Because more than half of my books are set in the 1930s, I constantly find myself – even eight books in – looking stuff up. It might be easy to find stuff like ‘good poisons to kill someone with’ (My search history would def land me in a lot of trouble if anything ever happened to my nearest and dearest), but sometimes it’s deeper, more complicated stuff (ie questions such as ‘when did the UK first get direct dialling telephone systems?’ or ‘how much did a postcard and a stamp cost in 1934?’) I need answers to.
Quite often what I need to know are small obscure things that Mr Google or Mr Wikipedia can help with but if it’s a recurring issue, I need to have the answer closer to hand. And it’s important to me that the settings I create for my books are fairly accurate, because I want my readers to become immersed in the story, so I have acquired a number of books over the last few years to help me develop an authentic 1930s-feeling world for Dottie Manderson.
Plus, I just love all the pictures… (not the gory ones in the forensic books, but the pretty dresses etc)
Here are a few of the books I use regularly which have now become indispensable. I did take a few interior pics then realise – duh, idiot, copyright issues! So sadly I’m just showing you the covers. I’m taking it as read that you’d know I have a dictionary and a thesaurus by my side at all times so I didn’t bother to take photos of them.
As I write crime fiction, albeit a gentle, 1930s or 1960s brand, I need to know a bit about the icky side of a crime. so the two books below are my go-to for that sort of stuff. Though I have to bear in mind that for the 1930s – and even the 1960s – some of this stuff wouldn’t be relevant as it’s very much only ‘coming soon’ (1980s/90s and later).
I also need to know a bit about houses, social conventions, mod cons and everyday life in the past, so I have loved these books too:
I also find it helpful sometimes to read true crime and related non-fiction:
But if you know me, or have visited this blog before, you’ll know my real love is costume, and also social history. Here are a few of my absolute favourite books:
And lastly – but most fabulous of all, and not really my era, but such beautiful photos, I wish I could put them on here to wow you:
So now you know what I do when I’m gathering ideas, checking facts and maundering over a first draft idea. Or just – you know – reading for fun.