The more I delve into the fascinating history of the early 1900s, the more I discover how much mystery in history remains either forgotten, buried, or ‘settled’ with a narrative that has become accepted over time but is often highly suspect.
The first book in the Demimondaine Detective Agency series was going to be a straightforward murder mystery, but as I wrote it morphed into a real life crime story of music hall star Maudi Darrell who died in mysterious circumstances shortly after marriage. And what a glam life those ladies had – the scenes of the party at the Savoy where the entire hall was flooded so that Venetian gondolas could be floated, and where Maudi receives the jewels meant for Queen Alexandra from a playboy maharajah are true.
Most people are aware of the various conspiracy theories surrounding the sinking of the Titanic. The most common one being that sister ship Olympic was swapped with Titanic in an insurance fraud operation. I believe this was allowed to float, being ultimately disprovable, but as a distraction from the real crime conspiracy of Titanic – the disposal of Astor who was opposed to the creation of the Fed, and the ensuing insider trading. We have to accept that certain men had made inconceivable sums of money in the industrialisation gold rush, they had become rulers of the world far more powerful than any monarch or president, and had plans about how the world should look going forward. And yet they disagreed on various procedures, and competed for power and control over the incredible new inventions appearing at that time. JJ Astor and JP Morgan were sailing the Nile visiting personal architectural digs at the same time and it seems obvious they were, perhaps like the oligarchs of the present, determined to find the secret to eternal life.
The third book was planned as a country house murder but again my research drew me to write a mashup of real life events mixed with the fictional investigation. Aleister Crowley was very influential in 1913, and he had some connection to Winston Churchill who was in no way the ‘hero’ he would become in WWII. Propaganda and espionage were becoming fully-fledged operations at this time and our Ruby is gradually being drawn deeper into the soup. We see she’s already asking a lot of questions about the origins of the Great War since from her own experience, powerful men had been discussing its inevitability for years before an archduke was assassinated.
I’d love to know what readers think about the mystery in history topic and what books they’ve found most fascinating. Personally, I’ve gathered most interesting facts and ideas from books written in or shortly after the period, both fiction and non-fiction. Ruby is an avid reader and Ruby’s books form an integral part to each of her investigations, and will develop as propaganda and psychological manipulation progresses apace in the 20th century. To this end, I’m in the process of starting a mystery in history book club where we can share and discuss. My current read is a novel by EL Doctorow, which I bought as a research tool into the Stanford White murder. What do you know, there’s a scene between JP Morgan and Henry Ford, in the Morgan Library at 36th and Madison (which as an aside was across the street from my building when I lived in Manhattan – showing it’s odd how interest develops) where JP shows Ford a mummy he’s stolen from Egypt. Have you read Ragtime? If so what was your opinion?