John Crowley's version of the joys of historical book research

I've written a few times about the fun of doing research for my stories. Here's someone else's take on book research, but in his case for World War 2. John Crowley needed the price of condoms in 1944. And I thought I was looking for some weird stuff. Thanks so much to Robert Greaves for pointing this out to me.


CKHB said...

COOL! Now I feel sort of left out, since I write contemporary novels...

Gary Corby said...

Hi Carrie, that doesn't stop you from getting to research contemporary weird stuff.

Mimzy said...

Carrie feels left out, I feel silly. I didn't even know that they had condoms in the 1940s. That mention of condoms made of sheep intestine really frightens me though. Condoms that you wash and wear again? I am suddenly glad that HIV was non-existent at the time. I don't think that the sex-ed at the time could have handled a disease like that.

Gary Corby said...

Hi Mimzy, condoms are a few centuries old.

Lindsey Davis has Marcus Didius Falco using a rubbery solution when with Helena. I'm not sure how much evidence there is for that. I don't believe condoms per se are known to be that old.

Just to scare you, I think HIV has been demonstrated to have evolved some time before WW2, but was isolated to a tiny part of Africa and no one noticed for decades.

Dave in Columbus said...

I heard Ellen Klages 2 weeks ago speaking about doing research for her WWII era novel, The Green Glass Sea. The only mistake a reader found in her book; she had a character wearing a skin colored Band-aid. Back then, Band-aids were white. She is fixing it in the next edition.

BTW, here is a view of the Areopagus that cleared up for me where the cave of the Furies must have the cleft.

MattDel said...

Speaking of random historical research ... the list of things I had to find out recently:

Ancient Chinese weapons
Victorian ladies underwear
Victorian men's hats
Victorian toilets
Showers in Victorian England
What the typical family ate for breakfast in the 1700s
How to properly conjugate a Muslim name
The Russian equivalent of "son of a b****"
Whether a side wound would make it difficult to breath

Nothing nearly as fun as condom prices from the 1940s, but pleasantly random all the same.

Gary Corby said...

Dave, that's one seriously old photo. It really shows how much Athens has exploded in the last century. Look in the background: almost nothing there.

scaryazeri said...

anyone who needs any Russkiy words feel free to ask me. :)
"son of a b***" is "SUKIN SIN".


Gary Corby said...

Matt, I *love* your research list.

Now I'm left wondering what you're writing.

I'm afraid I couldn't have helped you offhand with any of them, except to recommend "The Archaeology of Weapons" by R. Ewart Oakeshott as your source for anything to do with ancient weapons.

Gary Corby said...

Thanks Scary, you must have posted that at the same moment I did mine.

MattDel said...


I write steampunk fantasy -- taking regular fantasy tropes and, instead of magic as science, including Victorian England-level steam technology that manages to do *most* of the same things our modern tech does.

I go into more detail about the genre over at Free The Princess today if you're interested.

Oh and thank you for the book recommendation. I'll make sure to check it out when I get a chance.

scary -- Thank you for the translation! If you're amenable, could I send you the Russian sentences I've machine translated thus far? I want the grammar to be right. That particular sentence was used when one MC elbowed a Russian pastiche in the face. He's actually on her side, but she didn't realize it was him.

scaryazeri said...

Of course. I am happy to help, it is not a problem whatsoever.

£50 a word....Kidding!! :)

There is my email in my profile, you can send stuff there.