Mixing the real and the fictional


One of the fun things about writing fiction based on real people and events is getting the fictional characters to interact with the real-life ones. In Death and the Blind Tiger, Max and Allison Hurlock travel to New York City to investigate the death of New York’s wealthiest and moist notorious playboy. The story is based on the still-unsolved murder of Joseph Elwell in 1920.
Of course one of the many things that make New York in the 1920s interesting is the real-life people who lived there, so Max runs into Duke Ellington and Allison goes to lunch at the Algonquin round table with Dorothy Parker. Getting historical people right is a matter of research. The first thing is to make sure they were actually alive at the time and that they were not off somewhere else. (I had this problem when I tried to drag aviation pioneer Jimmy Dolittle into my next book and found he was in South America at the time.)
If a person left a rich record of witty quotes behind, as Dorothy Parker did, you can work some of them in, but getting the character down based on the historical record of the person is critical. In Death and the Blind Tiger, I have a slightly drunk Parker making cutting remarks to Allison when they first meet, but laughing and inviting her to lunch when Allison comes back at her with some witty retorts of her own. As for Duke Ellington, Max meets him when his band is taking a break behind a speakeasy called the Kentucky Club where they are playing. When Max complements Ellington on his music, Ellington replies that “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.”
Just how much research is necessary is a function of whether the character is a central part of the story, or just has a cameo appearance. Either way, the presence of historical characters give a story a level of richness and authenticity.
Oh, and in case you are wondering, Parker is not the murderer; neither is Ellington. Artistic license is one thing; getting carried away is another.

Here is the book: http://www.amazon.com/Death-Blind-Hurlock-Roaring-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B00EUNKY72/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1391040379&sr=8-6&keywords=death+and+the+blind

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