I love me some Sue Grafton, author of the Kinsey Millhone detective series. I’m reading the paperback edition of U is for Undertow, and I just marvel at how Grafton works so well with different decades.
Here’s the degree of difficulty: The book was published in 2010, and is set in 1988. Then there are flashbacks to the 1960s and even the 1950s. As a reader, it’s a fun puzzle to watch unfold. As a writer, it must be tremendously frustrating to have to get all the details right about each of those ages, especially now, more than 20 years after the time period.
What’s that, you say? Well, yes, people who write historical fiction have to go farther back than that in their works, but here’s the thing: If I’m reading historical fiction, I wouldn’t be able to tell whether the knights in England used different bridle bits than the ones in France (they probably did). The thing is that the AUTHOR has to know those things or get laughed at by some professor of 18th Century Colloquialisms at Edingburdht-on-the-Heath University or whatever. Most of the audience would never know he or she got it wrong. And in the end, it wouldn’t matter to the story.
But I lived through the 80s. They still have a distinct flavor and feel to me. And Grafton does such a great job capturing the mid- to late-80s — and not only that, but easily and smoothly incorporating that time period into her story. It’s a thing of beauty, I tell ya.