Still, he's a troublesome character. Or he was when I first began to write him. It was with Hazzard that I first confronted the pesky question of historical accuracy. Every historical novelist faces this question. How much do you use from the 'real past' and how much do you make up? Take my Hazzard. He's based on a real person, but my Hazzard is different from the real one in some ways, but not all. So there's a Real Hazzard (RH) and a Fictional Hazzard (FH). RH, for example, married in 1857, but my Hazzard had to be single. RH might have been a scoundrel, but my RH had to be a super good guy (I had my fill of 'bad boys' in my 20s and I'm Totally over it). Also, I'm not entirely sure what RH looked like. I found the picture at the top of this post online and I thought, "hey, there's a handsome devil." So I use that image when I write Hazzard.Most mid-nineteenth century men don't look all that hot to us--it's the muttonchops, beards, weird hair, stiff poses and a million other things. But that guy is pretty hot, isn't he? Look again. I'll wait. Yum.
Most importantly, RH didn't hang out with the Pinkertons. Nor did he know the very real Kate Warne. That bothered me when I first started writing, but I've come to terms with it. I'll admit, when I first started writing fiction I was wearing my Professional Historian Hat.Professional Historians are supposed to get things right. I wasn't getting Hazzard 'right.' Still, I persisted, really for one reason. It was the name. Hazzard. How great is that? George Washington Hazzard. Even greater.
Some readers have suggested that Hazzard is too twentieth century in his ideas about women. There's no way, they insist, that piggish antebellum dudes would be that attracted to a woman with a career as a detective and spy. But here's the thing. The nineteenth century was full of dudes with extremely liberated ideas about women and the twenty-first century is full of dudes with terribly icky ideas about women (this is me showing restraint and not naming any names). And Allan Pinkerton hired Kate and his male operatives worked with her and Hattie Lawson. We have pictures of Kate in male clothing, male disguise, standing around camp with the men. They had to have known she was a woman and they worked with her anyway. So why not a male love interest named Hazzard? Isn't love Hazardous?
And it's not just Hazzard, it's Lallah. In my second book in the series I've got an elephant named Lallah Rookh. She's based on a real elephant that very real circus man Dan Rice owned in the 1850s. But she died in 1860, one year before book 2. She took a swim in the Ohio River, got in over her head (literally) and got water in her lungs. That lead to pneumonia, which killed her. She could walk a tight rope, which is astounding, and she was the first elephant in America to do a headstand. So I resurrected her. Lallah has a cool story and a tragic end and I wanted to write about her. So I fiddled with history. Go me.
One of the things I've learned writing fiction is that fiction is . . . fiction. Historical fiction should get stuff right, but it doesn't have to get everything right. And no one really thinks Professional Historians get everything right. History is a tricksy bitch.
PS--if you already read The Lincoln Special would you please post a review of it on Amazon, Kindle or Good Reads? I can't get any authorial traction without reviews. I've also got a small raft of people sending me typos/corrections. I think that's really cool. I'm going to upload another, cleaner version of the book at the end of the week. Thanks to all.
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