Fiction’s ‘golden age’

A lot of the books I read growing up were written and/or set in the early years of the twentieth century, so this lovely guest post from friend and fellow author Charlie Cochrane rang a lot of bells. Although I haven’t read much Sherlock Holmes, I’m familiar with Christie, Sayers, Heyer (the non-Regency stuff), du Maurier, Ngaio Marsh and many others who helped make those few decades either side of the century turn such a golden age for fiction. It was super to be reminded of so many favourite authors in one go, so I hope this article brings back some good reading memories for you too. Over to you, Charlie!

“When I write about the Cambridge Fellows, it feels like I’m coming back to family or old friends and starting up a conversation as though we left it just the day before, rather than months previously. They’re giving me an account of some adventure that I didn’t know about and I’m jotting it down furiously – I know that sounds weird because we authors are supposed to be in charge of our creations and making them do things but it’s never felt that way with any of my books. Especially with Jonty and Orlando.

I guess one of the reasons these two characters feel so ‘right’ to me is that I have always had a penchant for stories written in the back end of the nineteenth century and first part of the twentieth. Because I read a lot of them, the cadence of the language is easy to replicate and the sort of lives people lived don’t need a huge amount of research. Writing the Cambridge Fellows, who inhabit a world either side of the Great War, feels natural.

But before you start thinking, “How boring must those stories be that Charlie loves so much? Surely they’re creaking with age,” can I remind you that we’re talking about books and characters which have never lost their appeal. Sherlock Holmes is as popular today as he was over a hundred years ago and everyone still loves Alice in Wonderland, Wind in the Willows and other tales from that time. Three Men in a Boat reads as freshly as it did when first published, as do the adventures of Raffles at his slashy best. So interesting to read them with a modern eye and see all sorts of things that either the author didn’t intend or put in almost sub-consciously.

The British Library – and other publishers – have been reissuing some of the lost and out of print mysteries from the Golden age, which has allowed us access to many a novel or short story we could never have accessed otherwise. As you can imagine, I’ve been wallowing blissfully in detectives and their detecting, drinking in the way people talked and acted. In my opinion, it’s possibly the best and definitely the lost enjoyable form of research!”

Lessons in Keeping a Dangerous Promise
Blurb: Jonty Stewart and Orlando Coppersmith like nothing better than being asked to solve mysteries, but when they get commissioned to help someone fulfil a vow he made to a late comrade in arms, matters start to cut too close to home for both of them.

Release date: December 6th

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