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First I have a winner to announce.  BBS Used Book Buyers  you have won a copy of Jana Oliver’s The Demon Trapper’s Daughter. Please email me to claim your prize. There’s still time to win God Save the Queen by Kate Locke.

Now, on to today’s guest. Today we welcome Coleen Kwan, who’s first steampunk romance Asher’s Invention just released from Carina Press on Tuesday! ~launches cupcake canonon~

Coleen Kwan has been bookworm all her life. At school English was her favorite subject, but for some reason she decided on a career in IT. After many years of programming, she wondered what else there was in life — and discovered writing. She loves writing contemporary romance whether it’s sweet or sensual. She lives in Sydney with her partner and two children. When  not writing,she enjoys avoiding housework, eating chocolate, and watching The Office. Visit her at http://www.coleenkwan.com

 

A Greek Inventor and a Famous Chef

by Coleen Kwan 

Thanks for having me on your blog today!

 When I started writing steampunk, I found I had to do a lot more research than I realised. Now, research is a great way to put off actual writing, and it can also be fascinating.  As I trawled through the internet I stumbled upon some intriguing tidbits which I’d never known about.

Take the steam engine, for example. From my school days eons ago I assumed that the steam engine was invented around the turn of the eighteenth century by a Scottish engineer. Turns out an ancient Greek is credited with inventing the world’s first steam engine. Hero of Alexandria lived in the 1st century AD. He built the aeolipile, a steam-powered turbine.

 

 The aeolipile consists of a sphere which can rotate on its axis and has nozzles bent in opposite directions. Water is heated, either inside the sphere or in a boiler below, and the resulting steam shoots out the nozzles, which creates torque and drives the sphere which then starts rotating. It’s not known whether Hero’s aeolipile was put to any practical use, or whether it was just an interesting curiosity, but it’s definitely a steam engine.

 The aeolipile wasn’t Hero’s only invention. He also created automatons which he used to mount a fully automated play complete with special effects like fire and thunder. He also invented a vending machine which dispensed holy water when a user deposited a coin into a slot! This man was seriously gifted.

 From steam engines to food. How much food did the average 19th century epicure eat? In Alexis Soyer’s ‘The Modern Housewife’ (published 1849) he details a list of average daily meals:

“BREAKFAST.––Three quarters of a pint of coffee, four ounces of bread, one ounce of butter, two eggs, or four ounces of meat, or four ounces of fish.
“LUNCH.––Two ounces of bread, two ounces of meat, or poultry, or game, two ounces of vegetables, and a half pint of beer, or a glass of wine.
“DINNER.––Half a pint of soup, a quarter of a pound of fish, half a pound of meat, a quarter of a pound of poultry, a quarter of a pound of savory dishes or game, two ounces of vegetables, two ounces of bread, two ounces of pastry or roasts, half an ounce of cheese, a quarter of a pound of fruit, one pint of wine, one glass of liqueur, one cup of coffee or tea; at night one glass of spirits and water.”

It’s also interesting to note the huge variety of food that was eaten in those times. They ate pigeons, partridges, grouse, plovers, teals, peacocks, deer, eels, turtle, hares, and a huge variety of fish.

Soyer was one of the most celebrated cooks in Victorian England. During the Great Irish Famine of 1847 he invented a soup kitchen in Dublin which dispensed soup for free to thousands of starving poor people.

So, a Greek inventor and a famous chef — just two of the interesting tidbits I uncovered during the writing of my first steampunk romance.

 ~Coleen Kwan

http://www.coleenkwan.com

 

Asher’s Invention

Five years ago, Asher Quigley broke his engagement to Minerva Lambkin, believing she was an accomplice in a scheme to steal his prototype for a wondrous device. Minerva swore she was innocent, though the thief—and Asher’s mentor—was her own father.

Now, sheer desperation has driven Minerva to Asher’s door. Her father has been kidnapped by investors furious that he’s never been able to make the machine work. Only Asher, now a rich and famous inventor in his own right, can replicate the device. He’s also become a hard, distant stranger far different from the young idealist she once loved.

Despite their troubled past, Asher agrees to help Minerva. He still harbors his suspicions about her, but their reunion stirs emotions and desires they both thought were buried forever. Can they rebuild their fragile relationship in time to save her father and their future together?

