The importance of research to establish setting – to establish authority and credibility – cannot be emphasised enough. It is illogical to do the research nearly a year after publication.
I am in London again today. I had a meeting to attend, short and not stressful, and now I have time to kill – so, once again, I am in search of Suzie Kew. I have written before of how Illamasqua influenced my decision to set Suzie and the Monsters in London (see Superficial Specificity: Lorenzi Heels and Illamasqua). Once that decision was taken, specificity of setting became increasingly important – and that was a problem, because I don’t live (and have never lived) in London.
What I wanted to do, and needed to do, was spend some time in this great capital, to see with my own eyes, to explore the cafés and bars. Instead… I used Google. Intensively. One of the first things I looked for was a café with a good reputation for coffee, and somewhere near the top of that list was Dan & DeCarlo.
Suzie visits Dan & DeCarlo several times during the course of the novel. She lives nearby. She loves Alexandra Park, and jogs along the railway line. Okay, she doesn’t actually drink coffee, but she loves the smell, and she loves the coffee at Dan & DeCarlo.
And until today, I had never been there. I am finally there – here – and let me tell you: They make a fine cappuccino. The food’s great too. It’s a lovely atmosphere, and makes me wish I lived in East Finchley.
East Finchley is also new to me. The journey up the Northern Line from Angel was a lot longer than I expected – I’ve never been further north than Camden Town. Just as the train approached East Finchley, the railway line surged aboveground into the sunlight – it’s a beautiful day today. Dan & DeCarlo is practically the first place you see as you exit the station towards the High Road.
My coffee is almost gone, alas. It’s time to continue my exploration…
From Dan & DeCarlo I followed the Capital Ring (a very pleasant walking route, and well sign-posted) through Cherry Tree Wood, Highgate Wood and Queen’s Wood, but there I was forced to leave the yellow bring road and turn east. Alas, a wicked witch (disguised as a nice, friendly woman) directed me north to a viaduct on the Parkland Walk route to Alexandra Park. This wasn’t the railway line I had been looking for, but I wanted to see Alexandra Park anyway. (Alexandra Park will be celebrating its 150th anniversary on July 21st this year.)
It was 5.30, however, and I was a little anxious suddenly about getting back in time for my train. I needn’t have worried, though. The W3 bus through the park to Wood Green, the Piccadilly Line to King’s Cross, and I had a whole hour to spare…
So now I’m across the road in St. Pancras, at Le Pain Quotidien, enjoying Goat’s Cheese & Roasted Asparagus Frittata and a pot of Earl Grey. (The waitress looks like Scarlet Johansson.) No sign of Suzie and Cleo here today, though.