Research Fallout: Vintage New York City

Regular readers of Pegasus Pulp e-books may have noticed that two of our series, the Adventures of the Silencer and New York City’s Finest (yes, it will be a series eventually), are both set in New York City, albeit eighty years apart.

As you may have noticed, Pegasus Pulp Publishing‘s headquarters are nowhere near New York City and not even on the same continent in fact, hence both series require a certain amount of geographical research. The research for New York City’s Finest is somewhat easier, since the series is set in the present day, so Google Streetview is enormously helpful. For example, the Times Square scene in New York City’s Finest was near derailed by the fact that part of Times Square is now a pedestrian zone (which it definitely wasn’t the last time I visited) and that the steaming coffee cup advert I so clearly remembered (and which shows up in several movies) is gone as well, hence Jo brings her cab to an abrupt halt right underneath the steaming cocoa mug of the Hershey Chocolate World store. Hey, it’s not as if I’m forcing her to actually drink the stuff.

Researching geographical features for the Silencer series poses an additional problem, because the Silencer stories are set in the 1930s, i.e. at a time when New York City looked very different than it does today. In fact, several of the locations featured in the various stories are completely fictional. The Radcliffe apartment building on Central Park West, as featured in Elevator of Doom, does not exist, nor do the Metropolitan Hotel and the Hotel Mandalay from Elevator of Doom and The Spiked Death respectively. And of course there never was an airship taxi service in Manhattan, as described in Flying Bombs.

Sometimes however, you need or want a dose of reality. Never mind that real world locations can inspire stories. So here are some of my favourite sites for researching historical New York City:

James Lileks’ New York City pages offer an enormous collection of vintage postcards among other things. I also love his Times Square through the decades feature which actually inspired an upcoming Silencer story. Word of warning though, enjoy James Lileks’ collection of vintage imagery (his site is chock full of stunning and hilarious vintage stuff), but never ever make the mistake to read his blog.

Gotham Lost and Found is a blog devoted to tracing the history of old buildings and lost places in New York City.

Ephemeral New York is a blog that features vintage images and historical buildings.

Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York is a blog featuring places that either are already gone or are about to close down.

Forgotten New York focusses on old buildings, bridges, lampposts, signs, etc… which are still standing (for now) decades after they were built.

The Bowery Boys is actually a podcast focussing on New York City history, but they have a blog as well.

Capital New York‘s “Lost Foods of New York City” column is useful, if I need something for the characters to eat or a place for them to go. Plus, the column includes recipes, so you can even cook some of those tasty looking lost foods.

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