It's fun answering reader questions! Keep 'em coming!
Steve asked me, "In your books, Adam Hargrave, the magistrate's son, carries a pocket-watch. Did they really have pocket-watches back in the seventeenth-century?"
Actually by the 1660s, pocket-watches were a fairly common luxury item among the middling and upper classes, so I thought it would be in character for Adam to own one. Pocket-watches had been around for a hundred years by this point, as illustrated in this image of Cosimo I de Medici, Duke of Florence, holding a golden timepiece. This painting represents the first known artistic depiction of a pocket-watch.
Initially, throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, nobles and other elites wore them either around their necks as pendants, or pinned to their clothes or attached to chains so that they could be placed in a pocket. The earliest of these simple watches seem to have had only a single hour hand, and they were not encased in glass, although they often had a protective cover of some sort.
As the mechanics of time improved, watch-makers from England, France and the Netherlands began to offer more watches that were more elaborate, beautiful and accurate. They seem to have come in all different styles. The English ones were more simple, while the European models were often far more elaborate. Indeed, there are some really interesting pocket-watches...check them out!
Tell me...Which is your favorite? (And here's a hint--one of them may be featured in an upcoming story...)
Recently, I have had a few questions from readers about one of the strange objects that Lucy had discovered on a corpse at the outset of From the Charred Remains.
The item was a signet ring, one of several items found in a pouch on the body of a murdered man (check out what Lucy is holding on the cover). This ring, along with a hodgpodge of other eclectic items, will help identify the victim, as well as his killer.
The signet ring I describe in the book was unusual because it swiveled to allow the wearer to display one of two different images.
I was immediately intrigued by the concept.
I had come across this interesting ring style when I was prowling about on the British Museum's website. The ring featured here is from the early 17th century, and was made in either France or Germany.
When you really think about it, what would be the reason to have a ring with two faces? Boredom? Perhaps. Cost? Unlikely, since a swivel ring might be very expensive to create. Or perhaps, there is something about who you are that you wish at times to keep private, and other times, make public. It is not surprising that certain organizations, like the Freemasons, have used such rings since the early modern era.
This particular ring was probably more ornamental than practical, but I liked the idea that there could be a secret hidden beneath its surface.
In this image, you can see how the ring swivels, from an onyx intaglio of the Greek god Apollo to a sardonyx intaglio of a male and female figure (the website suggests it is likely Bacchus and Ariadne).
This ring is a little more elaborate than I was envisioning though. Not, perhaps, as simple as these more simple masonic rings (a style also found in the 17th century), but somewhere in between.
Pretty cool, hey? Makes you wonder why the wearer might commission a ring like this...doesn't it?
I'm so thrilled to be participating in this year's Printer's Row Lit Fest which, as you can see by the nifty banner, is celebrating 30 years!
Situated in the original bookselling hub of Printer's Row, this festival is "considered the largest free outdoor literary event in the Midwest-drawing more than 150,000 book lovers to the two-day showcase." (you had me at free and book lovers!)
I'll be signing twice on Saturday (10:00-11:30 am and 1:00-2:30 pm) at the Mystery Writers of America tent, alongside the likes of the fabulous Lori Rader-Day, Lynne Raimondo, J. Michael Major, Susan Froetschel, Libby Fischer Hellman and Jessie Chandler...and lots of other terrific mystery writers whom I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting. On Sunday I will be on a panel:
"Light Cozies to Dark Thrillers:
Writing along the Crime Continuum”
Sunday, June 8, 2014
Location: Hotel Blake/Burnham Room
500 S. Dearborn St. Chicago, IL, 60605, US
I'm excited to be on this panel, moderated by best selling author Julie Hyzy, with Clare O’Donohue, Jack Fredrickson, and Shane Gericke
(Book Signing After)
Tickets Required (but only cost one dollar)
Check out their awesome books!!!
Historian. Mystery writer. Researcher. Teacher. Occasional blogger.