Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
***All photos accompanying posts are either owned by the author of said post or are in the public domain -- NOT the property of History Undressed. If you'd like to obtain permission to use a picture from a post, please contact the author of the post.***

Friday, October 29, 2010

Guest Author: Gretchen Craig - What the First Americans Wore Around the Pueblo

I'd like to welcome today's guest author, Gretchen Craig, to History Undressed!  Today we are in for a special treat, one of my favorite topics: clothing! 

Guest Author
Gretchen Craig
WHAT THE FIRST AMERICANS WORE AROUND THE PUEBLO

by Gretchen Craig

In 1598, Conquistadors marched up the Rio Grande Valley into the area we now call Santa Fe, New Mexico. In full regalia, they wore wool or cotton leggings, sometimes brightly dyed, and balloon trousers. The dandies wore velvet and silk, the less dandy linen and cotton canvas. And on their worst days, they wore armor. What wouldn’t they have given for Gortex!

We have a pretty good idea what the Spanish conquerors wore around 1600 from paintings and fabric remnants and fashion accounts. I imagine the men hiking through the dry lands of the Southwest were considerably less pretty and resplendent than the romantic portraits of the era, but never mind them. What were the people they encountered in the upper Rio Grande valley wearing?

A woman of Kotyit, now Cochiti pueblo, wore a cotton tunic tied over her left shoulder, belted with an embroidered strip. The tunic came down to her knees and in warm weather, that’s all she needed. In colder months, she would drape a loose, unconstructed shirt under the tunic, add some cotton, leather, or fur leggings, and a pair of boots. She might have a cloak, short or long, made of dressed skin, probably deer, or she might have one of rabbit belts. For glamour, she added necklaces and ear pendants and bracelets.

The women spent several hours every day grinding corn by shoving a stone over a stone basin, the kernels trapped in between. Every one of them would have had lovely, toned arms, so the bare shoulder and arm style suited them and didn’t require buttons or brooches or buckles.

A man wore either a cotton kilt or a knee-length tunic. He tied his tunic over the right shoulder rather than the left, and cinched an embroidered belt around his waist. (Think nicely muscled arms accustomed to throwing lances or hoeing fields or drawing bows.) Other garments were decorated with tassels and fringe. On the hottest days, a man probably just wore a loin cloth, and when it was cold, he would have dressed as the women did with an undergarment and layered cloaks. He also adorned himself with pendants and necklaces.


The puebloans grew cotton for themselves as well as imported some from a little further south where the people had larger cotton fields. They used natural dyes that produced blues and yellows and reds. They also dyed thread for the embroidery they were fond of. I’ve seen no mention in my research of their having other fiber crops like flax, and they certainly had no wool-bearing animals. They did, however, have yucca, leather, fur, and feathers.

Yucca fibers were enormously useful. A puebloan would harvest the long blades of the yucca plant to extract the tough fibers. She could roast the long green blades and then bury them till they decayed and softened to make the task easier. You can imagine the longest fibers might have been three to four feet long. She could make sandals out of these fibers, braid them into cords for weaving, string beads on them, or tie a length through her pierced ear and suspend a piece of turquoise.

Men worked at the looms weaving cotton. They also dressed deer skins, rabbit pelts, and the occasional bear or elk skin. Buffalo lived off to the east on the plains, and sometimes the men of the pueblo hunted that far from home. More likely, though, they would have traded obsidian or turquoise or arrow heads for a buffalo hide when the plains people (Apaches, for example) came around.

Tough and thick, buffalo hide was great for shoe soles (and shield covers), but the upper parts of boots were likely to be deer hide, often bleached white. (At night, the puebloans hung their shoes overhead so as to keep the mice from gnawing the leather.) The people of Kotyit had lovely, supple leather to work with, chamois to use for leggings, boots, tunics and cloaks.

For blankets and for the warmest of cloaks, the puebloans combined yucca and fur or yucca and feathers. The people in the Santa Fe region raised turkeys, so feathers were abundant. They wrapped the feathers around the yucca fibers and then wove the resulting feathered cord into a treasure of warmth that was passed down to the next generation and the next. The same process using strips of rabbit fur instead of feathers produced a wonderfully soft rug or blanket or cloak. I imagine it would have been a heavy drape for the shoulders, but wonderful as a blanket. I wonder if making one of these feather or fur blankets was akin to our grandmothers piecing a quilt together for each of her children and grandchildren.

