East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Where the streets have no name

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As I mentioned a few days back, I am working on my (first?) story for the Pro Se Productions “St Germain Project”, in which I will have to give new life to a character that was first and last published in 1938 – if she was actually published at all, because as it was explained to me, the publisher practically died as the first issues of its various magazines were en-route between the printing presses and the newsstands.

So I am working on notes based on what we know, and as it usually happens in these cases, there are a few things we know in high detail, and quite a lot that are necessarily vague.
And some were kept vague by choice – such as, the city in which the action takes place.

If you think about it, it sort of makes sense – giving too much local flavor might turn the stories into “local interest” fiction. Pulp fiction was often very rich in exotic detail, but wanted to be as Anytown, USA as possible when in came to domestic fiction.

Granted, there were exceptions – Ray Chandler’s L.A., as seen through the cynical and yet romantic eyes of Philip Marlowe, was almost a recurring character in the novels. But while he published in the pulps, Chandler was playing in a very different league than many of the hacks he had to share the magazines with. The same goes for authors like John D. MacDonald and what he did for Florida, but once again we are talking of pulpsters that transcended pulp. Probably the original author of “my” series was not the transcending type.

And so “my” character (her name’s Mercy, by the way), will have to move in an unspecified city. And I can work with that – indeed the idea of an unspecified location gave me a few ideas. I could build my location with landmarks from different places, like Dario Argento did with Deep Red – a movie nominally set in Rome but actually shot in Rome, Turin and Perugia, creating a sort of Frankenstein Monster of a city. And it could be a good way to first, simplify my research and help avoid being called out by those that actually know and maybe even live in those places, and second, a sort of game for the readers … guess the city/cities.

A little spot in my hometown made famous by Dario Argento.

So, the first thing I did was look around for the most common street names in the US, as reference in building my own map of the setting.
In case you are curious, here they are…

  1. Second (10,866)
  2. Third (10,131)
  3. First (9,898)
  4. Fourth (9,190)
  5. Park (8,926)
  6. Fifth (8,186)
  7. Main (7,644)
  8. Sixth (7,283)
  9. Oak (6,946)
  10. Seventh (6,377)
  11. Pine (6,170)
  12. Maple (6,103)
  13. Cedar (5,644)
  14. Eighth (5,524)
  15. Elm (5,233)
  16. View (5,202)
  17. Washington (4,974)
  18. Ninth (4,908)
  19. Lake (4,901)
  20. Hill (4,877)

The numbers is how many streets called that way can be found in the US.
So I have a loose framework, and with streets that have numbers instead of names (some people are weird like that), keeping it generic will be easier.
Then, photo references, via Pinterest, and focusing on the characters.
I will not probably transcend the genre, but who knows… for sure I will not have to spend lots of time and money on books, guidebooks and maps like I did for Shanghai (for The Ministry of Thunder) or India (for Hope & Glory).

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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