Purchase Asher’s Invention at

Carina Press http://bit.ly/KEP0io

Amazon http://amzn.to/IpClNx

Amazon UK http://amzn.to/Id8RZq

Barnes & Noble http://bit.ly/IavZXG

iTunes http://bit.ly/M2VD0C

 

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Today we welcome Natalie Zaman.

Natalie Zaman is the co-author of Sirenz (out now) and Sirenz Back In Fashion (2012)  with Charlotte Bennardo.  Her work has appeared in various magazines, newspapers, e-zines and anthologies for adults and children. She’s currently plotting disasters for the characters of Sirenz and working on a Victorian steampunk fantasy for teens. Natalie lives in central New Jersey with her family and several fine looking chickens.

The Mourning After

by Natalie Zaman

The thing that drew me to attempt to try writing Steampunk—or, considering my MS, Steampunk-lite ;)—was its Victorian sensibility. There’s something about 19th century life, minus the cholera, questionable standards of cleanliness, mortality rate…

Our forebears who lived in the previous-previous century were more closely connected to death than we are today—in ways that can seem, well, almost morbid. And they’ve left lots of fascinating clues to that connection in their ephemera and trinkets and clothing and customs. If loss is a part of your WIP, consider incorporating some details of Victorian mourning into your story to bring in a romantically dark aesthetic. Here are three of my favorites…

Hairwork.

Hair is at once the most delicate and lasting of our materials, and survives us, like love.– Godely’s Lady’s Book, 1855

The good folks at Godely’s were quite right—hair lasts. And the Victorians, those sentimentalists, took it to heart. Another thing about hair—just about everyone had some (apologies to those with bare heads!). Not everyone could afford the more elaborate trappings of mourning, but hair weaving was a skill that anyone could master. For some it became an amusing parlor art, but for others, it was a means to pay tribute to a loved one.

Hair could be incorporated into jewelry—in the form of watch chains fabricated from lengthy braids…

An intricately braided watch chain made of human hair. Photo credit, sonnetofthemoon, flickr

… or plaits and portraits preserved under glass…

This image is made completely of human hair. The artist clipped the hair into tiny pieces and painted the picture with it

Hair could also be used to create larger, three dimensional pictures…

Mourning wreathes were usually horseshoe shaped (open to heaven). Flowers were formed by wrapping hair around wires and then shaping them into flowers and leaves. These often represented families rather than one single person. New elements were added to the wreath as people passed away

It’s important to note that not all hair jewelry and/or art was specific to mourning. I remember being showed a school-girl’s journal at an antique store with a section devoted to hair weavings for each of her friends, her remembrances of them. Sometimes large scale hair sculptures could be representative of communities or families with new elements being added with each new addition, rather than exit; births, marriages and adoptions.

Jewelry.

Victorians were masters of the accessory. Just as they had specific attire for funerals and mourning, they had appropriate jewelry to compliment those shadowy suits and gowns. While some of the jewelry was certainly black—not all of it was. Symbolism was far more important in mourning jewelry than it being made out of black material—the most common being jet or the more affordable gutta percha (a natural form of rubber) or vulcanite—a substance created by the Goodyear company.

A brooch made of vulcanite. This material made it possible for jewelry to be massed produced. There are material tests that can be done on jewelry to determine whether it’s jet or vulcanite (as in tests for Bakelite)—but if a piece looks like it was molded rather than carved, it’s probably vulcanite.

Jewelry paid homage to the life of the person who passed. The story of their life and profession or vocation was told through symbols—and they weren’t always the associations that we have today…

Far from being a symbol of deception or evil, the snake was considered a symbol of eternity—all things considered, this could be quite comforting. But the sentiment transcended mourning. Snake jewelry could also be a love token. Prince Albert gave Victoria a snake engagement ring!

 

Post Mortem Photography.

Do you remember the film, The Others? Grace Stewart, played by Nicole Kidman stumbles upon a photo album that both disturbs and fascinates her—all of the pictures are of dead people. Not everyone could afford a painted portrait of a loved one. Photography made it possible for more people to keep images of those who were important to them. But this was an age where the mortality rate was high and disease could carry off anyone—old, young, generally healthy or otherwise—at any given time. Sometimes the post mortem photograph would be the only image a family would have of their loved one, especially if the person was young.

Mourning photos weren’t only taken of the dead—but those who mourned them. Sometimes the mourners would be captured with their loved ones, lying beside them or holding them. Or they would be alone, as in this image

Post mortem images can be beautiful, haunting, and let’s be honest—disturbing. Still, once viewed, it stays in the mind, a memory veiled with the mercurial haze of an old tintype. What would your character say or think if he was holding one of these in his hands?