Both men and women wore jewelry. The puebloans mined turquoise near present day Cerrillos in northern New Mexico, and they used this stone to trade for goods as far south as the Aztecs of Mexico. Trade extended all the way west to the Gulf of California, and from there they imported shells of all kinds. The craftsman cut squarish shapes from the shells or from black shale or turquoise, drilled a hole using a sharp stick whirled by leather tongs, threaded the beads on yucca fiber or leather cord, then wet-ground the necklace in order to smooth and polish the beads.

Wolves’ teeth and bear claws made dramatic necklaces for the men and no doubt made a statement about their prowess. And among archaeological finds is a lovely iridescent conch shell tablet which had been worn around someone’s neck on a leather thong.

As for dressing their hair, the most common style referenced in my research applies to Hopi women, a pueblo people who live two hundred miles west of the Santa Fe area. These women wound their long black hair around moulds at each side of the head, a little like Princess Leia in the first Star Wars movie, but bigger and blacker and shinier. Other references mention pueblo women wearing their hair loose.

Using the natural materials at hand and their own ingenuity, Americans of the pueblos produced practical, comfortable, stylish clothing.

**References: The Pueblo Indians of North America by Edward P. Dozier ; Tales of the Cochiti by Ruth Benedict; The Delight Makers by Adolf F. Bandelier; The Pueblo by Charlotte and David Yue; National Geographic, February, 1964, Vol. 125, No. 2.**

****

CRIMSON SKY

With sensitivity and depth, Craig explores the clash of cultures in 1598 New Mexico. The Spanish bring new crops, animals, tools – and weapons. Facing drought and murdering marauders, the people of the pueblos strive to find a balance between submission to the powerful new invaders and resistance to their overwhelming force.


Zia would face an enemy’s sword to protect her infant son, but she learns her battle to save him requires more than physical courage. Her attraction to the Spanish conquistador leads to the most difficult choice of her life. Is his love worth abandoning her religion, her culture, and her very identity?
Diego Ortiz has yearned for a home and a family. When he meets a beautiful woman of the pueblos, he offers her not only protection for her child and herself, but also his everlasting love.


TapanAshka, ambushed in the forest, challenges death itself to achieve his two heart’s desires – finding home, and exacting revenge against his greatest enemy, the Spaniard Diego Ortiz.

Available as an e-book in Kindle and Nook formats. Fall 2010.

Gretchen Craig is the award winning author of Always and Forever and Ever My Love, both set among the Creoles and Cajuns of early Louisiana. Crimson Sky moves the reader across the country to the mesas and canyons of northern New Mexico. Based on careful research and enthusiastic exploration, Gretchen’s novels are delve into some of the most disturbing social conflicts of our country. Visit her website at www.gretchencraig.com.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Guest Author: Shana Galen - Who Needs a Research Assistant?

Welcome back to History Undressed, guest author Shana Galen!  She previously visited us in May of this year, with her release of THE MAKING OF A DUCHESS, and blogged about treason during the Regency era.  Today she's back with a new release, THE MAKING OF A GENTLEMAN, and talking with us about research and assistants.  Thanks for being here with us today!

Who Needs a Research Assistant?

by Shana Galen


Author, Shana Galen
 Several years ago I attended a Chat with Nora Roberts. At the Romance Writers of America conference, bestselling authors often host “chats,” where they answer questions from aspiring authors. One question Ms. Roberts was asked was whether or not she had an assistant. I can’t remember if she said she did or not. It seemed she was loathe to have someone else in her space—a feeling most of us can understand, I’m sure—but she made a point to say that she would never allow an assistant to do research for her. She did all her own research.

As an aspiring author, I found this amazing. As a published author, it makes complete sense. If I had as much money as Nora Roberts, I could certainly assign someone else to read history books, journals, and letters from the Regency period for me, but that person isn’t writing my books. I’m the author, and I have to find the words and phrases to depict the time period and give the reader the feeling she has stepped back in time.

