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Researching coastal locations in the 1950s for Inspector Ryga Mysteries

Gripping Inspector Ryga mysteries by Pauline RowsongaInspector Ryga is a Scotland Yard detective who is sent out to solve baffling coastal crimes in the 1950s, which means that each Ryga crime novel is set in a different location around the UK. I have fun choosing where I wish to visit (mentally) along our lovely British coastline and then researching it. 

To date Ryga has been investigating crime on the Royal Island of Portland, Dorset (DEATH IN THE COVE); in Newhaven Harbour, East Sussex (DEATH IN THE HARBOUR); in the small fishing port of Brixham, Devon ( DEATH IN THE NETS) and at Hythe, Dungeness, Kent in DEATH IN THE DUNES, to be published in 2022.  I'm currently visiting the Penwith district of Cornwall for Inspector Ryga number five (pub. date hopefully 2023 if I write it in time.)

Even if I could physically visit all the locations it might not tell me much about what the above places looked like in 1950 and 1951. 

Museums and local libraries can assist but with time constraints not to mention Covid restrictions this is not possible.  Even if it were there is a great advantage to conducting research at a distance, not just for convenience sake but because the landscape has changed drastically since the 1950s and a modern day walk-about in the chosen locations would be very different to how it looked back then and it would be easy to include something that wasn't actually around at the time, or miss something out.  Choosing real locations then has its drawbacks over a fictional one because one or more of my readers is bound to live in the area I have picked in which to set down Inspector Ryga.  But choosing real places gives me a buzz because I can very well imagine Ryga and my other characters stalking the  streets  and coastline and hopefully my imagination comes through on the page and is transmitted to the reader. Pouring over old location maps of the era also helps to  stimulate imagination and throws up ideas for the story line.

Of course I can't always get everything right, so I use some artistic license in the localities i.e. making up a fictional street or house name and number, and perhaps renaming the occasional church or setting in place a village hall or similar where none might have existed.  It is fiction after all. 

To research the maps I visit the wonderful National Library of Scotland website of Ordnance Survey maps. Often the map I require won't be bang on 1950 or 1951 (although the one below of Hythe is spot on, revised in 1946 and published in 1951) but most maps were updated in the mid to late 1940s which is near enough, major re-development more generally having taken place in the 1960s onward.

Hythe map Inspector Ryga 1951 mysteryI will pull off copies of the areas chosen and pin then onto a large board which will stay with me as I write the novels while gleaning further location research from historical based websites with wonderful photographs and personal accounts from those who were raised and lived in the locale. 

People are extremely helpful when it comes to answering questions about certain aspects of research and I am grateful to them.

I find all the research aspects on 1950s intriguing and fascinating whether that be location, policing, transport, social or cultural and delight in seeping myself in Inspector Ryga's world I hope my readers do too.

FEBRUARY 4TH, 2022 @ 6:24:14 GMT

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