Victorian Mourning Resources…

(Mourning art and jewelry) http://artofmourning.wordpress.com/

(Jet and Jet Jewerly) http://www.whitbyjet.co.uk/

(Hairwork) http://www.victorianhairartists.com/

(Post Mortem Photographs) http://burnspress.com/

(Post Mortem Photographs) http://thanatos.net/

(Victorian Rituals—mourning and otherwise) http://home.kendra.com/victorianrituals/vic2.htm

~Natalie Zaman

http://nataliezaman.blogspot.com/

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I like to joke that I write steampunk because I love the Victorian era but don’t have the attention to detail to write Victorian historicals.

Even though you get to create amazing worlds while writing steampunk, you still have to do your research.

I like to research what things were like so I know how and what to change in my story, in other words, you need to know what the rules are before you break them.   Wherever and  whenever you story takes place, researching the place and time it’s based on can help you form the backbone for your world and give you a springboard for your worldbuilding.  It can also help you create that 19th century aesthetic that gives steampunk it’s ambiance as well as find neat gadgets, scientific theories, and other things to incorporate into your story.

I did my research for INNOCENT DARKNESS as I wrote.  I did a lot of google searches that probably got me on government watch lists.  Googling victorian torture methods, as well as researching insane asylums and treatments for the various “illnesses” women were diagnosed with during that time was just plain scary.  However, I was able to base a lot of things in the reform school Noli is sent to on real things — real diagnosis, real treatments, and real punishments all served as a base for what I created (though I made stuff up, too, which is part of why I like steampunk).  A lot of what I created for the school ended up on the cutting room floor so we could get to the realm of faerie faster, but I think doing that research, and being able to ground my creations in reality really helped give it depth and reality.  One of the hardest scenes I wrote in ID is a punishment scene at the boarding school, based on an actual torture method and it makes me shiver to read it.

There’s more and more great resources available online, from maps of Victorian London to old photos of turn of the century Los Angeles.

Here’s a few of my favorites:

Victorian life, culture, and vocab
http://www.victorianweb.org/
http://www.victorianlondon.org/

American West

www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/events/

http://www.over-land.com/westpers2.html

http://theautry.org

Being a Victorian Teen

http://nineteenteen.blogspot.com/

 

Victorian Names

http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~poindexterfamily/OldNames.html (American)

What are some of your favorite research sites?

 

Suzanne Lazear writes steampunk tales for teens.  Her debut novel, Innocent Darkness, book one of The Aether Chronicles, releases August 2012 from Flux. Visit her personal blog for more adventures.

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Hello darlings.

Yes, I’ve been away far too long. But Lolita Theresa has been working dilligently on a new steampunk novel for you. In the meantime, since you know how much I adore research, I thought I’d take you on a little trip into fashion.

I’ve always found it fascinating how our society and what’s happening in it can directly impact the way we dress. Today we’re going to look at the changing silhouette of the Victorian era as a mirror of the times. (Courtesy of http://lady-of-crow.deviantart.com/art/Victorian-Silhouettes-83666275 which provided the original artwork.)


In 1837, Victoria ascends to the throne. She’s young, only 18, and beautiful and the silhouette of the time reflects that ingénue-like frame. Times are changing, there’s research happening about dinosaurs in the Pleistocene epoch, Samuel Morse has exhibited his electric telegraph at the College of the City in New York, and there’s a Gag Law in place passed by the U.S. Congress suppressing the debate on slavery.

By 1842, Victoria would have been, 23, and trying to appear very grown up. The skirts are widening (as are the hips and bust line after bearing two children), and do so even more in 1847 when she would have already had five children.

In 1852, at the age of 33, Victoria is truly on her way to showing the world that the English are a world power. They control India, Tasmania, Australia, parts of Canada. Notice the amount (and expense) of ruffles and added lace in the silhouettes of both 1852 and 1857.

However by 1862 the silhouette changes drastically to more simple lines. Victoria’s beloved husband Albert died in December 1861. As Victoria grows older and more critical of the behavior of her wild son Prince Edward, you can almost see the stricture and behavioral mores of the Victorian era changing in 1867 as the skirts grow increasingly more tight and confining until 1882.