Another invaluable benefit of doing one’s own research is the interesting little tidbits one finds. I was researching the Bastille for my new novel The Making of a Gentleman. The novel is the story of the comte de Valére, Armand Harcout, who as a young French aristocrat must flee his family’s chateau when peasants attack at the start of the French Revolution. He hides in Paris, where he falls under the protection of two men with a secret. When he inadvertently learns the secret, he’s imprisoned for twelve long years.

Most of the book takes place in London after Armand is rescued from prison. It’s a book about resurrecting the human spirit, but I needed to know what life would have been like for Armand during those long years. Since the Bastille is such a famous prison, I started with it. I’d always read that the Fall of the Bastille was more symbolic than anything else, but I didn’t realize that when it fell it only housed seven prisoners. Not everything I read agreed as to the prisoners’ offences, but most agreed there were seven in total. Four were forgers, two lunatics, and one was a nobleman. The nobleman was imprisoned by his own family and accused of incest.

Even though the Bastille held so few prisoners, it was a symbol of power and fear for the French people. It had been the prison of Voltaire and the Marquis de Sade. Prisoners were released only if they agreed never to speak of what they had seen or what happened inside the prison. The revolutionaries might have been surprised to learn that meals were plentiful and the prisoners were allowed to walk freely and converse with the officers guarding the prison. Some prisoners were even granted parole into Paris.

This was not the sort of prison I wanted for Armand. The secret he holds is far too dangerous to allow him such freedom. The Bastille, of course, was not the only prison. Other prisons were far more conventional and far less desirable for incarceration. I invented my own prison, based on the research I did, and had Armand imprisoned in the garret, alone, for twelve years.

I don’t think I could have captured the feel of Armand’s prison without doing my own research, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t appreciate an assistant. I could definitely use someone to do laundry and wash dishes while I dive into research books or the internet.

What about you? Could you use an assistant?

I hope you’ll pick up The Making of a Gentleman. Visit my website at www.shanagalen.com for excerpts and contests.

Two lucky commenters will win a copy of THE MAKING OF A GENTLEMAN.  Winners will be posted in the winners cube.  (US and Canada only)

THE MAKING OF A GENTLEMAN BY SHANA GALEN—IN STORES OCTOBER 2010


“Galen’s signature sense of humor, expertly blended with deep emotions, will hold readers captive right to the end.”

—RT Book Reviews

“Lively dialogue, breakneck pace and a great sense of fun.”

—Publishers Weekly

Twelve years in prison has stripped him of his humanity…

Armand, Comte de Valère has lost the ability to interact with polite society, until his family hires him a beautiful tutor, and he starts to come alive again…

Saving him is her only chance to escape a terrible fate…

Felicity Bennett vows she’ll do whatever it takes to help Armand fight back the demons that have held him captive for so long…

With Felicity’s help, Armand begins to heal, until a buried secret threatens to destroy their growing passion…

Click here for History Undressed's review of this book.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shana Galen is the author of five Regency historicals, including the Rita-nominated Blackthorne’s Bride. Her books have been sold in Brazil, Russia, and the Netherlands and featured in the Rhapsody and Doubleday Book Clubs. A former English teacher in Houston’s inner city, Shana now writes full time. Shana is a happily married wife and mother of a daughter and a spoiled cat and lives in Houston, Texas where she is working on the final book in the Brothers of the Revolution series, The Making of a Rogue, which will be in stores in 2011. She loves to hear from readers: visit her website at www.shanagalen.com.


Historical Romance Review: The Making of a Gentleman, by Shana Galen

As I said when doing my first review of Shana Galen's book in this Brothers of the Revolution series, The Making of a Duchess, I am hooked on her talent!  Naturally, when I was offered the chance to review the second book in this series, The Making of a Gentleman, I greedily grabbed it up!  Once again, Ms. Galen did not disappoint.

Back Cover Blurb...

Twelve years in prison has stripped him of his humanity…


Armand, Comte de Valère has lost the ability to interact with polite society, until his family hires him a beautiful tutor, and he starts to come alive again…

Saving him is her only chance to escape a terrible fate…

Felicity Bennett vows she’ll do whatever it takes to help Armand fight back the demons that have held him captive for so long…

With Felicity’s help, Armand begins to heal, until a buried secret threatens to destroy their growing passion…

Product ISBN: 9781402238666

Price: $6.99
Publication Date: October 2010

My Review...


