“The Quiet City”, Behind the Scenes of a novel

Having done many years of work in bands and filmmaking projects, I love the idea of sharing the journey of a project. The art is how it’s jumbled together and smoothed into a work, but this is the slow moving factory. With something like this, set in actual history with fiction trying to run through it, it’s going to be huge. You have to return to your own notes regularly to keep it connected. You are connecting dots well outside of the storyline.

The scope of the full timeline starts in the 1880s and ends as recent as tomorrow. That’s a big factory floor.

Telegraph Bay, 1900

This was one of the reasons that The Quiet City had an earlier start approximately seven years back. At the time I was working as a cleaner and going to Uvic writing full time. One of the inspirations was being in some of those buildings like the Dunsmuir’s summer home that became the Fort Rodd Hill administration building. I also lived about a ten minute walk from this…

I wanted to include some of my favorite things about early Victoria such as the Victoria and Sidney Railway, the streetcars now gone with only slight remnants of their existence remaining as well as the birth of my own corner of town…Cook Street Village.

With about ten places to get coffee in two and a half blocks, Cook Street is a popular chill out part of Greater Victoria but before about 1909 it was a marshy dairy pasture to quote painter and writer Emily Carr. Incidentally Emily doesn’t make a personal appearance but she gets involved in the story along with a person who deserves a movie of his own…Francis Mawson Rattenbury.

Anyways with these in mind the story was set in partly 1910 which set me off to every place that I could go, besides online to see and hear what it was like back then here…

Fort Street near Douglas. Yeah, I’m in the new Tim’s.

The image pictured about is at the Heritage Room of the Greater Victoria Public Library where I spent most time, but also the archives near the Museum where part of the story now takes place along with Victoria Archives, Saanich Archives and Sidney as well as the Royal BC Museum.

Back years ago I actually stopped to work on something else as I wanted this to have more time to actually focus on it. I want to make the details as accurate as possible as the stranger fiction needs a firm support. Not only that but it is fun to get the details. I was so excited by the Betty Bell’s book “This Fair land, Saanich” which goes into life in the Saanich Peninsula in fine detail as she lived there. That photo of myself reading is in the local history room (aforementioned Heritage Room) where so many treasures are hidden.

Even just wandering around Victoria can get your imagination going, whether it’s trying to find the hidden tunnels under the city or looking at houses in Fairfield.

There have been lots of little parts of the story that have been either created or effected by the research outside of just the setting which was of course very different and more languid than today’s pace.

Fitting in this perfectly was the often late Victoria and Sidney Railway that was that way due to its often late ferry connection, the Iroquois that could take you from the Pier in Sidney to Nanaimo.

Sadly this boat met its end a little ways after 1911 which didn’t help business for the Victoria and Sidney either, a train so underpowered that when it climbed northbound through Royal Oak towards Elk Lake, passengers could jump off, grab a beer from the nearby pub and hop back on without missing a beat.

But of course history was about more than just locations. There’s details on current events, fashion, and what it was like to live back then.

Above is a modern Government Street, but back then this wasn’t just the actual main drag, but actually the oldest street in Western Canada. If you wanted it, it was here with government offices on the west side of the road (your Post Office) and your green grocers, stores and pubs on the east side. The Brown Jug was a particularly famous one on the corner of Government and Fort, now a jewelry store.

And of course, the aforementioned world of paranormal and my very evil special guest, Jack the Ripper.

The legend and mystery of Jack and the canonical five victims has also been a major part of the story, so it naturally lead to going over any books and videos I could get my hands on. My take on the Ripper is very different from what’s been before and specific to this story so, without giving too much away I had to research some other things to compliment this.

Anyways that’s about it for now.

Thank you for reading and please follow so you can catch the next entry on the creation of this historical thriller. And definitely check out the writer page here at tompogson.com to see my other work, along with my music projects such as Cookeilidh.

Cheers!

Tom Pogson

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