Although I have never lived in London and only visited on rare occasions, the sprawling Victorian metropolis plays a vital role in my work. Many of the leading British climbers of the era lived and worked here. I think when studying the climbers of the past it is all too easy to focus exclusively on their trips to the mountains, which would after all have only been a tiny fraction of their lives as a whole. To understand these men and women, one must also understand London (if it’s ever really possible to understand the city!)
The Only Genuine Jones may be already written, and my primary research phase for 1848 may be over, but I never stop learning and every day I scour the internet for new sources. I find this learning process endlessly fascinating. There are some real gems out there available for scrutiny, notable among them the Dictionary of Victorian London, and The Cat’s Meat Shop.
Sometimes I think that some climbing books suffer from focusing too obsessively on the climbing. Five years ago, when I was obsessed with the mountains and had few other real interests, I probably would have been producing similar kind of work … but now I try to look at my stories from a broader point of view. The 19th century was an incredibly vibrant time and it would be a shame to restrict the view to climbing and mountains.