I want to be mad at Shana Galen for keeping me up all night with this book...  But honestly, I can't be mad at her, it was FANTASTIC!  Hello, its 3:20am and I'm posting this review, I couldn't wait to tell you how great it was!  I had to remind myself to breathe...

We are gripped from page one with the story of Armand, who we found about in the first book in this Brothers of the Revolution series.  (Just a note, these books can stand alone, but I always think its more fun to read them in order.)  From the beginning there is action, a sense of urgency, as a young boy his very life is threatened by peasants storming his home, and it doesn't stop.  When next we meet Armand, he is a grown man, but one who has been traumatized and tortured for twelve years.  He has some heavy emotional battle wounds, and it is going to take some major healing for him to come around.

Meet Felicity.  She's got issues of her own and along with them--a personality we adore because she's smart, talented, passionate, determined, true to herself--a heroine we can root for.  In just a few moments of their meeting, you see that Felicity is exactly the type of healing Armand needs, but she's up for a major challenge--one she's not so sure she can handle.

Together, they will have to heal each other and be their own respective saviors from dark secrets that haunt them both.

An emotionally poignant book, Ms. Galen really knows how to grip the emotional soul of the characters and wrench our hearts with their pain, passion and depth.

I highly recommend this book!

Also, I was truly touched by the dedication.  A mama after my own heart :) 

About the Author...

Shana Galen is the author of five Regency historicals, including the Rita-nominated Blackthorne’s Bride. Her books have been sold in Brazil, Russia, and the Netherlands and featured in the Rhapsody and Doubleday Book Clubs. A former English teacher in Houston’s inner city, Shana now writes full time. Shana is a happily married wife and mother of a daughter and a spoiled cat and lives in Houston, Texas where she is working on the final book in the Brothers of the Revolution series, The Making of a Rogue, which will be in stores in 2011. She loves to hear from readers: visit her website at http://www.shanagalen.com/.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Author Interview with Mary Wine


Historical romance author, Mary Wine.
 Today on History Undressed, I'm pleased to introduce you lovely readers to our guest author, Mary Wine.  Ms. Wine has been kind enough to allow me the chance to interview her!  To read my previous reviews of her work, click here:  Highland Hellcat and To Conquer a Highlander.


It looks like a lot of your backlist is fantasy, futuristic and paranormal, and that within the last couple of years you've had historicals released. Have you always liked writing historicals? What was the reason for the change?

MW: I love both but Historical wasn’t selling very well in ebook format when I began publishing. It just happened that I sold nine historicals around the same time and I got busy writing them. At this moment, I’m uncontracted so we’ll see what sells. There are days I feel like there are so many stories inside me, they spill over the top of my imagination cup. Okay…it’s a large salad bowl, think double engine fire station size.


LOL, then we know you've got a lot more stories coming our way, fantastic!  Your books are very well researched and true to life, but not in a way that readers feel you're trying to teach them a history lesson. Readers get a good taste for history and the real-life settings, but its just a taste and adds to the flavor of the book. What is your research process like? How do you decide what stays and what goes?

MW: That’s always the challenge. I’m a history geek. Reading through old books is something I enjoy and I dream of getting into the recently reopened Vatican library. I’d beg to be allowed into some of the castles in England…okay, you get the point. But I’m also in touch with my character. When I’m writing, I’m seeing things from their view point and I think that allows me to not get bogged down in details. I mean when you are cooking, you don’t think about how the oven works, you turn it on. Sometimes I have to put more details in because I forget to explain how things work.

I'm a history geek too, you are so welcome here!  What is your favorite bit of history you learned while researching HIGHLAND HELLCAT?

MW: The Douglas clan history. At this time there are Black Douglas, White Douglas and even Red Douglas. It was fascinating to see how the branches had spread out through marriage alliance and other things and also the way they ended up struggling among themselves.
That is fascinating. In you bio on your website it says you make historical clothing. Tell us about that! Do you have any pics you can share?


