Embalming as been around for thousands of years in many different forms but I didn't want to write anything set in the world of antiquity. I was more interested in the techniques employed during the last one hundred and fifty years or so. It will come as no surprise to know the Victorian era provided a great deal of research material.
The embalmer's "kit" above shows some of the more interesting instruments they used around the turn of the century.
Formaldehyde is the chemical of choice in today's embalming world but it wasn't discovered until 1866. This resulted in a lot of experiments using alternative substances - creosote, Arsenic, Mercury and turpentine amongst many others. It was far from an exact science and the results, as you can imagine, were mixed. Very mixed.
Nevertheless, the early pioneers soldiered on and great strides were made, resulting in the position we have today. Whilst embalming will never preserve a body entirely, it can delay the natural order of decomposition by some considerable time. Some have sought to find ways to extend this period for whatever means they desire...
A great number of books have been set in and around the world of undertaker's because it is a world which lends itself to literature very nicely, particularly the world of horror literature.
The Undertaker's cabinet is a full length novel and two thirds are set in a modern, imaginary town called Littleoak. I enjoyed writing something set in a modern world as I've been immersed in Victoriana for the last year. However...
The remainder of the story is set in mid-nineteenth century London and writing these parts was an absolute joy. I think writing this book has made me realise how much I enjoy writing in that context and has solidified my plans for 2014.
I hope you've enjoyed this brief post and watch out for The Undertaker's Cabinet in February!