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History Buff is a site
for history lovers everywhere. It is also a site very interested in women
of the past. Although I (sadly) no longer have time to continue these interviews, here is an archive of Q&As about women's lives
in history. And please feel free to stop by History Buff's
sister site for archaeological discoveries making news today. Enjoy!
historical fiction writer I am fascinated by news stories featuring the
past as it's unearthed and reimagined and brought to life. I spend a
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Sunday, September 16, 2007
Q&A With Historical Thriller Author Tess Gerritsen
* Your thrillers have become NYT Bestsellers, but THE BONE GARDEN is your first historical thriller. The novel is set in both the present day and 19th century Boston where a seventeen year old seamstress named Rose Connolly must try and stop a killer. What was it about the 1800s that fascinated you?
* How much of THE BONE GARDEN is based on fact and how much is fiction?
* Tell us something surprising about women in 19th century America.
Because of a shortage of anatomical specimens, medical schools of that era were forced to scrounge up cadavers from wherever they could find them. Executed criminals were automatically relegated to the anatomist’s knife, but there weren’t nearly enough of those to fulfill the needs of the schools. So a ghoulish trade sprang up involving body snatchers, otherwise known as “resurrectionists,” who’d sneak into cemeteries after dark and dig up newly interred bodies. The going rate for a body at the time was around $20 – a large enough sum to keep the trade thriving. Students themselves would often do the snatching themselves, and in fact it became something of a rite of passage for doctors-in-training, to sneak into cemeteries and dig up their prizes. So many medical schools were springing up in New York and Pennsylvania that the schools began to import bodies from the south, many of them no doubt deceased slaves. As the trade of snatching grew, naturally the parallel trade of grave protection also grew, paid for by families anxious to protect their deceased loved ones. Wealthy families could pay for armed guards and iron cages or locked tombs to protect the dead. It was the poor – isn’t it always the poor? – who suffered the worst indignities.
* Is THE BONE GARDEN the beginning of a series, and if not, what are you working on next?