I’ve got the Godless World Gazetteer here on the website, a modest little library of odds and ends fleshing out some aspects of the setting and history amidst which the events of that trilogy play out. A little bit of bonus content for readers, if you like.
In the run up to August publication of The Edinburgh Dead, I’ve been thinking of doing something similar, but different. It’s a book that offers rich potential for footnotage. Being the faintly obsessive sort I am, it’s very tempting to offer a detailed breakdown of which bits of the book are historically accurate, which are not and which fall somewhere in between (I’ll bet you there’d be those greatly surprised at some of the stuff I didn’t have to make up, because Edinburgh’s history offered details easily odd and unpleasant enough for a writer of dark fiction).
I may give in to the temptation to attempt some sort of historical compare and contrast exercise here on the website eventually – we’ll have to see – but in the meantime, as publication draws near, I thought I’d use the next month or two for a slightly different exercise.
Welcome therefore, to the first instalment of a sort of photo-trailer for The Edinburgh Dead. There will be no major specific spoilers in these occasional posts, but there may be hints. Foreshadowings. Possibly even red herrings, but only if I’m feeling particularly mean and out of sorts.
So, we’ll begin with something pretty. Duddingston Loch.
A modestly wild wetland lying beside Duddingston village, which was long ago absorbed by Edinburgh’s urban sprawl (there’re some notably run-down bits of the city lying just to the south of it). It’s a nature reserve now, has been for a long time, and only a smallish section of its bank is easily accessible to the public, but on a the right day it’s a lovely, peaceful oasis of green calm. There’s not many cities can match Edinburgh for semi-wild and dramatic green spaces (I mean, we’ve got an extinct volcano dominating the whole eastern half of the city), and Duddingston Loch is a part of that claim to fame.
But the place is not just about tranquility and wildlife. It’s got it’s history, too. A couple of hundred years ago, when the climate was evidently more conducive to such things, it was the place for Edinburgh’s folk to go for a spot of skating and curling, when the long, dark winter got cold enough to lock the place up in ice. Nowadays, of course, people are no doubt told to stay off the ice for fearing of fatal misfortune, and to be honest it’s pretty rare for there to be thick enough ice that anyone but a complete idiot to think some skating would be a good idea. Back in the day, though, it was all the rage, as one of Scotland’s more famous paintings shows:
That – as I wouldn’t blame anyone for not knowing – is ‘Reverend Robert Walker (1755-1808) Skating on Duddingston Loch’ by Sir Henry Raeburn. To digress into ungenerous scepticism for a moment, I’ve never really got why people seem so fond of this painting. I don’t particularly like it. Bit dull, if you ask me. But then, you could accomodate my knowledge of art in a thimble. Maybe a teacup.
A slightly more interesting snippet of Dudidngston Loch’s history (to my mind, anyway): way back in the 18th century, a mysterious hoard was dredged up from the loch. Weapons and other artefacts something like 3000 years old. A little bit of magic to reflect upon, as you sit today on its grassy banks, enjoying the view: a thousand years before the Romans came to Britain, or Christ was born, way back in the dark, numinous past, people of the Bronze Age stood at perhaps the very same spot and for reasons we can never know – magical or mundane – they consigned to the waters a whole load of what must have been to them quite precious metal. And three millennia later, a rather uptight-looking reverend in black coat and hat went skating on the ice above those very waters. Funny old world.
What does all this have to do with The Edinburgh Dead? Well, I’m not saying, of course. Except that Duddingston Loch’s in the book. Our hero pays it a visit, and for reasons that have nothing whatever to do with skating.
I think for the next instalment in this photo-trailer, maybe something a little less pretty is called for …
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