Mary Wine in costume.
 MW: I do make historical clothing, it’s been my passion for the last twenty years. I wear these dresses quite often and joke about the fact that my most expensive dresses are hundreds of years out of fashion. Getting them through airport security can sometimes be a challenge…they see the wire and steel boning and wonder what I’m doing. It’s a great advantage because many of the stories I write, I’ve worn those dresses for long hours and I know what a corset feels like to wear all day and even through the night.
If I could, I would dress in period all day everyday... maybe without the corset.  What piece of advice would you offer to writers in the historical romance genre?

MW: Don’t make the mistake of thinking women were helpless. They were cunning and often educated. Beyond the education we think of today, these women had a full working knowledge of medical remedies. They also had to make just about everything or barter with someone else. Look around your house and ask yourself, could I make half the things I use in a normal day? The lady of the castle had as many responsibilities as the noble lord.

Is there anything you'd like to share with readers? A question you want to pose to them?

MW: If you’re canoeing down an alley, and you hit a speed bump…How many pancakes does it take to cover a dog house?

Sorry…I’m a tad silly. Thanks so much for having me over. Please drop by my website for excerpts and news on what I’ve got coming next. Cheers!

Lol, okay...I'd say 63 blueberry pancakes, 48 chocolate pancakes and 111 buttermilk? Thank you so much for visiting with us!  It's been a pleasure.

Two luck commenters will have a chance to win a copy of HIGHLAND HELLCAT!  (US and Canada only).  Winners will be posted in the Winner's Cube on the right, tomorrow.



HIGHLAND HELLCAT BY MARY WINE—IN STORES OCTOBER 2010

“Hot enough to warm even the coldest Scottish Nights…”

—Publishers Weekly Starred Review of To Conquer a Highlander

He wants a wife he can control…

Connor Lindsey is a Highland laird, but his clan’s loyalty is hard won and he takes nothing for granted. He’ll do whatever it takes to find a virtuous wife, even if he has to kidnap her…

She has a spirit that can’t be tamed…

Brina Chattan has always defied convention. She sees no reason to be docile now that she’s been captured by a powerful laird and taken to his storm-tossed castle in the Highlands, far from her home.

When a rival laird’s interference nearly tears them apart, Connor discovers that a woman with a wild streak suits him much better than he’d ever imagined…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mary Wine is a multi-published author in romantic suspense, fantasy and western romance; now her interest in historical reenactment and costuming has inspired her to turn her pen to historical romance. She lives with her husband and sons in southern California, where the whole family enjoys participating in historical reenactment. For more information, please visit http://www.marywine.com/website.

Historical Romance Review: Highland Hellcat, by Mary Wine

Mary Wine has done it again!  I was thrilled to read the second book in her Highlander series, Highland Hellcat.  If you'll recall, I did a review on To Conquer a Highlander in July this year and was very pleased with the book. 

Back Cover Blurb:

He wants a wife he can control…


Connor Lindsey is a Highland laird, but his clan’s loyalty is hard won and he takes nothing for granted. He’ll do whatever it takes to find a virtuous wife, even if he has to kidnap her…
She has a spirit that can’t be tamed…

Brina Chattan has always defied convention. She sees no reason to be docile now that she’s been captured by a powerful laird and taken to his storm-tossed castle in the Highlands, far from her home.

When a rival laird’s interference nearly tears them apart, Connor discovers that a woman with a wild streak suits him much better than he’d ever imagined…

Product ISBN: 9781402237386

Price: $6.99
Publication Date: October 2010
My Review:

We first met Connor Lindsey in Ms. Wine's first book, TO CONQUER A HIGHLANDER, and from that moment, I was hoping he would have his own story!  Ms. Wine, did not disappoint!  As I found with the author's previous works, she has an amazing eye for detail.  Readers will find themselves completely immersed within the story, and fully able to visualize the characters, their clothes, their surroundings and what they are doing.  The historical facts she puts into the book are fascinating! 
Our heroine, Brina Chattan, is a bride of Christ.  And a feisty one too! Brina is FULL of personality, strength and spunk.  I liked her from the beginning.  She is passionate, but caring too.  I was unaware of how bride's of Christ work.  I just thought that the young girl would go to the abbey one day.  I had no idea how much went into her training, and how even the simple touch of a man on her hand---naughty Connor!---could garner such a reaction since she would be so unused to such things.

