A quick tip about historical settings, or rather one historical setting

I’m working on a story set in 1943 Los Angeles, and by way of research and curiosity I read Raymond Chandler’s short story, “The Lady in the Lake,” published in 1943.

I was looking for clear indicators of the 1943 setting. There were few. Some depictions of a lightly developed LA neighborhood that’s probably quite developed today. The procedure for placing phone calls. A Glendale phone number being listed in the Other Cities phone book. But no contemporary popular culture references. Very little slang.

Chandler’s prose, of course, is a thing of its time, but I don’t know if that’s so much a reflection of the time as the fact that his style sort of came to define the time.

The one thing that did clearly mark the era was smoking. Everyone smokes. All the time. Outdoors, indoors, standing still, in motion. It’s as much a marker of 1943 as horses and carriages would be of 1843.

You wanna set something in 1943? Lean on the smoking.

About Greg van Eekhout

Greg van Eekhout is the author of the novels California Bones, The Boy at the End of the World, Kid vs. Squid, Norse Code, and other stuff.
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