A long, long time ago (heavens, it seems an age!), I wrote a post about the difficulties of historical accuracy facing writers.
Really? So kind of you – it’s here: HERE
Gosh, people are so kind.
Anyway, I have a number of books which I find invaluable when I am writing, so just to mention a few:
I have a first edition of Chambers’ Encyclopaedia; two volumes, published 1848, which I got for a song many years ago. Of course, anyone who has ever heard me sing will know that cannot be literally true – the only thing I might get for a song would be a heavy fine or a spell in prison. Or a slap. But enough of that.
Referring back to my post on historical accuracy, I argued that even contemporary accounts of history are suspect – possibly even more so than many later ones – but as a snapshot of the world as it was seen by a group of British writers in 1848, my Chambers’ Encyclopaedia is invaluable. It gives me their view of other nations and religions, their understanding of science and commerce, and many other topics. A story set in 1848 or thereabouts, would use much of that information.
And 1848 in Europe was known as the year of revolutions – a good setting for a story or ten.
Equally, I set a long short story in 1920’s England, and many of the travel books of the time (I have a guide book to Dartmoor published in 1920) carry adverts for food, drink, hotels, buses, etc, which give a lot of the detail I needed.
Finally, Lonely Planet. My current novel, for which I still don’t have a title – don’t judge me – is set mainly in the India of 1988-ish. The 1986 edition of West Asia on a Shoestring while not being a great deal of use to the traveller of 2017, is incredibly useful to me when writing my book. I can easily get a sense of the price of everything that my English traveller of the story will encounter, and also a sense of what is available – where buses or trains might run, what sort of facilities are to be found in small hill towns, and many other things.
Obviously, our old chum Google is always at hand to help us out with our queries, but resources such as these are not only more accurate, they save us having to sift through many sites that may provide inaccurate information.
And God help the writer that uses that.