Historical Division: Mark Julian mysteries






Before I begin let me give a tremendous thank you for asking me to do a guest comment. Venues like this let a writer connect to his readers and potential new ones. I hope, after reading this one, no one regrets this offer to me.

I also think introductions are in order before I tackle this subject. My name is L.G. Fabbo-Gonnella. I write the Mark Julian Vampire PI and the Max, Brad & Maisie mystery series. Yes, that is a plug just in case anyone reading that line was unsure about it.

My Mark Julian mysteries take place in contemporary New York City but has a major historical element to it. Well, to be fair this series takes place in the supernatural world that exists in tandem with this contemporary city. But, as you might guess from my Julian’s book’s title, my hero is a private eye who happens to be a vampire. BTW, would now be a good time to mention he has a shape-shifting sex demon secretary who prefers to dress in the style of the 1940’s era? She rocks but I’m prejudiced about her. But she is another possible post topic.

The point of this post, are the traps that await me when I sit down to write one of the Julian books. First, let me set out some background. My main character was born Marcus Claudius Marcellus in what was later designated as 45 B.C. The nephew of Augustus Caesar, he was married to the latter’s daughter, Julia. One night in 23 B.C., vampires attacked Marcus and Augustus. Marcus awoke from his assault to find himself now one of the vampire clan. When, in the late 19th century, he relocated to the New World he took a variation of Julia as his last name. He is currently New York’s private eye for the city’s supernatural community. Since my hero is a vampire who died at the dawn of the early Roman Empire. it stands to reason he has been alive for quite some time. That fact is a two edged sword when I write the books. On one hand, I can weave his recollections of his past lives into each book thus, I hope, making it a richer reading experience.


BUT, and it’s a big one, when I’m writing a “past life” section I need to be sure about my facts during that time frame. I’m not just talking about getting the correct dates though, that helps if you want to avoid fan blowbacks. I mean getting right the critical details of the period he is recalling. If I write about a costume, a ceremony, a physical description of a building/room even the spelling of an ancient word I need to be pretty darn sure about it. In one book in the series Mark recalls his marriage to his cousin Julia, daughter of Augustus. Because they were both patricians and she was the daughter of Rome’s First Citizen {the term emperor is a modern usage … see research} their wedding ceremony was highly ritualistic. I spent days researching not only what such a ceremony entailed but also what the bride would wear circa in 20’s B.C. Rome. In another book I had to recreate the setting  and society of 1920’s British Colonial Africa {today’s Kenya}. Mark does get around huh. Right now its all about the early days of silent films for my next Mark Julian adventure.

Even in contemporary NYC, some historical research is critical. Thanks to his secretary’s dress preferences, I know the styles, correct descriptions, proper materials used and the names of a variety of outfits the well-dressed woman wore in the 1040’s.


So why put myself through it right? Well first, I feel it’s my responsibility not to be slipshod with my books and thus my readers. The second is fear based: if I mess up my readers will let me know it. My story will lose any credibility with them too. I do not want to lose that trust from any of the people who read my books. So I research an era of the past then research it again from another angle.

Most times this process is not a problem. Sometimes, however, it can be difficult especially when historical sources do not agree on what was going on or how things were done etc. In those cases I take my best shot. I go with one side or the other’s interpretations and cross my fingers. It is a nightmare when there is only a vague historical record of a particular time frame. When that occurs I stick to the current historical thoughts about the period.

On the bright side, however, I love history! Writing my Julian books lets me indulge in reading about a myriad of past events. I enjoy weaving my present crimes into the tapestry of what Mark lived though during his existence. Reading about what section of Imperial Alexandria someone like Mark might inhabit can be an adventure. I’ve also discovered that researching about various non-western cultural based supernatural beings is a blast. Reading Japanese myths to find not only the correct demon but also how to kill it not only expands my imagination; I think they give unexpected a delightful color to the book and their readers too.

In the end it’s really all about making the book fun and hopefully informative too. I picked my hero, or rather he picked me, so we both make the best of it. By the way, in my “Max, Brad & Maisie books” one of my main characters is the investigative ghost of a 1950’s dead burlesque queen. Researching what slang she would use in conversations greatly enhanced my communicative skills at parties.*wink*.

In the end, I may not write like Tolstoy but I think I write rattling good yarns. But do not take my word for it. Go buy one of the books in either series and check them out. Now about Mark Julian’s wise-cracking secretary ….*wink*


L.G. Fabbo-Gonnella

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