Box 850 done – time to transcribe!



It’s still a tentative title, but Book 5: Box 850 is done.

Box 850 is the colloquial term for the British Intelligence Service, specifically MI6, which wasn’t actually acknowledged as existing until 1994.

At the time of the book, the Chief of MI6 would have been Admiral Sir Hugh Sinclair (1923–1939) and operated at the time out of  54 – Broadway, off Victoria StreetLondon.

It seems that MI5 concentrated more on internal threats, and MI6 more on external, but in the case of Mr. Howard, it is not made clear what his connection is to the Secret Service, it is only intimated that he comes from those offices. MI5 has its own colloquial name: Box 500 (after its official wartime address of PO Box 500).



So I suppose I could scoop that as a name instead. What do you think? I don’t know why but Box 850 sounds cooler and more mysterious than Box 500. But maybe that’s just me.


A suitable get-away car


The 1928 Brocklebank

I need a suitable get-away vehicle for the art thief to escape in Book 5, and I think a 1927 Brocklebank may be my car.

Big enough to accommodate all the wedding gifts that disguise the true purpose, it came in two and four door options.

I think it was also rare enough in the UK at the time to be more easily ‘chased’ by the Police (in other words, there are not hundreds on the road, and therefore its not easy to lose in a crowd of traffic).

Another little bit of Latin

a little bit of latin

a little bit of latin

I am going to need this note from my would-be art thief in Book 5 (tentatively titled Box 850), so I started exploring it:

How about this for an evil note from our would-be art thief?
I wait for you to be in your most joyous celebration
and that is when I will strike
and take back what is mine
the archer of my village
and you will never see me
or know I was there
– Zeus

So in Latin (Lord send me someone who can make this accurate please) could be:
Exspectabo te laetus in celebratione
et quod suus cum percutiam
et retro quid nostra
in pandus mei castellum
et numquam videre me
vel scio erat

– Zeus

Why having an editor really is vital

Tongue in cheek editing (Barb's WAY better than this)

Tongue in cheek editing (Barb's WAY better than this)

My editor Barb is all kinds of fabulous but she made a couple really good catches this weekend while doing a final vet of Books 1-3.

1. In Book 3 I make reference to a District Attorney in Scotland. Turns out Scotland didn’t call their District Attorneys that at all, especially in 1930; after a bit of research, I think the character could be what is called a Procurator fiscal who “present cases for the prosecution in the Sheriff, District and Justice of the Peace Courts” .

Sound right? I will have to do some more research to be sure.

2. In Book 3 again, Portia refers to the fate of one of her earlier clients, Mr. Barclay as “living out his days at Wandsworth Prison.” Thing is, as Barb pointed out, Mr. Barclay was proven to have pre-meditated the murder of his father, and perhaps would have been given the death penalty rather than life in prison.

The Death Penalty in England was not abolished until 1969 according to Wikipedia.
Two current (for the book’s setting) examples given in the Wikipedia article were:
  • 1923, 9 January: Edith Thompson and Frederick Bywaters, in London’s Holloway and Pentonville Prisons respectively, for the murder of Thompson’s husband. The case was controversial because, although the two lovers had discussed the possible elimination of her husband in advance, Thompson did not directly participate in the murder for which she was hanged.
  • 1931, 3 January: Victor Betts for murder committed during the course of a robbery. The case had established that a person need not be present when a crime is committed to be regarded as an accessory after the fact.[45]
“Between 1900 and 1949, 621 men and 11 women were executed in England and Wales. Ten German agents were executed during the First World War under the Defence of the Realm Act 1914,[6] and 16 spies were executed during the Second World War under the Treachery Act 1940.[7] “

I <think> I am safe in leaving Charles Barclay, a member of the elite of London, son to a highly respected judge, to live out his days at Wandsworth.

More research on the Baronet

Coat of arms for the Acland Baronet

Coat of arms for the Acland Baronet

As taken from the Wikipedia article here:,_8th_Baronet

Motto Inébranlable (Unshakable)

Sir John Acland, 1st Baronet (d. 1647)
Sir Francis Acland, 2nd Baronet (d. 1649)
Sir John Acland, 3rd Baronet (d. 1655)
Sir Arthur Acland, 4th Baronet (d. 1672)
Sir Hugh Acland, 5th Baronet (d. 1714)
Sir Hugh Acland, 6th Baronet (1696–1728)
Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, 7th Baronet (1722–1785) (who was featured in the painting)
Sir John Dyke Acland, 8th Baronet (1778–1785)
Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, 9th Baronet (1752–1794)
Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, 10th Baronet (1787–1871)
Sir Thomas Dyke Acland, 11th Baronet (1809–1898)
Sir (Charles) Thomas Dyke Acland, 12th Baronet (1842–1912)
Sir Arthur Herbert Dyke Acland, 13th Baronet (1847–1926)
Sir Francis Dyke Acland, 14th Baronet (1874–1939)
Sir Richard Dyke Acland, 15th Baronet (1906–1990)

Sir John Dyke Acland, 16th Baronet (1939–2009)
Sir Dominic Dyke Acland, 17th Baronet (b. 1962)

The heir apparent is the present holder’s oldest son Patrick Acland (b. 1993)
The ancestral family seat is Killerton Hall, near Broadclyst, Devon, which is now owned by the National Trust.

Changing relationships: How did Lestrade really feel about Holmes?

