his character to be successful and moved away from crime fiction. Yet, Poe’s initial concept blossomed in English literature. The first English Amateur detective (Franklin Blake) appeared in 1866 – in what aficionados of this genre regard as the first English Crime Story – The Moonstone. He was followed by a character whose name is synonymous with crime fiction: Sherlock Holmes. And should you care to compare Dupin and Holmes closely, you will see why it is possible to argue that Doyle did not create his detective, he simply lifted him from Paris and planted him in London. In temperament, intelligence and bravery he is the equal if not the mirror image of Dupin.

After that the floodgates open: Wimsey, Campion, Alleyn, Poirot and Marple (from the Golden Age); with Dalgleish, Lynley, Makepeace (of Dempsy and Makepeace fame) Jonathon Creek and even -possibly – Professor Layton representing the modern era.

Until Marple –  society would have us believe that women detectives were conspicuous by their absence,  and yet, the first female detective, Mrs Gladden,  appeared in 1864 some 23 years before Holmes. In many respects her techniques are those of Holmes. She is an active detective: visiting the crime scene, using disguise to protect herself from discovery by the criminal classes, as well as treating the police with the correct level of disdain.

Given the public’s insatiable appetite for the detective it is probably that had she been male her fame would have been equal to (if not greater than that of Holmes). But female detectives – while not isolated –  were not the staple of popular fiction.

Why?

According to Dorothy L Sayers it is because they are so “irritatingly intuitive as to destroy that quiet enjoyment of the logical which we look for in our detective reading.” Sayer’s  main complaint, however, is that the female detective “tends to be too young, too beautiful and too interested in marriage.” In addition, her “propensity” to “walk” into “dangerous situations”  interrupts the male ability to “solve crimes.”  She may have a point: until Marple – female detectives were 40 or younger. Mrs Paschell who works for Colonel Warner is 40 and in need of  a job; Hilda Serene is 25, while Kate Goelet is only 23.

Perhaps another reason for the failure of the female detective is the fact that they were all created by male writers. Indeed, it was not until 1897 that Amelia Butterworth was created by Anna Katharine Green.

The development of the proto feminist movement of the 1890’s, with its focus on the idea that women could be financially independent of men, allowed more female detectives to come to the fore. Dora Myrl, the Lady Detective (1900) is the daughter of a Cambridge Don; Joan Mar, Detective (1910) created by  Marie Connor Leighton is the first female for whom marriage is not a consideration. However,  even at this time, these female detectives were expected to conform to the stereotype. Indeed Molly Kingsley in  Hazel Campbell’s Olga Knaresbrook, Detective (1933) eschews the life of the detective upon marriage.

And so to Miss Marple – who first appeared in 1930 – a woman who remained 65 for the fifty years she appeared in print. Returning to Sayer’s condemnation of the female detective ( intriguingly forgotten when she came to write about Harriet Vane), it is possible to argue that Miss Marple’s success resulted not from her age, but from the fact that she while she had a phenomenal intelligence, it came from the observation of the world around her – in a homespun, almost absent minded way.

 

Mark and Lucy’s London

see what London was like in 1927 – rare colour film, uncovered by the BFI

More than a Cat

Uncovered recently by the BFI, this footage was taken in 1927. 18 years earlier the dresses were longer; and probably less cars. But this was the London, Lucy Pevensea and Mark Birch (two 21st kids) found themselves in. Different isn’t it? Find out more of a world of danger, intrigue and timetravelling teenagers…..

http://myBook.to/EndOfThePierAffair

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Flawed Hero – David Lloyd George

From my other blog:

More than a Cat

I first found out about David Lloyd George from my nana; she was a font of political songs – and “Lloyd George knew my Father” was one of them.

At school, we learned he was a working class boy – who was brought up by his Uncle Lloyd in Llanystumdwy, He was articled to a law firm in Porthmadog at the age of 15; became an MP at 27 and was responsible for some of the most radical and socially aware legislation of all time. As Chancellor of the Exchequer he introduced Old Age Pensions and National Insurance; took on the House of Lords to get the People’s Budget of 1909 passed; and, of course, became the Prime Minister who won the First World War for Britain.

Learning about his private life – was not done at school; that came from the Life and Times of David Lloyd George a…

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