Where does inspiration come from? Sometimes an idea lands conveniently in one’s lap when perusing a newspaper. Maybe a report on a TV bulletin immediately plugs into the brain and you find yourself asking; what if? What prompted that? Who was the gang behind the killer making all the decisions?
When I began my novel The Uncounted, I had researched widely about modern day people trafficking and was amazed (and somewhat shocked) at the numbers of people involved all over the world. I couldn’t believe no one was talking about it!
Of course, these days, now the internet is full to overflowing with all kinds of exciting information, the task is even easier. 101 things might prompt a number of crime fiction titles and it is very straightforward to turn up all kinds of starting points for narratives.
In fact during the opening months of 2013 over two and a half million historical criminal records will be fully searchable through findmypast.com. This will be a fabulous treasure trove for authors, not just crime writers.
My mouth was watering at the thought of what might be lurking in this fascinating collection which goes back as far as 1770 and will end in 1934. Although having said that, these earlier documents are being held back and released as a later tranche after the 1871 -1934 are published.
Just studying the short piece advertising this particular service was riveting. Apparently there is access to mug shots, which in themselves area truly fascinating peek into history, and then appeal letters, official court documents and even registers from the hulk ships used when mainland prisons were full to capacity. It brings to mind the opening of Dickens’ Great Expectation when Magwitch terrifies the main character, Pip, having escaped from the hulks moored in the River Medway; the stuff of nightmares indeed.
Not only does a crime writer actually have first class original sources to work from by using these documents, it also shows how the criminal justice system has evolved. It is thought-provoking to consider the changes in social behaviour that took place during the 18th century. Just think how people had been kept in line by living in tight knit religious communities where everyone knew everyone else’s business. Imagine the sense of freedom and license people must have felt when they moved anonymously through the new cityscapes which were filled with tenement blocks and dark alleyways.
Not only this, but there are a number of pertinent details lodged in this archive that I just can’t wait to explore. There is so much to consider; like what a judge might have recommended, petitions lodged by families desperate for release and other circumstances which should be taken into consideration. These documents even outline a prisoner’s state of health and give so much material for a crime writer, it is like a gift; a veritable treasure chest.
Knowing this is all ready and waiting for any writer of crime fiction and is emanating from respectable sources like the Home Office, the Prison Commission, the Metropolitan Police, central Criminal Court and even the Admiralty it is a rich seam to mine.
Except it will have to wait as my latest crime fiction title, The Unwanted, moves on apace; it has to bearing in mind the intended summer publication date!