Many thanks Liza for inviting me on your blog today, Valentine’s Day, and also the ebook publication day of my third novel, Time Will Tell – the third and final chapter in the trilogy concerning Lizzie Lemalf and her madcap family. Like the previous novels in the series, 183 Times A Year and All The Colours In Between, this book can also be read as a standalone, however, unlike its predecessors, which for the most part are set in the present day fictional fenland town of Great Tossen, Time Will Tell also takes a step back in time to the East End of London during the 1960s. This inevitably meant, while I was writing it, more research was involved than the previous novels, especially as (albeit only a brief time ago) it meant historical, as well as contemporary research. I love research and I love trawling through the history books, especially when I come across places, or people, or snippets of information I wasn’t previously aware of. However, sometimes hours of research (depending on the storyline) eventually amounts to just one or two sentences in a writer’s finished story. Take, for instance, the following information I gathered about one of London’s very oldest pubs – the Magpie and Stump.
During public holidays, wealthy guests would often visit the Magpie and Stump for a pint of Two'penny ale (similar to pale ale) and rent the upstairs rooms where they had a prime view of the hangings that took place outside Newgate Prison. These were often referred to as a ‘hanging breakfast’! It is also believed that the pub would send out a last pint to the condemned man or woman before his or her execution. This tradition ceased in 1868 after public hangings were abolished. Michael Barrett was the last person to be publicly executed for his part in the Clerkenwell explosion, which took place in 1867, killing 12 people and injuring another 50. However, as a nod to the past, a board stands outside the pub promoting “Last Pint Friday”, which is a half-price offer ‘commemorating’ the pub’s tradition of sending a last pint to the condemned man or woman. The last woman to be hanged in public was serial killer Catherine Wilson who was hung before a huge crowd of 20,000 spectators on 20th October 1862.
|The Magpie and Stump||Photo courtesy of Local Pub Histories on historypin|
In the 1950s the Magpie & Stump became affectionately known as ‘Courtroom No 10’ – used as a gathering place for detectives and reporters who would discuss the trial of the day at the Old Bailey over a traditional lunch of chop ‘n’ chips.
As interesting as all this information is, most of it is irrelevant to my story, and it would have been near on impossible to include much of it without making it sound just what it is, a brief and interesting history about one of London’s oldest pubs. However, I loved the history behind the Magpie and Stump, and geographically it was close to the area where some of my story unfolds, so, after a bit of discussion with my editor, the small extract below from Time Will Tell shows you just how much, or should I say, how little, of my research I actually retained for my story:
Ten minutes later, Salocin emerged from the depths of London’s basement to find morning had well and truly broken, the sun just rising above a colourless winter day, cold and windblown, the pavements slick with sleet. Head down, avoiding the hullabaloo of Smithfield, which was now winding down for the day, he headed for Clerkenwell. Thankfully, he still had the set of keys to the yard that Mickey had given him to unlock the place yesterday, had forgotten to give them back to him last night.
There was no sign of the Old Bill, either, which didn’t surprise him… It was some passers-by that had found her, close to a pub called the Magpie and Stump, a good couple of miles from the yard… Mickey said people used to watch the public hangings of prisoners outside Newgate Prison from that pub. Salocin would love to watch a certain someone swing from the hangman’s rope over a pint. And there’d be no fucking last pint, as was tradition, for that condemned bastard.
So, as you can see, sometimes a writer’s painstaking research, like the old cutting room floor of movie makers, is discarded – at worst cut from the story altogether because it’s distracts from the storyline, at best, edited.
Food for thought when you read your next book!
Thanks for that interesting snippet of info, Eva, and I wish you all the best for Time Will Tell!
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If you’d like to purchase a copy of Time Will Tell, or would like to know more about the story, click HERE