Know what surprised me most? Check out the difference between the first image 1837 and the third to last image of 1892. Not much difference is there? Ever hear how at the end we start thinking about the beginning. Makes me wonder if the same was happening with Queen Victoria. Or perhaps, like all fashion, they just started recycling things, and she just happened to be old enough for what was old to become new again *resurgence of 1980’s fashions, cough, cough*.

Notice that by 1902 the silhouette has become so relaxed there’s barely even a bustline anymore. It looks almost worn out and tired. Since Victoria died in 1901, I can see why. (Well that and Edward, who succeeded her, did tend to be a pretty relaxed sort of guy.)

These images also illustrates why it’s so critical to make sure you know precisely which decade (or in many cases which five year period) you are discussing in your steampunk writing. Sure you don’t have to be accurate all the time (as rayguns and dirigibles aren’t exactly accurate either), but if you put an enormous bustle fit for 1887 in your 1847 set book, you really ought to be able to explain why.

Next time you are writing a scene, ask yourself, what do you read into the changing clothing trends and how can it more aptly reflect your characters?

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First off, we’re going to give away a copy of Saundra Mitchell’s The Vespertine. 

Shannon

Shannon, you are our winner.  Please email me at suzannelazear (@) hotmail to claim your prize.  Didn’t win?  You can still win a bunch of things, like books by Mark Hodder,  a bag of swag from RT and The Vampire Dimitri.

Today we have another great Pyr author, Andrew Mayer, author of The Falling Machine.  We’ll be giving away four copies of his book!

The Falling Machine: The Society of Steam, Book One by Andrew Mayer

In 1880 women aren’t allowed to vote, much less dress up in a costume and fight crime…

But twenty-year-old socialite Sarah Stanton still dreams of becoming a hero. Her opportunity arrives in tragedy when the leader of the Society of Paragons, New York’s greatest team of gentlemen adventurers, is murdered right before her eyes. To uncover the truth behind the assassination, Sarah joins forces with the amazing mechanical man known as The Automaton. Together they unmask a conspiracy at the heart of the Paragons that reveals the world of heroes and high-society is built on a crumbling foundation of greed and lies. When Sarah comes face to face with the megalomaniacal villain behind the murder, she must discover if she has the courage to sacrifice her life of privilege and save her clockwork friend.

The Falling Machine (The Society of Steam, Book One) takes place in a Victorian New York powered by the discovery of Fortified Steam, a substance that allows ordinary men to wield extraordinary abilities, and grant powers that can corrupt gentlemen of great moral strength. The secret behind this amazing substance is something that wicked brutes will gladly kill for and one that Sarah must try and protect, no matter what the cost.

When he’s not crafting stories, Andrew Mayer works as a video-game designer and digital entertainment consultant. He has created numerous new concepts, characters, and worlds, including the original Dogz and Catz digital pets. Andrew calls Portland, Oregon, home (although he’s been traveling a lot lately). You can find his musings on writing and media at www.andrewpmayer.com. This is his first novel.

The Writing Process by Andrew Mayer

If, back when I first started writing, someone had told me that my first published novel was going to be a Victorian era adventure about a girl and a mechanical man, I would have thought that they were nuts. I was, after all, going to be a Science Fiction Writer™. There was nothing I wanted to do more than tell amazing stories about spaceships, aliens, and far-away worlds that took place in humanity’s glorious future of unlimited galactic conquest. I was certainly wouldn’t been interested in becoming mired in some fantastical age of steam based on the past.

And my complaints wouldn’t have just been about the setting—writing pseudo-historical fiction is hard. You don’t just make things up, you have to look them up as well. And at some point in the process you find yourself researching details that can simply be invented in a story of the far future. You need to figure out the little things, like how people cleaned their teeth in 1880, the finer points of Victorian home heating systems, and whether or not the term gangster was actually used before the turn of the century.*

But right or wrong, easy or hard, I discovered that the story in my head that needed telling was a steampunk story. And I set about trying to write it.

Soon after starting I realized that I actually kind of liked researching things. There’s a great feeling that comes when you find the answer you’re looking for, whether it’s buried deep in the internet, or hidden in the pages of a dusty library book. And after a few months of uncovering these hidden historical gems, I discovered that that I’d done so much spelunking in the past that I either already knew the answers, or I knew exactly where to look.

