The context and historical settings of my stories means that I spend a great deal of time researching material to use in my plots; everything from food to music, historic figures of the day, to the places where the action unfurls. I find this process as fascinating and fulfilling as I do writing the stories.
I want to share some of that research with you here.
You might find it interesting and thought provoking, and I hope you get an idea of where my stories originate from before they hit my imagination.
The main character in The Butcher's Son has this fascinating syndrome called Synaesthesia. Like Grace in this short film, he 'sees' music through a kaleidoscope of moving colours.
I came across this mural on Spacerowa Street in the heart of the old Lodz ghetto when on a visit there in December 2014. I was utterly surprised to see the image of this boy staring down at me from the wall of the very street where Anshel Kalman, a character not unlike this boy in my new book, actually lives. It was as though something far greater was at work here telling me I had to tell his story and what happened to the Jews of the Lodz ghetto.
Further investigation revealed that the boy was one of 6 in a photograph taken in the ghetto. They are anonymous and undoubtedly perished either in the ghetto or at Auschwitz. Polish artist Piotr Saul wanted to give these boys a permanent home and so painted them in the bricked-up windows of the old tenements.
Traditional Klezmer music from 1910 -1942. Listen here
If ever there was a book that told the story of how it was to be an inmate at Auschwitz, to suffer first hand the horror of the Holocaust, this is it; Night by Elie Wiesel is a haunting testimony of a survivor, and as Oprah Winfrey put it; "Should be required reading for all humanity."
Performed here by Daniel Kempin; this popular ghetto song called 'Our Springtime', was written by Mordecai Gebirtig in April 1942 in the Krakow ghetto. It is about the bleakness and despair of ghetto life.
Springtime in the trees, in the fields, in the forest,
But here, in the ghetto, it's autumnal and cold,
But here, in the ghetto, it's cheerless and bleak,
Like the house of a mourner, in grief.
Springtime! Outside the fields have been planted,
Here around us, they've sown only despair,
Here around us, guarded walls rise,
Watched like a prison through the darkest night.
Springtime already! Soon it will be May,
But here, the air's filled with gunpowder and lead,
The hangman has plowed with his bloody sword,
One giant graveyard, the earth!
The story of panels of the Torah sneaked into Auschwitz by Jewish prisoners.
From BBC News Nov 26 1997
Nazi gold vault opened in Brazil
A bank vault containing more than $4 million worth of property allegedly stolen from victims of the Holocaust has been opened in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo.
The contents including cash, gold bars and jewellery are thought to have been brought to Brazil by Nazis who fled Germany at the end of the Second World War.
The hoard was deposited in the name of Albert Blume, a German who came to Brazil before the Second World War. He is alleged to have acted as a banker for other Nazis who fled to South America later. That is the opinion of the special commission set up by the Brazilian Government to investigate the Nazi presence in the country after 1945.
Despite the fact that Brazil sent troops to fight alongside the Allies in Europe, the Commission has concluded that the Government also allowed eight fleeing Nazis to settle in the country.
Albert Blume died some time ago, but his family denies that he had anything to do with the Nazi party after his arrival in Brazil.
They say the money in the vault is not the property of Holocaust victims.
The Government Commission says it will run chemical tests on the hoard to try to establish exactly who the property belongs to. It is aslo hoping that Mr Blume's diary, also recovered from the vault, will shed some light on the situation.