City of Devils – The Final Countdown

Posted: June 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

So it’s done. The final edits are all but completed and the publication date of my first novel City of Devils (Aug 1) is not far away. I thought then that this was a good time to look back to how the novel started.

City of Devils Cover

As you may know, the book is a historical crime thriller set in the Northern Italian city of Turin in 1887. One of its main characters is a man called Cesare Lombroso, the world’s first criminologist. He was a quite remarkable character in many ways. It is true that he had some fairly controversial theories about criminals and their provenance, many of which have been largely discredited over the years, but he also promoted and popularised the study of crime which was, in the nineteenth century, as it is today, a subject close to the public’s heart. As a personality he was mercurial, forever curious and undoubtedly theatrical which made him into something of a celebrity.

All students of criminology, including my own, learn about Lombroso towards the beginning of their studies. One rainy Monday a few years ago I was discussing his work with my first year tutor group when one of them asked me whether or not Lombroso had ever investigated crimes. That question planted a seed in my mind that grew and grew. I realised that he would be a fascinating candidate for detective. What, I wondered, would Lombroso do if he did have to investigate a series of murders? Would he use his own theories and if so, how successful would they be? At the time I was fishing around for ideas for the final project in my MA in creative writing and this felt like a story and a character that I would enjoy working with – and so it has proved. The more I read about Lombroso and his world, the more intrigued I became. His interests were extremely varied, extending from the study of criminals and their physical and psychological characteristics which involved conducting experiments using all sorts of odd equipment (as featured in City of Devils) to more unusual aspects such as psychic investigation, hypnosis and spiritualism.

Learning more about Lombroso has been a fascinating experience,. But as you can probably tell there is much more to discover and share. So watch this space!

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