Researching for a novel

I’ve just signed up for a session at Stratford Literary Festival, intriguingly entitled ‘The Gory Details: Researching for Crime Writing‘. I’ll be doing a reading and signing there of A Shadowed Livery the previous day so thought it would be good fun to look in on this one.

Writing any kind of novel probably requires some level of research but historical crime fiction definitely does, especially where the piece is set just beyond the memory of the writer. I’ve blogged earlier about issues relating to the apparatus of detection, where CCTV, DNA and mobile phone records don’t feature in the toolbox, but there are wider problems of being historically accurate. For example, would a cottage on the edge of a small town have electric lighting in 1939; what was the name of our hero’s local newspaper; and, one that I was asked recently, did people in England know about the plight of Jews in Nazi Germany before the Second World War? There are, of course, also all the usual bits of detail associated with murdering our fictional victims which need to be accurate.

I shudder when I think how difficult this would be without the internet. Even if an author was lucky enough to live near a comprehensive library, with good sections on contemporary history, police procedures and forensics, how many hours would they need to spend trawling through books and articles to find the nugget they needed?

Thankfully, there are masses of resources now out there on the ‘net and two good sites pointing to them are Research Resources for Mystery and Crime Writers (which is mainly US) and Research Method for Crime Fiction Writing. I also use family history sites, like Findmypast and Ancestry to provide character names for the appropriate period and location and for newspaper research.

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