• Richard James

The Truth Will Out

Writing historical fiction brings its responsibilities. It's important to get some basic facts right; who was on the throne, were we at war, what was the technology like? Beyond that, however, I believe that an author's first responsibility is to the story. Here's an example.

Whilst writing the second book in the Bowman of the Yard series, The Devil In The Dock, I needed to find a gentleman's club in Greenwich where Bowman could meet with a rather important character in the story. He is whisked from the streets of Bermondsey where his investigation is taking place, to find himself at dinner in a very plush nautical club, The Trafalgar.

The trouble is, no such place exists. So, having described the journey to Greenwich with as much accuracy as I could (tracing the journey from a map from 1891), it was time to do what writers do best; make something up.

Looking on Google maps I found this building. It stands opposite the Naval College towards the River Thames, and is actually labelled on my 1891 map as 'Trafalgar Quarters'. Built in 1813 as lodgings for officers of Greenwich Hospital, today it's home to 21 retirement flats.

This is the building I had in mind as I wrote the chapter detailing Bowman's meeting. I describe it just as you see here, in the full knowledge that it never was the Trafalgar Club. In Bowman's world, however, it just might have been. And, in terms of the story that needs to be told, perhaps that's enough.

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