Touching on TOUCHSTONE

The problem with writing a book around characters is that eventually, they have to have something to do. TOUCHSTONE’s protagonist is very clear to me, and has been for the eighteen months that I’ve been thinking about the book. I know his character, his history, his setting, but the events in which I shall immerse him are still very, shall we say, fluid. In the gaps between other forms of busyness, from Christmas shopping to organizing the 2007 Edgars panels, I pick up various books on England in the Twenties and try to find his political home.

The Twenties were a between-time, with the Great War taking a step back in people’s minds and the events leading up to the Second War nothing more than a twinkle in their instigator’s eyes.

O JERUSALEM was about the period in Palestine, now Israel, when the British were in control and beginning to make the decisions that would lead to what we see in that part of the world today. Writing THE GAME, although it takes place in 1924, I had in mind the conflict going on there now, repetition of a cycle of Afghan conquest and resistance that the British knew all too well, the Russians encountered in their foray south, and our own dear President imagines he can overcome.

So TOUCHSTONE needs a political home, needs to reverberate (in my own mind, if no one else’s) in today’s world and with today’s events. I am narrowing down the Twenties events I want to use, but it’s highly irritating, that a suspense novel can’t just be about the people, but has to have a story line as well…

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  1. cici on December 17, 2005 at 5:33 pm

    This has absolutely nothing to do with your post. But I wanted to tell you how much I love the Russell and Holmes series. I have always been a fan of Sherlock Holmes. I am now just as big a fan of Mary Russell.

  2. Rebecca on December 17, 2005 at 8:50 pm

    I’m already looking forward to it, plot or not– after following your writing process with TOUCHSTONE online for so long, reading the finished product will be a treat in more ways that one.

  3. Marianne McA on December 17, 2005 at 11:24 pm

    On the Sellers & Yeatman principle that the only history that counts is the History that you can remember, the only thing that happened in England in the twenties was the General Strike in 1926.
    Sadly, memory does not reveal any more – minor details like the cause or outcome escape me, so it’s hard to guess whether it could reverberate satisfactorily.

  4. Chris on December 19, 2005 at 9:20 am

    This is why I love this Blog – I love dipping into these insights and having my appetite whetted for the novel in progress! It is reassuring (for this reader, at least) to know that you are not planning to take a year off just yet!

    All the best

  5. Anonymous on December 19, 2005 at 5:07 pm

    I’m wondering about the small changes, such as the presence of women in Parliament. Or maybe there was only one — what’s her name, the American who married an Englishman. Would an elected woman be of concern to some? Would her American birth be a problem? (Gosh — anti-American sentiment in the 1920’s — any reverberations today?) Any religious criticism of women outside the home? If you haven’t already read it, you could read “The White Cliffs” by Alice Duer Miller, a long poem-story with some settings in the 20s. By an American, and writing in the 40s, not the 20s, but maybe it captures some feelings of the time — nothing to do with my suggestions above. (I love that poem, even though it’s not good poetry.)

  6. Linda C on December 19, 2005 at 8:37 pm

    About Marianne’s comment on the General Strike…I see many parallels to today’s society & the (deliberate??) destruction of the middle class.

  7. Anonymous on December 19, 2005 at 10:00 pm

    I too have a confession to make. My comments had nothing to do with other comments made here. I just wanted to take a moment to tell you how much I enjoyed “Califia’s Daughters” and I, like many other readers, do hope you will continue with another in the series. My very best wishes for your continued good health and many more excellent stories like “Califia’s Daughters”.

  8. Anonymous on December 21, 2005 at 3:30 pm

    PK the Bookeemonster ( –
    You mentioned the Edgar panels and I had a general question perhaps you can answer: are the judges always “celebrity” readers, i.e, authors? Are regular readers ever chosen? I am an avid mystery reader of 10-12 books a month — and I know many others who do that capacity or more — would that bring the “common” perspective?

  9. Anonymous on December 22, 2005 at 6:06 am

    You might find interesting material in a dense but utterly fascinating book I am currently reading — The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes, by Jonathan Rose (Yale University Press 2001). It covers, basically, the period from the beginning of movable type to the beginning of television, so there’s a lot more in there than the 1920s, but it’s very well-researched — lots of digging around in the circulation records of Welsh coal-miners’ co-operative libraries, and stuff like that — and presents a quite awe-inspiring picture of people with little leisure & no money, before there were free schools, wresting an education from a hostile society more or less at knifepoint.

  10. Anonymous on January 3, 2006 at 9:39 pm

    I posted a message earlier and am now adding another thought: certainly comments about prohibition in the US would be appopriate, perhaps in terms of the religous part of the prohibition movement. Maybe some conversation on the pub hours imposed during WWI, in contrast to the post-war prohibition in the US?

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