The excitement of Researching a new novel
It’s always exciting when I begin doing research for a new novel. I have to find out information on the setting, the culture, the styles – all kinds of things. And that, in and of itself, is a fascinating journey.
My next novel will be another time travel story, partly set in the present day, and partly set in the year 1918. That year was hugely important in American history because that’s when American soldiers began shipping off to fight in World War One. At the time, it was called The Great War or The War to End All Wars. Only later was it named The First World War or WWI.
Another reason 1918 stands out – that was the year of the flu pandemic that killed between 50 and 100 million people worldwide. Investigators now believe, contrary to the label of the time – Spanish Flu – that the epidemic actually began in Haskell County, Kansas, a sparsely populated county in the southwest corner of the state. Young men from that community reported to Camp Funston, taking the flu virus with them. Before long, influenza – called The Grippe back then – had spread to most of the military training bases in the country, and to civilian communities as well. American soldiers took the flu virus with them to France, but thousands died in the training camps before ever shipping out to the front.
One of the interesting things that happened during WWI was that it finally became fashionable for men to wear wristwatches. Wristwatches had existed for several hundred years but they were worn by women only. Men carried pocket watches, usually in a small pocket in their vest, or waistcoat, as it was called back then. Wearing a watch on the wrist was deemed unmanly.
But World War One changed all that. Soldiers hunkered down in trenches needed to synchronize their assaults. They needed to know what time it was. And they needed to have their hands free to use their weapons. So they strapped their pocket watches on their wrists, using various straps. Opening a pocket watch required two hands. Looking at a wrist watch didn't require the use of hands at all. This new type of watch was sometimes called a “Trench watch.” Very manly. And watchmakers jumped on the machismo factor in their advertising.
And the rest, as they say, is history. Fascinating stuff.
The picture is of a WW1 Trench watch with a protective shrapnel cover.