Wednesday 16 August 2023

Treasure hunting

 A treasure hunt book has long been on my bucket list of "books I would like to write one day", The outline that lives in my head is set in London and involves landmarks like Tube stations, museums and Wren churches. That one would require clues to be written and all sorts of planning and plotting, which is probably why it is still on the bucket list. 

The ultimate treasure hunt in a book is probably Kit William's Masquerade - a book of clues in words and paintings published in 1979 that erupted into the real world and had thousands  of people from all over the globe hunting for a golden hare buried at dead of night. 

Its influence has provided some of the impetus recently for Erin Kelly's The Skeleton Key - with a particular focus on the way the hunt became an obsession with a large number of people. The story is  as much about the effects of the hunt as following the clues. The book also exerted an influence on Janet Hallett in writing The Twyford Code. 

Masquerade is also drifting about in my mind as a thread in one of the works I have rumbling around in my head at the  moment. Again about the hunters rather than the clues. I've been doing research into the history of Masquerade and the effects it had on the creator, Kit Williams, on author and long term quiz master of University Challenge, Bamber Gascoigne, who was the man chosen to witness the  burial - the Arch Bishop of Canterbury and the Governor of the Bank of England having been discounted as probably unavailable - the people in the publishing house and the hundreds of ordinary readers who took up the challenge as a full time hobby. Gascoigne wrote a book about it, which is fascinating reading and rather hair raising in places  on the lengths to which some people would go to pursue a pet theory. Whole families became involved, holidays were structured around digging expeditions, complex theories were invented and insisted upon, even sometimes in the face of denial by Williams. The jewel was eventually uncovered - a story in itself - but apparently even then there were hunters who did not wish to give up, thinking that there must still be more. 

I'm enjoying the research - don't anyone mention procrastination - it will only be a small element of the plot I have in mind, but I am having fun with it, which is the main thing. I don't think the result will be exactly fun, as the concept for this book is darker than the ones I have been writing recently. I hope it will be as gripping as I have found the research. 


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