Death Makes No Distinction by Lucienne Boyce #Author Guest Post
Today I am happy to welcome author Lucienne Boyce to the blog with a special guest post. Her historical crime novel, Death Makes No Distinction, was published on 20th September and is the third in the Dan Foster Mystery series, although it can be read as a standalone. First, here's a little about the book:
Two women at opposite ends of the social scale, both brutally murdered.
Principal Officer Dan Foster of the Bow Street Runners is surprised when his old rival John Townsend requests his help to investigate the murder of Louise Parmeter, a beautiful writer who once shared the bed of the Prince of Wales. Her jewellery is missing, savagely torn from her body. Her memoirs, which threaten to expose the indiscretions of the great and the good, are also missing.
Frustrated by the chief magistrate’s demand that he drop the investigation into the death of the unknown beggar woman, found savagely raped and beaten and left to die in the outhouse of a Holborn tavern, Dan is determined to get to the bottom of both murders. But as his enquiries take him into both the richest and the foulest places in London, and Townsend’s real reason for requesting his help gradually becomes clear, Dan is forced to face a shocking new reality when the people he loves are targeted by a shadowy and merciless adversary.
The investigation has suddenly got personal.
Welcome to the blog, Lucienne. Without further ado, over to you!
One of the most interesting aspects of writing historical fiction is the question of how to reflect the mindset of the era in which a book is set. If the story isn’t going to revolve around characters who are just moderns in fancy dress, it’s necessary to try to understand the attitudes, values and beliefs of a particular era. But how do I go about discovering mindset?
On the face of it there’s an easy answer to the question: I research it. My books are set in the eighteenth century, and so I study the history, politics, religion and culture of the age, read contemporary newspapers and books, biographies, autobiographies and diaries, listen to the music, look at the architecture and so on. Sometimes in the sources people convey their opinions openly, sometimes it’s unconscious or implied. Either way, I can get at their attitudes, values and beliefs.
But nothing’s that simple! For a start, there’s the issue of whose mindset? History is by and large written by the rich, leisured and powerful, and that means that the voices of the poor, dispossessed and downtrodden are either non-existent or hidden away. The perspectives of women, ethnic minorities or LGBT people are often difficult to discover. All too often they have been discredited, discounted or suppressed.
Then there’s the question: do the records truly reflect the mindset? We have no way of knowing if what a person wrote down or is reported as saying is what they actually believed, what they thought they believed, or what they thought their audience wanted them to believe. A sermon has to be pious, a letter addressed to a social superior must adopt a differential attitude, a plea in court has to be humble. A diary or autobiography is a form of self-invention and self-presentation. A speech may be more concerned with persuading or influencing the listeners than informing them.
It’s also worth considering: how many mindsets? Are we really to believe that everyone held the same opinion on everything? Of course they didn’t, any more than we do today. In that case, we might argue that the point is to get at the dominant attitudes of the time – the zeitgeist. But that doesn’t make the matter any clearer. What we think are dominant attitudes might only seem so because a particular group has succeeded in convincing us that their attitudes were the most important.
Finally, we need to consider: what’s contemporary about the mindsets? We have an idea that some views are “modern”, others are outdated. But this isn’t always the case. It’s astonishing how often I come across a viewpoint that seems modern. Take the question of animal rights, for example, something widely regarded as a recent concern. I’ve heard the statement that there weren’t any vegetarians in eighteenth-century Britain. Not true. Percy Bysshe Shelley, Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Pope were vegetarians. And if we think that the anti-hunting moment is a modern phenomenon it’s time to think again. Margaret Cavendish’s poem The Hunting of the Hare was published in 1653 (Yet Man doeth think himselfe so gentle, mild, / When he of Creatures is most cruell wild…).
Of course, we have to be careful to look at the reasons behind these choices. The ideology may not be exactly the same, nor the emotions the subjects evoke. On the other hand, we may be surprised to find that it was possible for people of the past to have similar feelings to our own. It’s often been said that in an age of high child mortality, parents weren’t as affected by the death of their children as we are today – and the poor might be positively relieved by the death of another mouth to feed. But there’s plenty of evidence that this simply wasn’t the case.
So I think that the answer to the question: how do I get into the mindset of the time? is much more complex than at first appears. In the end, I’m not even sure it’s possible. Just as place is the physical setting of the story, mindset is the mental, emotional and spiritual setting – and just as I can never go back to the physical landscape of the past, so I can never go back to the mental. What I can do is use my research to evoke my vision of those settings. And this is where the fun really begins, because it’s in that gap between what can and what cannot be known that historical fiction is created.
© Lucienne Boyce
Thanks for those fascinating thoughts and good luck with the rest of the tour!
About the Author
Lucienne Boyce writes historical fiction, non-fiction and biography. After gaining an MA in English Literature (with Distinction) with the Open University in 2007, specialising in eighteenth-century fiction, she published her first historical novel, To The Fair Land, in 2012, an eighteenth-century thriller set in Bristol and the South Seas.
Her second novel, Bloodie Bones: A Dan Foster Mystery (2015) is the first of the Dan Foster Mysteries and follows the fortunes of a Bow Street Runner who is also an amateur pugilist. Bloodie Bones was joint winner of the Historical Novel Society Indie Award 2016, and was also a semi-finalist for the M M Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction 2016. The second Dan Foster Mystery, The Butcher’s Block, was published in 2017 and was awarded an IndieBrag Medallion in 2018. The third in the series, Death Makes No Distinction, was published in 2019. In 2017 an e-book Dan Foster novella, The Fatal Coin, was trade published by SBooks.
In 2013, Lucienne published The Bristol Suffragettes, a history of the suffragette movement in Bristol and the west country. In 2017 she published a collection of short essays, The Road to Representation: Essays on the Women’s Suffrage Campaign.
Contributions to other publications include:-
‘Not So Militant Browne’ in Suffrage Stories: Tales from Knebworth, Stevenage, Hitchin and Letchworth (Stevenage Museum, 2019)
‘Victoria Lidiard’ in The Women Who Built Bristol, Jane Duffus (Tangent Books, 2018)
‘Tramgirls, Tommies and the Vote’ in Bristol and the First World War: The Great Reading Adventure 2014 (Bristol Cultural Development Partnership/Bristol Festival of Ideas, 2014)
Articles, interviews and reviews in various publications including Bristol Times, Clifton Life, The Local Historian, Historical Novels Review (Historical Novel Society), Nonesuch, Bristol 24/7, Bristol History Podcast, etc.
Lucienne has appeared on television and radio in connection with her fiction and non-fiction work. She regularly gives talks and leads walks about the women’s suffrage movement. She also gives talks and runs workshops on historical fiction for literary festivals, Women’s Institutes, local history societies, and other organisations. She has been a radio presenter on BCfm, and a course tutor.
In 2018 she was instrumental in devising and delivering Votes for Women 100, a programme of commemorative events by the West of England and South Wales Women’s History Network in partnership with Bristol M Shed and others. She also campaigned and raised funds for a Blue Plaque for the Bristol and West of England Women’s Suffrage Society.
She is on the steering committee of the West of England and South Wales Women’s History Network, and is also a member of the Historical Novel Society, the Society of Authors, and the Alliance of Independent Authors.
She is currently working on the fourth full-length Dan Foster Mystery, and a biography of suffrage campaigner Millicent Browne.
Lucienne was born in Wolverhampton and now lives in Bristol.
Thanks to Lucienne Boyce and Rachel of Rachel's Random Resources for the guest post and a place on the tour.
Check out these brilliant bloggers!