Hello. We’ve got a really unusual take on the idea of the Secret Library today as historical crime fiction writer T G Campbell lifts the veil on the resources she uses to keep things accurate. T G Campbell is an award winning crime fiction author who writes about a fictional group of amateur detectives called the Bow Street Society working in Victorian Era London. The group’s civilian members are enlisted for their skills and knowledge derived from their usual occupations.
T G has previously worked in the not-for-profit sector: first, for a project assisting offenders into training or employment, and then for a charity supporting victims and witnesses through the process of giving evidence at court. She’s also written articles for Listverse and Fresh Lifestyle Magazine. Her monthly blog includes interviews with a former police officer who worked at Bow Street and the curator of the Metropolitan Police Service’s historic collection. Let’s get to her choices:
The Queen’s London: A Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Streets, Buildings, Parks, and Scenery of the Great Metropolis in the Fifty-Ninth Year of the Reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria. Authored and published in 1896 by Cassell & Company, Limited
My disintegrating copy of this book, dating from the original publication year of 1896, has had the greatest impact on me as an author on many levels. First, it serves as a window onto London as it was toward the end of the nineteenth century. Without knowing of this book’s existence, I chose 1896 as the year in which to set my Bow Street Society books. Looking at the photographs and paintings in this book, then, feels like looking at the world in my writing. Second, the vast majority of places featured in the book still exist. I’m therefore able to visit them in person, compare their modern appearance to their 1896 equivalent, and form a greater emotional connection to them as a result. Lastly, the descriptions which accompany the images in the book inform the descriptions of the same places within my own writing. Thus, I’m able to transport my readers back in time to visit familiar places as they would’ve truly been in 1896.
The Official Encyclopedia of Scotland Yard, by Martin Fido and Keith Skinner
Recommended to me by the volunteers at the Metropolitan Police Service’s heritage centre, this book has proven invaluable when conducting research into the history of the Metropolitan Police until 1896 and the years immediately after. By reading and comparing its entries on the Metropolitan Police’s various ranks, divisions, and departments to other sources published in and around 1896, I was able to build an accurate understanding of its structure. More importantly, by doing this, I was able to determine how my fictional detectives of the Bow Street Society would’ve been received by Metropolitan Police officers at the time and how they could’ve worked alongside them. Similarly to the Queen’s London, the Official Encyclopedia of Scotland Yard has enabled me to portray this aspect of reality to my readers as accurately as possible. My copy of the encyclopedia is also precious to me because it’s signed by Martin Fido, one of the co-authors. I was privileged enough to meet him at a Jack the Ripper Conference in London, 2018.
Police Control Systems in Britain, 1775-1975: From parish constable to national computer by Chris Williams
Whilst the Official Encyclopedia of Scotland Yard focuses on the practicalities of the Metropolitan Police and its history, Police Control Systems in Britain provides a glimpse into the psychology behind the management of all of Britain’s police forces. Having watched numerous television dramas about the Metropolitan Police in the late nineteenth century, I knew there was a particular way of thinking amongst its ranks. Police Control Systems in Britainbroadened my understanding of this area by identifying paternalism as its major foundation and clarifying how this approach impacted officers’ daily working lives. As a result, I’m able to better understand the drivers and obstacles faced by my fictional police officers as well as their thought processes toward each other and outside influences, such as the Bow Street Society.
Wow! What a treat and a real insight into the writing process and the care that is taken to get the details absolutely right. Thank you so much, T G, for opening this window into your creative work. And if you, like me, are now intrigued to find out more about the Bow Street Society, you can read the latest in the series, The Case of the Toxic Tonic (all links are, as usual, affiliate links). Exquisite surroundings, comfortable suites and death, it says. What’s not to like?