Saturday, 27 February 2010

A giant research problem

On the Litopia After Dark podcast last night, one of the subjects was research, and how important it is for a writer to get the facts right, even in fiction. With The Manx Connection and The Manx Giant: The Amazing Story of Arthur Caley under my belt, both non-fiction, host Peter Cox asked if there was point where I had to say, okay, enough already.

I agreed - with both books, but particularly The Manx Giant, I could have carried on with the research for another year. Or two. Maybe even three. And I still wouldn't have found out everything there is to know about Caley. The problem I faced was that after he was reported dead in Paris, aged 28, no one knew he was alive - so he spent the next 30-odd years in the US under another name, Colonel Routh Goshen. It was only when Goshen died that it came to light that he and Caley were one in the same.

Most of the information about Caley/Goshen was found in snippets here and there, most of them online. Just when I thought I was done, I'd google his name... and find another piece of research. And so it went on. Eventually, I held my hands up and agreed with the publisher to call it a day.

From the moment the book came out, I've been waiting for emails and phone calls to say, hang on Quirk, how come you missed this fact out?

When I mentioned this on the podcast, I completely forgot that, earlier the same day, I'd received a Google alert advising that a photograph of Caley/Goshen was for sale on Ebay - you can see it here - and, as it turns out, it's a picture we weren't aware of, either myself or the descendant of the Giant who approached me to write the book. It's an impressive photograph, too, with the other two men in the picture providing some scale to appreciate Caley's height and build.

So, it's started. I don't doubt for one minute that it will be the last picture or piece of information to come to light. Now, if lovely readers can ensure the first print run sells out, I might have the opportunity to revise the manuscript for the second edition...

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