At the time of typing, it is eight days to go until Out of the London Mist comes out and is available in all good bookshops. Every now and then I feel like I’m doing a little dance of excitement.
I’ll be posting bits here and there in the next few days, just to keep from exploding with excitement. One of the awesome things about Three Furies Press is their graphics, so I’ll be sharing lots of those. In fact, I’ll share this one now.
I don’t want to give too much away, but there is indeed a Rabbi in the story, who plays a vital role.
The East End of London in the 1890s (and earlier) was overflowing with Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe. History had not been kind to European Jews. They had been expelled from most of Western Europe in the Central and Later Middle Ages, as early as 1290 in England, after being persecuted and scapegoated for the various ills of the times, including the Black Death. They migrated into the underpopulated lands of Eastern Europe where they were particularly active in towns and promoted trade and industry. However as the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries progressed, Poland, Galicia and Russia became less welcoming and violence and riots against the Jewish settlements became horrifically common.
England had been one of the first to welcome Jews back into their country in 1656, and many Jews fleeing the persecution in the East fled to London and other British industrial cities. They quickly became part of British life. It was a Jewish immigrant, Michael Marks, that founded the quintessentially British store, Marks and Spencer in 1884 in Leeds. Many sources credit Jewish immigrants with the creation of the British staple of fish and chips. Unfortunately, mass immigration led to a dreadful seam of anti semitism and prejudice, which still has traces today.
I am not Jewish, so it was particularly important for me to respect the Jewish faith and culture that is part of the story. I’ll own up to some checking of Wikipedia, but I also spent some time trawling through pages of cookery, history and folklore (gutenberg.org and sacred-texts.com are great sources for original works). I live in Leeds, where there is a relatively large Jewish population, and so I had already been lucky enough to pick up some ideas before I started to research. I was fascinated by the multilayered culture and the diverse traditions across the world and the tenacity of the people and their faith against the persecutions of history.
So rest assured, the names, myths, customs and food I have mentioned are, as much as I can make it, authentic to the time and the people. They deserve that respect, and it is the least I can do.