Part of the skill of writing is accepting that motivation can come from the strangest places. Because starting a novel is easy, but to finish one you need to find a story that excites you enough to get your butt into the writing chair for the days, weeks, months, and years that it takes to drag your story from the first character description to final copy edit. You have to feel the passion for your fiction, and it’s that love that keeps pushing you to keep hitting the keys long after you’ve lost any sense of perspective, and to write some more after you’ve gained it back again. And it was as I wrote this story I discovered that I had a true passion for the Steampunk genre. And I wanted to not just tell a ripping tale, but also to try and write the kind of book that would infect people with my growing love for the genre.

And as I read the reviews for the book I’ve written I’m less concerned with whether someone “likes” it or not (although people who like it are nice) than discovering if I’ve managed to communicate my passion to the reader. And if I have, even just a little bit, it gives me the fuel to back and do it again. And the aliens will just have to wait a little longer…

* Europeans did use boar’s bristle toothbrushes in 1880, but brushing didn’t take off in American until around 1885.
Central heating was popular in wealthy Victorian homes because they believed still air caused diseases.
Gangster is a perfectly fine word for the period, although it still doesn’t sound quite right to me.

~Andrew Mayer

www.andrewpmayer.com

What has been the strangest (or most difficult) thing you’ve had (or wanted) to research?  We have four copies of The Falling Machine (The Society of Steam, Book One) to give away to four lucky commenters.  You’ll have to wait to recieve your prize until May, but it’s open internationally.

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Today we welcome Victorian costume expert Karlee Etter who’s going to tell us how during the Victorian era fans were used for far more than keeping the bearer cool.

 

The Secret Language of the Fan

by Karlee Etter

For much of the nineteenth century and well into the early decades of the twentieth, women were expected to conduct themselves in an even-tempered manner. A woman’s deportment or behavior, especially in public was expected to be gracious, courteous, and respectable.  Any demonstration of the contrary was frowned upon not only by parents and potential suitors, but from contemporaries, as well. Vocally rejecting a suitor was deplorable, even if a woman believed him to be unacceptable. Likewise flirting with a desirable suitor was equally appalling. So, while in attendance at a Ball or other social gathering, what was a woman do to when faced with numerous men, all vying for her attention; how was she to express or communicate her “choice” or “choices” without violating those stifling rules of etiquette?  With visual clues, of course; although simply using facial expression was often too subtle.  Therefore, the secret language of the hand-fan might be employed to clarify a woman’s acceptance or rejection of potential suitors.

However, if the language of the fan was a secret, how did young women learn the various silent gestures of the fan?  If such a language really did exist and some historians will argue that it did not, others believe the language of the fan was passed down from woman to woman. Each gesture of the hand holding a fan contained a powerful hidden meaning.

If a young woman was unavailable, she might gesture in the following manner:  Fanning slowly meant, “I am married”, or, fanning quickly, “I am engaged.” Twirling her fan in the right hand meant, “I love another.”  Or, if the young man was of interest as a friend rather than a suitor, she might drop the fan, which communicated, “We will be friends.”  Then, by placing the fan behind with a finger extended meant, “Goodbye.”

Now, let’s imagine a young woman is available (not spoken for); she might begin her secret discussion with a new acquaintance and appropriate suitor in the following manner:

1)       If she holds the fan in her left hand in front of her face, “I am desirous of your acquaintance.”

2)       By touching her finger to the tip of the fan she would be gesturing, “I wish to speak to you.” Or carrying the fan in her left hand, indicates, “Come and talk to me”.

3)       Responding to a cue from her suitor, she might continue with, “Yes” by letting the fan rest on her right cheek.

4)       Or if she rests the fan against her left cheek, she is saying, “No”.

5)       A closed fan touching her right eye, “When may I be allowed to see you?” Or, a partially open fan showing the number of fan-sticks indicated the hour at which she agreed to meet her suitor.

6)       Opening the fan wide, “Wait for me.”

7)       Placing the fan behind the head, “Do not forget me.”

8)       Fan in her right hand in front of her face, “Follow me.”

9)       Of course, using the silent language of the fan didn’t always mean the two sweethearts were succeeding in their covert communication – there was always the risk that some busy-body would spy the young couple’s interaction.  With that, the young woman might twirl her fan in the left hand, which meant, “We are being watched.”

10)   Covering the left ear with an open fan, “Do not betray our secret.”

