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Jill by Amy Dillwyn, (Honno Welsh Women’s Classics, 2013, first published 1884)

Amy Dillwyn’s novel, Jill , introduces one of the most entertaining heroines I’ve come across in a long time. She’s selfish, ruthless, cynical, and often funny; a character who is a far cry from the “girl-heroines” of the novels she’s brought up on with their gleefully-rejected models of femininity. Dismissing these “sentimental and goody” story books, Jill narrates instead a picaresque romp of disguises, bandits, gothic settings, outlandish and comical characters (a woman terrified of germs, another who cares only for her dogs, a ridiculous spinster, a lazy butler), unexpected turns of fortune, and romance.   Jill overthrows conventions at every turn. The book opens with her challenge to the idea that “men are more apt to be of an adventurous disposition than women”, and goes on to disprove the assertion through its account of her own startling adventures. Christened Gilbertina Trecastle (her parents had hoped for a boy who they planned to name in honour of her maternal grandfather,
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True Crime and Fiction: the cases behind the Dan Foster Mysteries

The Dan Foster Mysteries follow the adventures of Bow Street Runner Dan Foster from the 1790s. It’s a series that depends on a steady supply of crimes, and though I’m free to invent what I like, it’s important that those crimes are historically plausible. Many crimes no longer exist – returning from transportation, for example, or highway robbery. Where they do still exist, methods have changed: burglars don’t often have to remove shutters from windows before they can break in, and arsonists don’t rely on a tinderbox to get a fire going. That’s why many of the cases mentioned in the Dan Foster Mysteries are based on actual investigations carried out by the Bow Street Runners. In The Chiff-Chaff Club Murders: A Dan Foster Mystery Novella   (free to newsletter subscribers; see below ) I’ve used two cases. The first is based on the prosecution of thirty-eight year old Thomas Cannon and thirty-two year old James Coddington in 1808, which depended on the laws against sodomy – laws which