Why Write a Victorian Mystery? By Will Thomas, Author of Heart of the Nile

Author Will Thomas shares his love of the Victorian Era, as well as his writing and research process for his Cyrus Barker and Thomas Llewelyn series. Read on for the full conversation!

Whenever I’m at a book event or a writers’ convention, I get a questioning glance when I say that I write a Victorian mysteries series. “Why Victorian?” I’m often asked.

The answer is simple. To me, the Victorian Era was the golden age. There is an image of men in formal suits with walking sticks and pipes, women in fine dresses. They took tea at a civilized hour. They traveled in hansom cabs and by steam train. There is something magical in the formality of that age that I prefer to the twenty-first century any day and I enjoy immersing myself in that world.

I confess that I find research the best part of the writing process. As a librarian for more than twenty years, I love scouring books and maps and articles from the newspapers of the day, which I use in my writing, looking for the common denominators we share with the Victorians.

Not all of my research is from books, of course. I’ve studied half a dozen martial arts and picked the brains of several instructors, so that the fight scenes in my books are realistic. I’ve walked the narrow lane of Craig’s Court and the dodgy bits of London, talking to characters interesting enough to end up in a Dickens novel. I’ve explored the dark side of London and Jack the Ripper country: the slums, the crime, the poverty.  

The Victorian Era was also a time of great change. Art and architecture flourished. The first telephones and telegraphs were introduced. The Industrial Revolution brought political upheaval, changing society forever. In short, I find the Victorian Era endlessly fascinating.

I was also influenced by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Sherlock Holmes reigns supreme and he has never been more popular. I’ve had the cheek to make my protagonist, Cyrus Barker, the preeminent enquiry agent in London, as opposed to that upstart in the deerstalker hat. Barker’s nebulous occupation allows me the freedom to explore different aspects of the culture and times. In one story, he is spying for the government, in another, he’s acting as bodyguard for a visiting royal. Once, he was trapped in a Christie-esque manor on an island, and I’ve even dug very deeply for him to prove the identity of Jack the Ripper.

Finally, the books give me the opportunity to vent my spleen against modern society and get away with it. Where have we improved? Where have we failed? I find that politically, we are not that different from our peers of a hundred and forty years ago. We are but mortals, and so were they.

That’s why I do what I do and write what I write. The world that Charles Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle loved and popularized continues to hold magic, not only for me, but for a great many readers, as well, and Cyrus Barker is my ticket to the adventure.

Read Will Thomas’s upcoming book Heart of the Nile, the upcoming installment in his Cyrus Barker and Thomas Llewelyn series.

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Comments

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    the story telling method is very catchy.. very nice article.

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