When we got to the bath section as well, I went into it thinking I already knew all about it from the first books vivid description of water flowing and heating through the castle, but I was wrong!  Ms. Wine, brought in ANOTHER way they heated their water and prepared baths.  I was mesmerized by this, as I often am when learning knew historical contraptions and machinations.

Now you may be wondering how Connor Lindsey, Laird of Clan Lindsey, is going to be romantically involved with a bride of Christ... Well, as any good Highlander does, he steals his bride!  But the difference between Connor and just any old Highlander, is not just that he's hot, and muscular and wears a kilt (sigh) but that he's got a way with words and a kind heart.  You'll have to read to find out!

As I said at the beginning of this post, well done Ms. Wine!  I enjoyed the characters, the story, the history, the romance.

I very much look forward to reading the next book in this series, HIGHLAND HEAT.

About the Author:

Mary Wine is a multipublished author in romantic suspense, fantasy, and Western romance; now her interest in historical reenactment and costuming has inspired her to turn her pen to historical romance.  She lives with her husband and sons in Southern California, where the whole family enjoys participating in historical reenactments.

Visit Mary Wine at http://www.marywine.com/

Click Here for History Undressed's Interview with Mary Wine

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Historical Book Review: For the King's Favor, by Elizabeth Chadwick

For some time I have been an Elizabeth Chadwick fan.  Her books are spellbinding, her historical research eye opening and interesting and the way she weaves the pages of fiction with real life history has always swept me away.  Additionally, her blog, Living the History  has been a source of many hours of entertainment on my part.  It is for those reasons when I was offered the chance to her review her new September 2010 release of For the King's Favor (in the US--released in the UK in 2008 as The Time of Singing), I eagerly grasped the idea, and devoured the book.

Back Cover Blurb:

A Bittersweet Tale of Love, Loss, and the Power of Royalty


When Roger Bigod arrives at King Henry II’s court to settle a bitter inheritance dispute, he becomes enchanted with Ida de Tosney, young mistress to the powerful king. A victim of Henry’s seduction and the mother of his son, Ida sees in Roger a chance to begin a new life. But Ida pays an agonizing price when she leaves the king, and as Roger’s importance grows and he gains an earldom, their marriage comes under increasing strain. Based on the true story of a royal mistress and the young lord she chose to marry, For the King’s Favor is Elizabeth Chadwick at her best.

Product ISBN: 9781402244490
Price: $14.99 (Trade Paperback)
Publication Date: September 2010

My Review:

I must first start this review with saying, if you love medieval fiction you'll want to read this book!  I truly enjoyed reading it, and found myself immersed inside a world of entertainment, pain, happiness, struggle, victory.  A truly poignant story, For the King's Favor is a masterpiece in historical fiction!

Set during the 12th century English royal court, when England is rife with civil war, and all those outsiders and insiders who wish to cash in, For the King's Favor, tells a tale of history that fascinates its reader.  Roger Bigod, fights for what is rightfully his amongst those who would call themselves his family, but didn't deserve the name for all their actions.  He falls in love with Ida de Tosney, who just so happens to be the king's current mistress--not of her own choosing.  Through a string of events, that are really more purposeful plays, Roger and Ida end up married.  But while being married to an honorable and gentle man, Ida must also give up what she loves dearly.

Ms. Chadwick has done an abundant amount of research for this book the tale itself will tell, as well as the Author's Note and bibliography, from the little details of an unguent used to brush through hair, to battle, to needlework and politics, this book contains so much, but it is done in a way that doesn't detract from the story, only adds to it.  The reader is truly able to immerse themselves in the book, and see the world from the eyes of its characters.

A definite recommended read!

