They say you learn something new every day.
It’s a cliché, sure, but it sounds right to me. Since I began writing about Victorian England I’ve acquired a library of history books here in my office and a huge vintage map of London for my wall.
I never thought of The Yard as a book of historical fiction, though I suppose it qualifies. The Victorian era was simply an exotic setting for my thriller. Never mind that I’m writing about a place and time thousands of miles and more than a century away from where I live.
If my book had been set here and now, I still would have done as much research as possible in an effort to get the details right. And setting The Yard in Victorian England gave me the opportunity to learn more about an era that’s always fascinated me.
And every day I learn something new.
For instance, did you know that more than a hundred years ago mammoth ivory was plentiful and less expensive than elephant ivory? Herds of woolly mammoth corpses were found frozen in remote Russia. Nobody bothered to preserve them for study. Instead, their tusks were harvested and shipped off to Europe where they were made into umbrella handles and cufflinks and letter openers.
If you installed a bathroom in your home, you were expected to throw a party and show off your new toilet.
Children went to work when they were four years old, cleaning chimneys from the inside.
Secret tunnels were built under London’s streets so that aristocrats could sneak about without being seen. Criminals discovered those tunnels and took them over as hideouts.
The tunnels are still there.
I don’t know what’s in them now, but I know they’re there. And now so do you. Guess it’s true what they say.