Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Back in 1888

I'm now putting the final polish on my second historical mystery. Quaker midwife Rose Carroll is once again trying to track down a murderer in an 1888 Massachusetts mill town. This time the subplots have to do with continuing prejudice against former slaves, a baby's eyes becoming infected from his mother's gonorrhea, and the conflict that arises between sweethearts of two different faiths and social classes.

The research continues. The former slave in the story, Akwasi, who has become a Quaker and has a successful furniture-making business, is brought in for questioning for the murder, and so I had to understand police procedure from the time. I checked around, and, voila! I found a book from 1890 called The Massachusetts Peace Officer: a Manual for Sheriffs, Constables, Police, and Other Civil Officers. And it's perfect. It states the laws, illustrates with various cases, and more. An invaluable resource.

Gonorrhea was next. I looked up symptoms in men and women, and I knew there wasn't a real cure until antibiotics came along a few decades later. But was there any treatment? Why, yes. I found a long paper describing using balsam (basically sap) of the Copaiba tree from South America, right down to the dosage. The extract didn't always succeed in reducing the inflammation, but occasionally did. Also sometimes effective were Cubebs, a kind of pepper from Indonesia.

And then there's language. Yes, gonorrhea was called "the clap" as of the 1580s. "Maitre d'" isn't attested until 1890, however, so my character can't use that. "Blowhard" was attested as of the 1850s, as was, "Don't cross the bridge 'till you come to it" - the latter from the poet Longfellow. "Paycheck" wasn't used until 1894, but "great minds think alike" was written in the early part of the nineteenth century.

You never know where research will take you!

Readers, anybody have an interesting tidbit from the Victorian days? Writers, what has your research uncovered?

Oh, and check out this fabulous review of Delivering the Truth from historian and award-winning short story author, KB Inglee!

"As a midwife, Rose Carroll gets to go into houses all over town. Not just the houses but the bedrooms, and the private lives. It’s a perfect set up for a detective. As a Quaker she has a strong sense of justice.
I love books in which real historical people appear as secondary characters. John Greenleaf Whittier is the kindly mentor and the voice of conscience.
I love books with a strong sense of place. Edith has done her research on the town renowned for the manufacture of fine carriages.
I love strong women protagonists who still seem a part of the time in which the author has set them. Rose is one of my favorites."

3 comments:

Patricia Guthrie said...

I love mystery series, but between writing, editing, promoting and everything else life throws my way, I have little time. I may, however delved into yours.

And, yes, I love to do research. I'm putting the final touches on my paranormal romantic suspense "Legacy of Danger." Much takes place in Romania. I spent a LONG time researching Romania (and included little.)But oh those mountains with the monastery crosses on their apex.

Patricia A Guthrie
www.patriciaanneguthrie.com
In the Arms of the Enemy
Waterlilies Over My Grave
Willed Accidents Happen

Patricia Guthrie said...

I love mystery series, but between writing, editing, promoting and everything else life throws my way, I have little time. I may, however delved into yours.

And, yes, I love to do research. I'm putting the final touches on my paranormal romantic suspense "Legacy of Danger." Much takes place in Romania. I spent a LONG time researching Romania (and included little.)But oh those mountains with the monastery crosses on their apex.

Patricia A Guthrie
www.patriciaanneguthrie.com
In the Arms of the Enemy
Waterlilies Over My Grave
Willed Accidents Happen

Patricia Guthrie said...

I love mystery series, but between writing, editing, promoting and everything else life throws my way, I have little time. I may, however delved into yours.

And, yes, I love to do research. I'm putting the final touches on my paranormal romantic suspense "Legacy of Danger." Much takes place in Romania. I spent a LONG time researching Romania (and included little.)But oh those mountains with the monastery crosses on their apex.

Patricia A Guthrie
www.patriciaanneguthrie.com
In the Arms of the Enemy
Waterlilies Over My Grave
Willed Accidents Happen