• Richard James

Picture This

They say a picture paints a thousand words. Well, the one below was certainly responsible for a dozen or so. When you're writing historical fiction, old photographs are a great short-cut into times past. We live in an age where every moment of our lives is photographed but, luckily for me, the Victorians were mad about it, too. For the first time, the necessary equipment had become available to the professional middle classes and they used it to document their lives and times, in many cases helping to transform the way we view their world. This set of photographs lets us see beyond the stiff, formal stereotype that we have of the Victorian era to see that, ultimately, they were just like us. Search for 'Victorian portraits' in Google images and you'll see just where the inspiration for many of my characters came from!

Often, a photograph can set the scene for an entire chapter. The picture above is of Church Row in Hampstead. St. John's Church is just round the corner from Inspector Bowman's rooms on Belsize Crescent and, as you'll learn if you read The Devil In The Dock, is the final resting place of someone who was very important in his life. I loved this picture so much, I decided to incorporate it into the end of the book. In fact, look carefully at the man leaning against the lamppost to the right of the picture...

'It had been warm enough for Bowman to leave his coat at home and, even in the shade of the fine town houses that lined the wide boulevard, he felt the need to catch his breath. He stood for a while at a lamppost to contemplate the church in all its grandeur...'

That's Detective Inspector George Bowman of Scotland Yard, caught in a moment of quiet contemplation, and preserved for all time in a photograph.

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