Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Victorian London

Last Monday on What Women Write, I blogged about taking a break to research. Over the last week, I’ve pored over numerous books, including some quirky long-out-of-print titles I nabbed at Half Price Books. In searching for an 1850s map, I came across this wonderful site: offering details of the period’s housing, clothing, slang, transportation, money, you name it.

On the site, I noticed an advertisement for a book, The Diary of a Murder by Lee Jackson and a note to click to read for free. Well, why not? I felt sure I’d learn more about the period and I love a dark murder mystery, particularly a Victorian one. Mr. Jackson had published six novels and two non-fiction titles before deciding to publish this online. All he asks is that if you feel compelled, as I have now, either buy another of his books or send a payment via PayPal for the pleasure of reading his book. Fair stipulations, to be sure. Especially since I later realized the very useful site is his own creation, clearly his passion and the work of many years.

For the second time in one week, I devoured a book in one day. The first, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, was decidedly shorter. (Diary is 497 pages!) But I reminded myself that I was also researching and pushed my guilt at taking a day where I could have written on my WIP.

Mr. Jackson cleverly weaves a tale by alternating diary entries and chapters in which a murder is being investigated. He finesses the Victorian details into the story, not by dumping information as in many historicals, but by painting a vast canvas of London during the period, its smells and sounds, its divergent classes and neighborhoods. He also leaves you never quite sure if the narrator is reliable or not. The ending twist unravels perfectly, completely unexpected yet totally believable. I highly recommend you check it out.

By the way, I heard from Mr. Jackson that a small publisher plans to publish his book in the fall. Good news!

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