I write crime fiction set in the Dutch Golden Age featuring a reluctant detective who is a lecturer in moral philosophy at the University of Leiden. (I also have a series set in Prague in the near present day.)
The lure of the 17th century to me is that it is a time that begins to approximate to our own. The language is not that different, there is a definite urban class and many of the structures that we know now – universities and types of business – have come into being. I will allow that reading 17th century Dutch handwriting is not always straightforward, but I had 38 years of training as a pharmacist reading doctors’ prescriptions.
The Dutch setting appealed because the United Provinces had a turbulent relationship with Great Britain then, but also because it is fascinating to see how a small country went in just over a century from being an occupied land to the economic powerhouse of Europe – a transformation that was not without its own problems as Amsterdam grew sevenfold in 120 years with its attendant pressure on land and opportunities for corruption.
I incorporate real historical figures in some of my stories but I hope I deal with them respectfully. I am very conscious that they have no opportunity to reply, but fortunately there are plenty of people with shady reputations and questionable habits so that I do not have to concoct much.