The building you see in this photo housed the Italian Consulate in Shanghai in the 1930s.
The climax of the first part of my book happens here.
Now, I know, I know, I can make things up – I’m a writer, I work in the business of creation – but…
Oh, drat – the big action sequence that tops the first third of my novel takes place in here.
And this is a historica place, it’s real.
So I wasted a few hours looking for the plans of the building.
So I got me a detailed description of the place where the building used to be (on the corner of Bubbling Well Road and Chengdou Road North).
I got the name of the British architects that designed the building – the same guys that designed the famous Astor House.
I found out that the Italian Embassy gardens bordered the Chengdou Police Barracks… yeah – nice place to stage a big brawl and a shootout and ninja-thon: next door of the place where a few hundred cops are sleeping.
And this being the International Sector, we are talking British Cops – as in tough, competent Sikhs.
Way to go, Dr Mana!
Oh, and yes – the actual Chengdou North Police Station was in front of the Italian Consulate.
I also have a full layout of the embassy garden, and a sketchy map of the out-buildings in the compound.
But I still missed the actual plan of the place – or at least a viable photo.
Searches with Google Images brought me photos of the Russian Embassy in Berlin and the German Consulate in Hong Kong, but no Italian Consulate in Shanghai, 1936.
Then my brother – who is, after all, the certified orientalist in this family – solved my problem.
We translated in Chinese the string “Italian Consulate Bubbling Well Road Shanghai” (“意大利驻上海静安寺路好” – thanks, Google Translate!) and then searched that string in Google Images.
And we got a hit – a Chinese page (thanks, Google Translate!) with photos and historical notes.
So now I have something to fuel my story – and I can do a description of the place that’s not just fluff.
Nice and smooth (well, mostly).