RHYS BOWEN: Today my latest baby comes into the world. It's the sixteenth Molly Murphy novel and it's called TIME OF FOG AND FIRE.
When you write historical novels, when you set a story in a particular place and time, I think it's important to think about what was really going on at that time. Was there an election? If so my heroine would be aware of the campaigning on the streets. Was there a disaster? In which case my heroine might also be affected (as in the 1905 crash of the 9th Street El that figures in The Edge of Dreams).
My time period for Molly moved into 1906, and I realized that I couldn't write about that year without including the biggest event that took place in America--the San Francisco earthquake and fire. This is familiar material to me, having lived just outside San Francisco for the past forty years. For the first years of our marriage we lived in a hillside cottage built in 1903. I reassured myself that if it had survived the 1906 earthquake it could survive subsequent ones!
And I'm conscious when I drive through the city how many decorative cornices there still are, waiting to drop on pedestrians in the next great quake. Even though the destruction of the quake was enormous, it didn't kill many people. It was the subsequent fire that did the greatest damage. It raged throughout the city for days, because the water mains had been ruptured. Also the army tried to create a fire-line by blowing up buildings and only succeeded in increasing the size of the fire.
After the quake huge tent cities were put up by the army in all the parks. The mayor (who was about to be indited for corruption when the quake hit) promised to rebuild bigger and better, and miraculously his promise was kept.
Research was easy because there are so many first person accounts and photographs stored at the San Francisco historical society. Vignettes one could never make up: Chinese men escaping from burning Chinatown carrying a song bird in a cage while their wives hobbled behind on bound feet, trying to keep up.
Bullocks escaping from a stockyard and trampling people in the streets. Soldiers ordered to shoot for looting accidentally killing those who went back into their own homes to rescue prized possessions. So much drama and tragedy to write about.
And you might be wondering what Molly was doing there, in the midst of all this?
You'll have to read the book to find out.