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Posts Tagged ‘christine wiltz’

Fresco from PompeiiIn Part I of this two-part series, I talked about using books and libraries in doing historical research. Although print matter is a good place to start, in today’s world you can’t ignore the Internet. But there are two problems: quantity and quality – too much of the former and not enough of the latter. Unlike traditionally published books, which have to go through some screening process (in academic circles that can be quite rigorous), anyone can put anything up on the Net and pass it off as truth.  So what’s a good historical fiction writer to do?

Stick to sites that have some stake in maintaining their reputation for accuracy such as universities and historical, archaeological and professional societies.   Many sites  not only update articles, but blog and twitter as well.  Others aggregate the news. The Archaeological Institute of America has a daily update of archaeology in the news. When you find an interesting one, subscribe to their RSS feed, get email alerts or tweets when new information is posted. Google also has  Google Scholar (click on the “more” button at the Google.com home page) that searches professional and scholarly literature. Many newspapers and local government organizations are digitizing their archives and can be a great source of primary material. (Remember your best friend the research librarian? Tap them for help on accessing those databases.)

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The Last MadamSex, bootlegged booze, beautiful women, and powerful men set against the steamy backdrop of corruption in New Orleans in the roaring twenties.  This is the stuff of which exciting novels are made.  But, as in many cases, truth is more compelling than fiction.  Christine Wiltz is a mystery writer with four novels under her belt set in her native New Orleans.  When asked to write the biography of Norma Wallace, a powerful ambitious woman who ran one of the most notorious houses of prostitution in the French Quarter for over forty years, Wiltz decided to give non-fiction a try.  She combined her mystery writing skills and deep affection for her native city in a real-life thriller, The Last Madam: A Life in the New Orleans Underworld. Wiltz deftly unravels the mystery of the woman behind the glamour of the madam; setting us up with Norma’s violent death in Chapter One, then spending the rest of the book answering the proverbial questions of “Whodunit?” and, more importantly, “Why?” (more…)

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