Once the couple had an established relationship, there were still rules of etiquette and spoken phrases of love that were never to be expressed aloud, unless in the privacy of one another’s company. Rarely would an unengaged couple be alone, especially within a strict New England community. So, even in such a setting, the secret language of the fan was useful – especially if the young couple was chaperoned by old, Puritanical, spinster, Aunt Bitty. Then their “secret” communication might unfold in the following manner:

11)   Drawing the fan across the eyes, “I am sorry.”

12)   Hands clasped together holding an open fan, “Forgive me.”

13)   The fan placed near the heart, “You have won my love.”

14)   Presenting the fan shut, “Do you love me?”

15)   Drawing the fan across her cheek or hiding her eyes behind an open fan, “I love you!”

16)   Half-opened fan pressed against her lips or putting the fan handle to her lips, “Kiss me” or “You may kiss me.”

17)   Shutting a fully opened fan slowly, “I promise to marry you.”

Not every form of communication with the fan was intended to encourage or continue a relationship.  The fan’s secret language might also be used to discourage or kindly reject a potential suitor, or communicate the absolute offensive nature of a young man toward a young woman.

18)   Drawing the fan across the forehead, “You have changed.”

19)   Carrying the open fan in the right hand, “You are too willing.”

20)   Fan held over left ear, “I wish to get rid of you.”

21)   Threatening movements with a closed fan “Don’t be so imprudent.”

22)   Opening and closing fan several times, “You are cruel.”

23)   Drawing the fan through her hand, “I hate you!”

Whatever the historians say, I trust that the nineteenth century language of the fan was a form of communication fundamental to the romance of America’s Victorian Era.  Not only did it afford a bond between generations of women, but it also offered a form of communication enabling young women an outlet to express sincere feelings towards suitors in an acceptable manner and within the confines of the Victorian Era’s oppressive etiquette.

 

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One of the things I love best about writing steampunk are the opportunities for research. Take this, for example: did you know that during the 1870s and well into the 1900s there was a all-female crime syndicate in opperation in London?

Oh, yes, dear reader. It’s true! And it’s the fodder for a steampunk imagination like mine run rampant.

In his new book, Gangs of London, author Brian McDonald reveals details of one all-female gang, who rule the underworld of London for nearly two centuries. The Forty Elephants–or Forty Theives–was a well-run collective of cells who opperated across London and in other cities as well, headed by a formidable “queen”, which was responsible for most of the largest shoplifiting syndicate ever seen in London between the years of 1870 to 1950. Police records indicate that the gang, which was first mentioned in newspapers in 1873, had in fact been in operation even longer, since the late 1700s.

The ladies of the syndicate dressed in specially tailored clothing, coats, cummerbunds, muffs, skirts, bloomers and hats, sewn with hidden pockets. They raided the West End shops of London, pocketing, literally, goods worth thousands of pounds from diamond rings, to ranksacking employer’s homes after providing false references, to blackmailing the men they seduced.

“The girls benefited from the prudish attitudes of the time by taking shelter behind the privacy afforded to women in large stores, ” McDonald said. While the women rarely wore what the stole, choosing instead to fence it through a series of contacts in north and south London, they did use their ill-gotten gains to dress in legitimate high fashion, which they used as a coverup for their dealings. “…they threw the liveliest of parties and spent lavishly at pubs, clubs and restaurants,” he said. “Their lifestyles were in pursuit of those of glamourous movie stars, combined with the decadent living of 1920s aristocratic flapper soceity. They read of the outrageous behaviour of the rich, bring young things and wanted to emulate them.”

The gang guarded their territory fiercely, demanding percentages from others caught stealing from the stores in their turf. If the money wasn’t paid, they showed no mercy, arranging beatings and even kidnappings until it was paid up. If caught, they knew they could be sentenced to between three to 12 months’ hard labor, or three years in prison.

McDonald came upong these fascinating women while scouring the official birth and death redords, marriage indexes, newspaper archievs and out-of-print books in the British Library. An example of one such individual was Annie Diamond, born in 1896 in Soutwark, who became queen of the gang when she was but 20 years old. Thanks to a fist studded with diamond rings and a killer punch to back it up, she earned her name of Diamond Annie. With military precision, she could mount simultaenous operations in a series of shops across the city and the police called her “the cleverist of thieves.”

“Many a husband lounged at home while his missus was out at work, and many an old lag was propped by by his tireless shoplifting spouse. Some of these terrors were as tough as the men they worked for and protected,” McDonald added.

How could you not be intrigued by ladies who buck the system with such panache?

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