Holmes and Lestrad (from the BBC series)

Lestrade and Holmes (from the BBC series)

Interesting how writing about relationships between characters can feel so personal, and yet at the same time make me feel insecure. I think by Book 5 of course the relationship between Sergeant Michaels and Portia will have had to change. I mean, the girl has solved 3 cases that he has been involved in, and she has to have at least gained his grudging respect if not a tiny amount of admiration, but when can it move into reliance?

That might not even be the right word. What would you call the relationship between Holmes and Lestrade? Inspector Lestrade came to Holmes on cases that he found impossible to solve right? So that is a dependence of some kind. And Holmes relied on Lestrade for some of his more interesting cases, and access to mysteries that he might not otherwise have been allowed access to.

Up till now, the relationship between Portia and Michaels has been one of requirement for Portia and one of annoyance for Michaels. I think for her to truly become a consulting detective, she now has to become sought after by the Yard.

I think the best way to unite these two so Portia can get past her arrogance and Michaels can get past his disdain for someone pursuing a Holmesian-career is to give them a common enemy. Someone like Mycroft perhaps?

In my head


I find it useful just before I fall asleep to conjure up scenes that I have just written (at this moment, for Book 5). When I do that, it helps to have a mental picture of my characters, so I thought I’d share who I use:

Emma Stone

Emma Stone

For Portia, I am currently imagining someone like Emma Stone with darker hair.

She seems to be highly intelligent, which comes across in her eyes and the way she speaks and I don’t know how to explain it, but while she is pretty, she doesn’t seem over-the-top Photoshopped… if you know what I mean.

Anyway, she is who I imagine when I think about Portia.

Michael Vartan

Michael Vartan

For Constable Brian Dawes, I think of a young Michael Vartan, probably even before his Alias days.

He has the right combination of trusted boy-next-door looks and intelligence, while holding so much emotion in his eyes that he can compensate for Portia’s social ineptitude.

His girlfriend is even harder, because I DO want Annie Coleson to be ridiculously blonde and gorgeous. You might think that gives me even more to select from but it seems harder to me. I’m somewhere between

Rosamund Pike

Rosamund Pike

Katheryn Winnick

Katheryn Winnick

Rosamund Pike (I mean the girl has played both Helen of Troy and Jane Bennett on the big screen, she’s obviously the perfect woman) and Booth’s girlfriend from Season 6 of Bones, an actress by the name of Katheryn Winnick.

Katheryn is another one of those actresses who can pull off super-smart, but she’s more approachable than Rosamund, which Annie would have to be, so somewhere between these two women is where I imagine Annie.

Adam Baldwin

Adam Baldwin

I don’t know how bright Adam Baldwin is in real life, but he seems to play characters with more testosterone than neurons (no offense, Sir! they are also some of my favorite characters).

He is who I have in my head when I write Sergeant Michaels though with about 20lbs more fat on his body – specifically his portrayal of Jayne in the Firefly series.

My last two characters I need to imagine (specifically for the Reception scene at the beginning of Book 5 which I struggled with) are Dr. Beanstine and Dr. Benjamin Charles.

Joshua Malina

Joshua Malina

Dr. Beanstine is super-easy – I always imagined Joshua Malina from his days on The West Wing – he was crazy smart, good-looking in that dorky way, and he somehow managed to steal scenes from actors with twice his experience.

Put Malina in a sweater-vest and I swear, he’s totally Beans.

Probably Beanstine is even more socially awkward than Will Bailey in the West Wing, but its the right direction for sure. You always underestimate Will and then you see him run 10 miles, flex his muscles and date the gorgeous blonde National Security Advisor. He’s kind of awesome, and you don’t even know it.

James Marsters

James Marsters as Spike

Dr. Benjamin Charles is an interesting conundrum because he’s darkly dangerous and appealing to Portia, so he can’t be too good looking, nor can he be anything like his foil, Constable Dawes. I initially had in my head Spike from Buffy, but he was too extreme.

Marsters exhibits the correct mix of dark evil and sympathetic persona that I see in Dr. Charles. Problem is he’s a little TOO on the nose… its almost like it would be hard for Marsters NOT to seem evil – with those glass-cutting cheekbones and vicious wit..

Nicholas Lea

Nicholas Lea

So that leads me to someone a little less obviously evil, someone more like Alex Krycek from the X-files – as played by Nicholas Lea.

When you in your mind place Nicholas Lea next to Michael Vartan, it is interesting how much they have in common and how much it is clear to me that Vartan plays the good guy and Lea plays the bad guy. Maybe I haven’t seen enough footage of them playing the opposite, but when you put Portia between those two guys, I can see her being attracted to both for different reasons.

Characters I don’t have clear pictures of in my head: Sherlock Holmes (age 75), Irene Adler (age 74), Mrs. Dawes, Elaine Barclay and Ruby.

Historical accuracy

Philippa Gregory

Philippa Gregory

Historical fiction seems to be about a careful weaving of facts that can be verified and the stories you tell around them. This is most evident in Philippa Gregory‘s books about the royals in Britain, a series of books I think I own entirely in hardcover (demonstrating my respect for them).

In an interview posted on AbeBooks, she says ” In historical fiction, you have to imagine conversations that may have happened, based on the historical facts.”

I wonder if that also extends to deaths of historical figures where the cause of death goes undocumented (as far as I can tell through my research)?