In writing the novel A Canopy of Stars, I wanted to write something that I had not seen done before. It was to be the second novel in a Georgian trilogy and as part of the research I visited the Old Bailey site (www.oldbaileyonline.org/. - see blog of 17/11/2010). I used the facts and the proceedings taken from the Old Bailey record of the trial of Peter Shalley, Ref: t17900113-17 that took place in 1790. But it was much more than that: that case opened up much of the plot line for me – this man was terribly wronged, terribly let down by the judicial system. The thought occurred to me that this man had a life, and a story to tell; the real life story would never be known of course, never be told, but it could be a novel, a drama.
And so the hard part began, two years of writing the book, then rewriting, polishing the diamond, proof reading, copy editing until the final version was ready. A front story -the Georgian courtroom drama, the back story -the story of the past life of the lead character. The novel was published in October 2010.
And then what do I discover. The BBC have launched a series called, Garrow’s Law:A Georgian courtroom drama. Well so much for writing something totally original.
After saying that I absolutely love the programme. This is not documentary it is drama.Like me the writer has taken transcripts of real Old Bailey cases as the inspiration for his stories. There is a real flavour of the period and for the cruel, to our eyes, sentences. The death penalty commonly handed down for the most minor of offences - hanging for men, burning for women. Transportation, where a husband and father could be sent to the other side of the world, never to see his wife and children again, who were then left to starve in his absence. Bewildered children who themselves were transported never to see their parents again.