Occasionally I list and describe resources that give writers details that might normally be difficult to find.
For writers on American history, here’s a new book about farm life. Just published is A Boy’s Paradise: Life on a Turn-of-the Century Farm in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Susan M. Branting edited and published this memoir by her grandfather, Wilfred Nevue, of growing up on a farm in the early 20th century. “He believed that his younger self had lived a life that was quickly fading from the American experience, and he wished to capture it for his children.” If you’re writing about this era, about early farm life, or about the French-Canadian customs brought into Michigan’s Upper Pensinsula, this delightful, well-edited book is filled with interesting and, for a writer, useful details.
For writers on Morocco: Back when I was researching my historical novel, Shadow of the Rock, I had a difficult time finding any information about the history and culture of Morocco, 1780-1795. I finally paid $250 to a rare book dealer for a copy of a journal published in 1793 entitled, A Tour from Gibraltar by William Lempriere. This hard-to-find book had been mentioned in a number of bibliographies about the real-life characters in my book and the $250 was well-spent for eyewitness account of Morocco in that exact time period.
Another important resource was Travail in an Arab Land by Samuel Romanelli, originally published in 1792. I found a modern translation for a couple of dollars in a used book shop.
For mystery and crime writers: Two books that can help you structure a villain’s as well as a victim’s character and actions are Gavin De Becker’s The Gift of Fear and Mary Ellen O”Toole’s Dangerous Instincts. Both provide useful information on how a predator might approach his prey. I used De Becker’s book in setting up an assault scene in Shadow of the Rock.