I’m taking a brief break from investigating crime to join the Writers’ Blog Tour. I was invited by Michelle Higgs, a very talented writer and author of several excellent social and family history titles, as well as being a great Twitter friend and support. Her excellent blog is A Visitor’s Guide to Victorian England. Michelle also featured the work of another outstanding writer, Sue Wilkes, who blogs at A Visitor’s Guide to Jane Austen’s England.

We are part of a growing international community of writers, working to introduce our blogs to a wider audience. Christine Findlay, Chair of Bookmark Blair in Perthshire, Scotland invited us to take part (see www.cfindlay.blogspot.com) The Writers’ Blog Tour is a great way to sample the work of new writers. I’m delighted to take a turn to write about my work and I hope you’ll enjoy your visit.

What am I working on?

My first book, The Real Sherlock Holmes: The Hidden Story of Jerome Caminada (Pen and Sword) was published earlier this year, so I am currently working on promotion, which is mainly talks and related articles. At the same time, I am still researching and writing about Victorian crime, for history magazines and my blog. I have started a proposal for a second book, which will delve even deeper into the dark Victorian underworld.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

As I was born in Manchester and my own history is firmly rooted there, I’ve been focusing my work on the city’s very colourful and shady past. Detective Jerome Caminada was one of the finest detectives in Victorian Manchester and enjoyed a national reputation during the last decades of the nineteenth century. Since then his adventures in tackling crime have been largely forgotten, so I have re-discovered the stories of this extraordinary man a century after his death. I love writing about Victorian crime and as I’ve been researching the subject more extensively, I’ve started to think about it from the perspective of the early detectives, as they shed a fascinating light into life in the past, as well as into actions of the nefarious criminals that they encountered in their daily work.

Jerome Caminada  1844-1914

Jerome Caminada

Why do I write what I do?

My interest in crime came from my own family. When I began investigating my own family tree, it wasn’t long before the skeletons came rattling out of the genealogical cupboard. My ancestors were all poor and some of them committed petty crimes such as poaching, brawling, theft and even keeping a brothel. I soon found myself following them into the dark streets and alleys of the Victorian underworld. My fascination with Detective Caminada also came from my personal history: when my great-grandparents migrated from Italy to the slums of Manchester, Jerome Caminada was a local celebrity. As soon as I came across him, I knew that I wanted to write about him.

My great-grandparents, Michele and Nunziata Amata

My great-grandparents, Michele and Nunziata Amata

How does my writing process work?

I always begin projects with copious amounts of research, usually from primary sources. I try to get as close to the subject as I can through contemporary newspaper reports and any other material I can find in archives or online sources – I love nothing more than collecting facts and snippets to re-create a criminal case. I also try to bring my subject to life by piecing together their personal story, through family history data, as well as exploring their environment through social commentators and accounts of the time and place in which they lived.

Thank you for stopping by on the blog tour and before I go, I’d like to introduce you to two sensational writers, whose blogs always inspire me:

Suzie Grogan

Suzie Grogan is a London-born writer and researcher, publishing in the fields of mental health, women’s issues and social history. Currently working on three commissions for Pen and Sword Books, the first, Shell Shocked Britain, is due out in October 2014. In her spare time she dabbles in fiction and has her own imprint, Mickleden Press. Married with two children she lives in Somerset but has her heart in the Lake District and London. Suzie’s blog is No More Wriggling Out of Writing.

Rachael Hale

Rachael’s been a fan of quirky facts and strange stories since she stuck her head up a chimney as a child to see the bread oven. Her love of historical homes and history has stayed with her and she now freelances for magazines such as Kent Life and Kent Homes and Interiors. When she’s not fighting deadlines, she hides in museums to work on her non-fiction book proposal or writes posts for her blog www.historymagpie.com