About the Author:
(from the back of the novel)

Elizabeth Chadwick lives in Nottingham with her husband and two sons.  Much of her research is carried out as a member of Regia Anglorum, an early medieval re-enactment society with the emphasis on accurately recreating the past.  She also tutors in the skill of writing historical and romantic fiction.  Her first novel, THE WILD HUNT, won a Betty Trask Award.  She was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists' Award in 1998 for THE CHAMPION, in 2001 for LORDS OF THE WHITE CASTLE, in 2002 for THE WINTER MANTLE, and in 2003 for THE FALCONS OF MONTABARD.  Her sixteenth novel, THE SCARLET LION, was nominated by Richard Lee, founder of the Historical Novel Society, as one of the top ten historical novels of the last decade.  For more details on Elizabeth Chadwick and her books, visit www.elizabethchadwick.com

Friday, October 15, 2010

Guest Author: Jeri Westerson - What Medieval Detectives Detect

I'd like to offer a delighted welcome back to historical author, Jeri Westerson.  She tantalized us last year with her post on medieval knights and their virtues, and this year she's back with yet another release and another equally intriguing post! Without further ado... I give you todays' guest author, Jeri Westerson  *applause please*

Historical Author
Jeri Westerson
What Medieval Detectives Detect


By Jeri Westerson

How handy it would be if my medieval detective, Crispin Guest, could whip out a cell phone and call in a forensic specialist to come quick and help him identify the sort of weapon used on the body before him, determine the time of death, and analyze the blood spatter.

Well, aside from the cell phone and lack of forensic scientists, a medieval detective—the right kind that is—could do all those things.

And what’s the right kind? Mine, of course! Well, that is to say, a man who was used to warfare and what a body looked like. A fresh one, a day old one, and a bloated one. That’s step one. Coming across a body and having a relative idea of how long ago the crime occurred is extremely helpful. And the look of the blood. Is it flowing? What does it look like?

Since he was a former knight, a fighting man, acquainted with battles and their aftermath, he might recognize the signs of clotting without really knowing the science behind it. It takes 3-15 minutes for blood to clot. If it’s still liquid, the murder is fresh by a few minutes. If the blood is shiny or gelatinous, then the murder occurred less than an hour earlier. If there is clot and serum, then many hours have passed.

Blood spatter is a whole science unto itself (ever watch Dexter?) What is the origin of the bloodstains? Is it oozing, gushing, dripping from a person or a weapon? What type of weapon could it be? The spatter shows the position of the assailant to the victim. The number of blows might be determined by this spatter as well as the truthfulness of witnesses. For instance, if a witness says that the victim was sitting, the blood spatter might very well show he was standing. Is the witness lying? Crispin might extrapolate that information from observing the spatter.

Rigor mortis—literally, “death stiffness”—happens very methodically, from the face downward about 2 hours after death. It takes another 8-12 hours for the body to become completely stiff and fixed into position. Fixed for another 18 hours is called the Rigid State. Then it reverses in the same order it appeared for another 12 hours—(Flaccid state). What is rigor? Blood stops the natural bacteria in the body from going to town, but when it stops flowing from the heart all hell breaks loose with one chemical reaction after another that prevent the muscles from contracting, which makes the body stiff. Heat quickens the process and cold slows it.

The Greeks and Egyptians had their own system: Warm and not stiff: Not dead more than a couple hours. Warm and stiff: Dead between a couple hours and a half day. Cold and stiff: Dead between a half day and two days. Cold and not stiff: Dead more than two days.

Livor mortis or lividity or post mortem hypostasis (literally “after death state”) is the state of being blue, or colored blue. What is this? Blood stops flowing and pools in the vessels in the lowest point due to gravity. Wherever the body is in contact with, say, a floor, the skin becomes pale and ringed by lividity. It shows up 30 minutes to a couple of hours and stays fixed after 8 hours. The detective would know if a body had been moved if lividity had set in on the wrong part of the body.

A former noble of the court might well be familiar with strangulation and recognize the symptoms of that as well as recognize poisons, especially if he had been to the Italian courts where poisoning was prevalent. He would familiarize himself with the scent and symptoms of poisons to protect himself while on foreign soil. And his knowledge of many languages (as well as the ability to read and write) would serve him well in similar circumstances.

In the end, it’s really up to the cleverness of the detective to ferret out whodunit. Even given all the forensic help in the world, I don’t think there’s anything more satisfying then having one’s detective use his wits to find the culprit and bring the guilty party to justice.

****
Jeri embues her detective, Crispin Guest, with plenty of smarts and you can see him in action in an excerpt of her latest Medieval Noir THE DEMON’S PARCHMENT, at her website www.JeriWesterson.com.