25 August 2023

Historical Fiction (including Historical Mysteries) Again

In his excellent SleuthSayer's post of 14 August 2023 (What was, what could be, and everything in between), Chris Knopf's advice to writers is don't be afraid of history, embrace it. Know your history.

Chris notes some writers hate the notion of being pinned down by reality.

Yep. Yet knowing President Charles DeGaulle wasn't assassinated in 1962 did not lessen the suspense in Frederick Forsyth's THE DAY OF THE JACKAL. The beauty of the book is how in the hell did the French police prevent The Jackal from killing DeGaulle. Great book, won the Best Novel Edgar Award and made into a riveting movie starring Edward Fox and Michael Lonsdale.

Frederick Forsyth knew his history and the book is an historically accurate novel.

Lesser writers like me extensively research the history before we write historical fiction, including historical mysteries, of course. We often learn things we did not know, some information inspires other story ideas.

As we move into the 21st Century, some writers find it easier to write about the 20th Century or even earlier times. Things are chaning too quickly these days. The internet provides quick information about the past, although not all of the information is accurate. You have to go use multiple sources.

It's all hard work. If it wasn't, everyone would be a writer. Wait. Everyone is. Just go online.

Here's an added comment on John Floyd's SleuthSayer column "I Don't Say Eye-ther (Not Nigh-ther, Nee-ther). John says, "I won't even get start on the stupid ways a lot of people -- including newscasters -- pronounce New Orleans.

New Orleans is New Awlins to a local. The "R" is a "W". New-aw-lee-uns is also a colloquial pronunciation. Some uptowns call it New-aw-yuns. It is acceptable to pronounce the city New Orleens to rhyme it in a poem or song, as in the song "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans" written by Eddie DeLange and Louis Alter, first heard in the movie "New Orleans" (1847), performed by Louis Armstrong and sung by Billie Holliday. I remember the song from the movie "The Wackiest Ship in the Army" sung by Ricky Nelson. I've never heard a local call the city N'Awlins. Orleans Avenue in the French Quarter is pronounced Orleens Avenue.

Thanks all for now.



  1. Hey there Chris,

    I couldn't agree more with your insightful post about the beauty of embracing history in writing. Your words resonate deeply with me as a fellow enthusiast of historical fiction and mysteries. Your advice to "know your history" truly struck a chord. It's fascinating how facts and imagination can blend seamlessly, just like in Frederick Forsyth's "The Day of the Jackal." I was nodding along as I read about how the suspense of the book remained gripping even though the real historical events were different. That's the magic of well-crafted storytelling!

  2. Interesting as always, O'Neil. I love reading historical fiction, and what I've written of it has been a lot of fun (and yes, work too). You're a master of that.

  3. Love this liine! "It's all hard work. If it wasn't, everyone would be a writer. Wait. Everyone is. Just go online." But the gold nugget is still there. It's all hard work. If it wasn't... My latest series is historical, 1920s. I've spent hours researching the smallest things, sigh. You have to love history to make this worthwhile. Melodie

  4. I spent two months researching immediate post-WW2 Vienna and TB sanatoriums to write one short story. Thank God it got published ("Miss West's First Case").

  5. The debate of another Southern city's pronunciation is summarized in a joke, "Is the capital of Kentucky pronounced Louie-ville or Lou-uh-vul?" The answer is of course neither. But if you're referring to Kentucky's most populous city, it's Lou-uh-vul.

    Then in 2004 following horrendous hurricanes, the plane I was on needed to make an emergency stop in Kentucky. The pilot announced, "We'll be terminating in Lewis-ville, Kentucky." Uh– Has anyone double checked his charts and revised flight plan?"

  6. I'm a huge fan of Historical Fiction, especially Historical Mysteries. The blend of real events and fictional intrigue is captivating. After reading, I store my notes and research on my st6000dx000 for easy access and organization. The attention to historical detail is impressive. Do you have any book recommendations in this genre?


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