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HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM J L MERROW
All That Jazz
My Love Affair with the Roaring Twenties
So far, I’ve written three historical stories – and they’ve all been set in the 1920s. Why that decade in particular? Well, Dorothy L Sayers, PG Wodehouse and Agatha Christie have, between them, a lot to answer for. Lord Peter Wimsey is probably the first damaged young aristocrat I fell in love with—at an age where I would have been horrified to hear that bolder souls than I were busy imagining him in a much closer relationship with Bunter than appeared in the books. (Although it’s interesting to note that even then, I took a violent dislike to Harriet Vane…)
But of course, these authors didn’t just write about the 1920s. So why is it that decade in particular that grabs hold of my attention?
Part of it is the wonderful art and design of that era. I’m a huge fan of art deco, all elegant lines and luxurious colour. It was an age when modernism didn’t mean abandoning beauty in favour of functionality. Think of the Chrysler Building in New York, or the gorgeous, colourful table lamps of the time.
Part of it has to be the fashions. Even for modern women, it’s easy to imagine how wonderfully freeing those flapper dresses and bobbed haircuts must have been for ladies more used to being trussed up in corsets and coiffed within an inch of their lives.
And that’s just the women. For the men, dapper suits were de rigeur, and no gentleman would dream of stepping out of the house bareheaded.
For the working classes, flat caps were the order of the day:
These were the days when one could still tell a man’s class from the way he dressed, and people were only just beginning to see anything wrong in those rigid social divisions.
In my story Pleasures With Rough Strife, where troubled lord of the manor (yes, there’s that theme again!) Philip Luccombe falls for young poacher Danny, it would have been obvious to the most casual onlooker that these men were not social equals. I do like giving my heroes a little extra something to overcome (as if trying to maintain a homosexual relationship in a time when it was illegal wasn’t enough)—although it should be noted that it may well have been the very differences between the men that, in real life as well as in fiction, made cross-class relationships so thrilling.
But another reason to love the 1920s? It was a great, though short-lived, age of carefree fun—after the horrors of the Great War, and before the 1929 Depression. An era in which it was still possible to believe that WW1 was the War to End All Wars. As PG Wodehouse was so fond of quoting, “God was in his heaven, and all was right with the world.” A time—if you were young, rich and privileged—to indulge in frivolous pursuits, and enjoy new freedoms. The gap years of the twentieth century, so to speak.
After that, we all had to buckle down and grow up.
JL Merrow read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again. Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.
She has had around thirty short stories and novellas published, and her first novel, Camwolf, is due out from Samhain Publishing in May 2011.
Find JL Merrow online at: www.jlmerrow.com
Advent Calendar Giveaway!
Do you have a favourite decade? To be entered to win a copy of my latest historical novella, Dulce et Decorum Est (or, if you prefer, either of my other 1920s stories, Pleasures With Rough Strife or The Green Man), let me know in a comment which is your favourite period of history, and why. A winner will be drawn and announced on Christmas Day.
The BONUS BUMPER PRIZE QUESTION (don’t answer this - just save them up for Christmas Eve.)
16. Who wrote the book that inspired the 1983 animated film “The Snowman”?