Cole Porter & Sherlock Holmes, Misbehaving
Whenever I set out to write one of my 1920s novels, I first choose the location, then rummage around to see who was there at the time. I’ve come across some fascinating characters that way–characters in both senses of the word: Sabine Baring-Gould in Dartmoor; Dashiell Hammett in San Francisco; Marshal Lyautey in Morocco—real life, all of them. People I probably couldn’t have made up.
Not that I don’t create characters from scratch. These are novels, not thinly fictionalized histories—but stirring in well-known places and faces can ground a story, giving (as Gilbert & Sullivan admitted) artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative.
Then sometimes, one of those actual people elbows aside my own created ones to seize center stage.
Such as Cole Porter. When I started writing Island of the Mad…
[read the rest on Dear Reader, here.]
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