COZY MYSTERY VS HISTORICAL COZY MYSTERY
Well, sure! We know the difference! One story is in the past. Duh!
No. Wait a minute! That is not all there is to this comparison! ! I have a cozy mystery series that takes place in the late 1930s, in Boston. Let’s just look at a few things!
Communication: Nowadays, the sleuth can quickly find information. She can look it up on goggle, she can Facebook clues. If worse comes to worse, she can make a phone call, no matter where she is. If she finds a clue, she can call up her friends to come to wherever she is and see the clue, also. (Since such a large proportion of sleuths in cozy mysteries are women, I am using the female pronoun. Sorry, guys!) Not in 1939. Looking for clues was much more time consuming. Listening to radio broadcasts would be exhausting, waiting for the few minutes of news on the hour and half hour. The other option was waiting for the morning or evening newspaper, delivered to almost every home. For public information, the library or the newspaper archive office could help you find an article, assuming the sleuth has that much time. Finding a clue and notifying friends, or help, would involve looking for a bar or a drugstore that had a public phone (in a little booth with glass doors) and, maybe, waiting in line for the next available booth. The other possibility would be to go home and, if lucky, the sleuth has a phone. Can you even describe a phone from the 1930s?
But what about phone numbers? In today’s phones are all the users contact numbers. And, if the user needs an unknown number, they can look it up right on the phone. My sister sleuths have to pull out the oversized Boston phone directory and dial in each digit separately. Of course, the pay phone must be fed its nickel before anything rings through. What places already had dial phones and what places only had four-digit numbers that you had to read out to the operator?
Travel: The one thing that hasn’t changed too much from the 1930s. Cars, planes, buses, taxis. All are available now, and then, too. My sleuths are lucky enough to have their own car. And live within a short walking distance of downtown Boston. Having a cozy mystery in 1930s Texas or Oklahoma would be difficult for no other reason than the roads were awful and the public transportation didn’t exist.
Writing: People, now, can keep notes on their phones. If not that, they can grab their 99-cent ballpoint pen and a piece of paper and write down what they want. Ballpoint pens did not exist until the end of WWII. Everyone used pencils or fountain pens. Cartridges for fountain pens did not come out til the early 50s. And refilling a pen with ink half-way through recording clues was limiting. Did everyone carry a bottle of ink in their purses? There were not any zip lock bags to avoid spills!
Finding places: We all use GPS now to find our way around. And sleuths of cozy mysteries tend to live in small towns where they know where everything is. Boston, where my sleuths live, is the exception. They need maps to find all the streets. Remember those?
Being dressed for sleuthing: People wear anything they want, now. Jeans, sweats, dresses, heels, sneakers …. But, if you are following a perpetrator, even if following by car, you want to be dressed for the chase. Back in the 30s, women dressed for style. And that meant dresses and heels when they went out. That is hardly the outfit for running or climbing over a wall. The “chase” had to be done another way.
Being in a modern-day cozy mystery is much easier for the characters than being in a mystery that has been placed in the past. But writing the historical ones, once you know the limitations, is in some ways more fun.