Japan, and 30 Days of Paris

I adore guide-books. Not, please, the flavorless modern versions, little more than well-digested lists of places to see and hours of opening. No, I mean the traditional guides written by those who have truly Been There.
I use guides from the 1920s as an entree into the time and place I’m writing about, but frankly, the information they hold is the least of their appeal. When one comes across (in the Baedeker’s guide to Palestine) the phrase, “The divans are infested with fleas,” there is little doubt about how heartfelt the observation is.
So I was pleased to lay hands (thanks to the offices of the McHenry library) on the 1926 Terry’s Guide to the Japanese Empire. And its author–T. Philip Terry, F.R.G.S–has not let me down.
There is hard experience in his warning to keep an eye on one’s possessions in the railway car, not because of thieves, but for fear of the “train-boy” accidentally snatching up one of your bags in his eagerness to restore it to a departing passenger. There is chagrin in Mr Terry’s suggestion that the traveler request a room as remote as possible from the hostelry’s w.c.
But it is in his transportation sections that hard experience is felt. One can just envision the situation that gave rise to the following: “The motorist should not rely too implicitly on the information he may get from farmers about roads.”
And it being Japan, there is a section on the jinricksha: “On uneven roads the ‘pushman’ is often necessary to prevent the somewhat capricious vehicle from tipping over sideways. The tendency to tip backward when the passenger is inside and the puller releases the thills, is very marked…”

When I return home (from England) next week, I will be departing (fictionally) for Japan, writing the next Russell novel. I will no doubt have more to say about it later, but in the meantime, I wish to share with you a countdown, beginning tomorrow, of 30 days of scenes, snippets, and thoughts about The Bones of Paris.
I hope you enjoy them.


  1. Chris on August 10, 2013 at 5:49 am

    Enjoy your last week! (And three cheers for 30 days…)


  2. Merrily Taylor on August 10, 2013 at 5:58 am

    Ah, so we have confirmation that the next book IS to be set in Japan. Looking forward to it already (and will cross my fingers that poor Holmes and Russell avoid being flipped over in a rickshaw!).

  3. MR Graham on August 10, 2013 at 7:21 am

    Japan, excellent! I think I look forward to your fantastic settings nearly as much as to the adventures they house.

  4. Robin Sommo on August 10, 2013 at 7:47 am

    Have you read any of Bill Bryson’s travel books? I find them wonderfully enjoyable. He could (and has done) make a story out of going out for bread and milk.
    I’m looking forward to the new book, and to many more after it, in all of your storylines.

  5. Laura Stratton on August 10, 2013 at 8:11 am

    I am looking forward to reading about Russell and Holmes asking farmers for directions, train boys taking their luggage and being tipped over in a rickshaw. Thank you for writing these fabulous books for us.

  6. Michele Olson on August 10, 2013 at 9:04 am

    Having finished Touchstone, I am so looking forward to more of Harris’ adventures!

    And word of Mary Harris! I was curious about their adventures in Japan.

    I also have a question about British police buildings, to anyone who might know. While watching Doc Martin, I noticed that the door to the local constabulary was a bright blue: is this blue still used to indicate police offices, or was this a bow to one of the OTHER famous British characters?

    Safe journey.

  7. Reen on August 10, 2013 at 9:39 am

    I agree finding an enjoyable guidebook is like finding a diamond in the rough. Normally I get a whole bunch of them from the library, extract the useful information I need into a notebook and leave them all behind. I did come across a gem a couple of years ago before visiting London: Pauline Frommer’s London. It was written by a fellow named Jason Cochran instead of a cohort of list makers. I actually read it cover to cover a couple of times, so I was able to discover gems in it I would never have discovered it the type of travel book you scan through. Like the location of Tippoo’s Tiger. My husband, who has never read The Game, thought I was crazy making him race through the V&A Museum before closing to find it, but I loved it!

    • Laurie King on August 10, 2013 at 12:24 pm

      Tippoo’s tiger was my (Anglo-Indian) husband’s favorite thing in all of London!

  8. Li ANN on August 13, 2013 at 11:30 pm

    I’M so glad there will be a new book set in Japan. You have always treated ethnic characters matter-of-factly.–definitely a good thing.
    In passing you have mentioned a Holmes and Russell stopover in Hawaii. Could there possibly be a book set in Hawaii someday? Everyone wants the warm recognition of fictional characters living in their hometowns. MEANWHILE, EXCITEDLY WAITING FOR THE NEW BOOK!

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