I’ve settled into a fantastic flat in London’s Pimlico district. The new novel takes place at the end of the 19th century, so I’m renting a place that was built in 1880. It’s got lots of the original décor, including lovely tall French windows from which one can watch gloomy clouds and perennial rain, and a high ceiling in the parlor. A much better ambiance to write a Gothic novel than sunny L. A.
My first night out on the town was intended to be a distinctly un-Victorian experience. My great friend Alex, reigning prince of jazz-fusion guitar in England, invited me to go with him to judge a music contest at a club in Balham. After hearing some fantastic music and a indulging in bit of extremely restrained (ahem) drinking, Alex put me into a taxi.
I’d been thinking about the history of the London cab since my arrival. One of the very first scenes in the book takes place in a taxi. What were they like in 1895? Moreover, how much time would it take me to find out? That’s one of the dilemmas of an historical novelist. True, you only need a few details to bring something like a quick scene in a hackney carriage to life, but they’d better be specific and they’d better be right. It can take hours or sometimes days out of your writing just to get the details you need for what ends up being a fleeting moment in the book.
So this taxi driver—bless his talkative soul!—asks me what I’m doing in London. I tell him I’m writing a novel that takes place in the late 1800s. He says, “1895 good enough for you?” And he hands me—I KID YOU NOT—an article he’d been reading in Taxi Magazine about the taxi and omnibus trade in 1895, replete with fantastic details like “social habits of the London cabbie.”
I came home and made a small offering to the gods.
If you’re a fan of jazz-fusion guitar—and who isn’t?—check out Alex’s latest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I8QgFPgYqq8
Also check out the club, The Bedford. Live music every night of the week that is also available on webcast: http://thebedford.co.uk/