Thursday, 5 March 2009

World Book Day

As it is World Book Day, I thought I might introduce you to some of the books on my book shelves. These shelves are in my office - the front bedroom of the terraced house we rent here in Cambridge.

When we moved, we thought we would only be here for a few months and have actually been her for two and a half years. With limited space here, my choice of books settled mainly on non-fiction and much of that reflecting the fact that I was still mainly writing historical fiction when we left Norfolk.

But though I haven't been writing out-and-out historical fiction lately, the Tales of Terror books are set in a version of the Victorian period (I see them as being set in the world of Victorian fiction, if that doesn't sound too precious) and they often refer back to earlier times. I also believe that for fiction to convince, the factual components need to be right. The world needs to seem authentic. And given that I have a compulsion to buy books that works very well.

So what do we have in this snapshot? Well they show some of my research into the Salem Witch trials when I was writing Witch Hunt for Hodder. Frances Hill's A Delusion of Satan is about that event specifically and a pretty good way of getting into the subject. Cotton Mather was a prime mover in that tragedy and is a particularly fascinating character I think.

There are books about Native Americans - particularly those of the east, with whom the original settlers came into contact. The best book on that subject by far is The Unredeemed Captive by John Demos. It is a fascinating book and just typing the title makes me want to pick it up and read it all over again. Mind you, Women's Indian Captivity Narratives is also a wonderful book on the same subject - published by Penguin it is a compendium of accounts given by women who had been taken as captive by Native Americans.

North Carolina features because when I moved here I was writing New World - a book about the Roanoke Colony the English established in what is now North Carolina (but what they actually called Virginia) in the 1580s. The Narrow Sea by Peter Unwin (about the English Channel), The Tower Menagerie by Daniel Hahn and Old London Bridge by Patricia Pierce are the kind of books that are endlessly useful and that I will dip into on a regular basis. I have lots of books about London.

Sitting on top of the books is a fantastic survey of Penguin covers called Seven Hundred Penguins. Go and buy a copy immediately. You won't regret it. Just visible above that is a book of English Fairy Tales and a big fat Brothers Grimm.

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