I love all the research that goes with writing historical
novels, because you find out so many fascinating things. The small details are
often crucial in conveying the period feel. But a lot of this research has to be
discarded and can’t be used in the book, so I like to give a little flavour of
it in these posts.
We all know that “unpneu” means a tyre in French. Did you know that it also came to be used to mean a telegram sent along tubes by pneumatic means?
Research sometimes leads one in strange directions and comes
up with surprising results. For my latest novel, I had to research the main methods
of transport in France between 1897 and 1914. And I discovered something that had
never occurred to me.
The odd-sounding combination of coal merchant and bistro
owner was quite common in Paris during the late 19th and early 20th
centuries. These establishments were usually the métier of immigrants from the Auvergne and northern Aveyron, where
the poor soil made farming a thankless task.