It might seem odd to list other works of fiction as useful reference material, but hopefully all will become clear:

Agatha Christie’s Poirot – The Definitive Collection (DVD)
Starring – David Suchet
Now perversely I’m not much of a Miss Marple fan, but I could read or watch Poirot stories all day long without getting bored.
When it comes to this latest and most complete adaptation starring David Suchet, the wealth of historic detail is astonishing. Not just the clothing and setting, but also the jewellery, the cars, the art and decoration, the accessories, manner of speech, attitudes, planes, trains, even the food and drink the list is never ending.

The number of times the detail in this television series has been useful to me in the writing of my first novel, which is set in the 1930’s I can’t begin to count.

All this in combination with some fantastic story telling and acting! A more enjoyable form of research would be hard to find!

Out of Africa (DVD)
Starring – Meryl Streep & Robert Redford
I’ve not yet read the book, but the film I’ve enjoyed several times, not just for the storyline, which these days is an altogether more gentle more romanticised and yet more realistic creation, but also because of the sense of ‘place’.

Out of Africa is as much about a love affair with Africa as it a story about human relationships.

Just writing about this film makes me want to watch it again.

Heart of Darkness
By – Joseph Conrad
Only really a novella by modern standards, but where Out of Africa weaves a romanticised picture of Africa that makes you fall in love with the place, Conrad’s book weaves an altogether darker picture of the continent in the early days of colonial exploitation.

Heart of Darkness is a classic that evokes a time and place incredibly well. It is also reputedly the inspiration for the film Apocalypse Now.

Finally, while one of the characters shares a very similar name with one of the characters (Robert Marlow) in this book, there is no direct link, the inspiration for that character lies somewhere else altogether.

Don Quixote
By – Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
I’m not sure it’s possible to write any kind of book about the perceived nature of reality without having first read Don Quixote. To say that this is one of the greatest books of all time would be nothing more than fair comment. Though there are a few scant mentions of this classic tale in my own first novel, in my heart I wish I could’ve included more.