Ballindaloch Castle background

I left them all alive and kicking, when I came to church

16-10-2013 No comments yet

On the use of Scottish, American and English English, as well as Victorian and modern day language.

One of the very good questions asked during our talk at the British Club in The Hague this month, concerned the use of different styles, spelling or accents while writing BloodlinesTouch Not the Cat.

Set in Victorian America, 19th century Scottish Highlands as well a modern day Raleigh, North Carolina and Scotland; the mystery novel offers a wide variety of different ‘voices’.

For sure you can’t have airplanes fly over in 1896 and we did indeed ‘mind our words’ as well as the topics that would or could not be discussed.

Childbirth in the 19th century for instance was a big no no. As much as we go to Lamaze training classes and share our experiences, fears and expectations now; this was absolutely impossible till around the nineteen sixties.

In that sense writing a ‘switching-back-and-forth-in-time-genealogy- mystery-novel’ is like a school for general knowledge; the things we discover, sometimes causing dramatic change in perception of how things were or are supposed to be.

Here’s an example:

“Women,” Pullman said crassly, “nothing but trouble, what?”
William looked up at his friend. “This is different.”
Pullman contained a sigh. To him women were most of all a necessity to secure the continuation of a family line.
“Is your brother still alive?” he asked.
“And kicking, yes for sure.”
“Then why bother. What makes you think he will want you there now?”

This scene is in the sequel Bloodlines – Traces.
The scene is set in Victorian Chicago. A lot of research hides behind each line.
First of all ‘Pullman” is a genuine historical figure. He lived in Chicago and contributed some amazing inventions that changed the face of the earth.
The perception of women seems discriminating to us now, yet it wasn’t till the mid-seventies that women obtained legal equality in the United Kingdom. American movies dating back to the seventies show an image of women that would nowadays be regarded as politically incorrect. A detail we tend to forget; not to mention racial discrimination and the views on homosexual relationships, all themes mentioned one way or the other in our Bloodlines series.

As for language, it was the expression “Alive and kicking” that caught our attention. It sounded very modern; very American as well; not something an 1895 Victorian would use.
To our surprise, research showed the expression was already used in the 18th century and first seen in print in 1801 in the sentence:

“I left them (the crabs) all alive and kicking your honour, when I came to church”.

It’s these little treasure chests of knowledge that not only enhance the reading experience of a genealogy mystery novel, but also the writing.

Bloodlines-Traces will be available April 2014;
Bloodlines Touch Not the Cat , in print and as e-book, is for sale with all big on-line bookshops and in stock or can be ordered from your local bookshop.

To have your own copy signed or to order a autographed copy: send a mail to

To pre- register for an author signed copy of Bloodlines-Traces send a mail to heading: pre-register Traces

For information on the author guided Bloodlines Touch Not the Cat Highland Mystery Tours go to:–roots–uk-.html


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