I set my novel in 1950s Manhattan and did all of my research using the internet. Read about my visit to New York checking my settings and facts. Did I get it all right?
Having received an email offer for premium-class flights, I decided to grab it and double check my Google novel research. I touched down on New York soil with the story and headed for my hotel, the Paramount - October being the time when they offer half price deals. My hotel was ideal being just off the vibrant and colourful Times Square with the statue of impresario and songwriter George Cohen, so positioned to gaze down his Broadway.
A two day ticket for the hop-on hop-off bus was perfect for my research, so I head for Greenwich Village (Little Italy) and Mulberry Street. I needed a flat roof where a gangland killing happens - yes I found it – perfect; I love the iconic West Side Story fire-escapes as they play an important part in my story. Unfortunately I was too late for their San Gennaro Street Festival. This eighty year old festival attracts two million people and lasts for ten days starting mid September. It has two colourful parades and the food stalls spread into all the side streets of Greenwich Village.
My two main characters, Frederic and Stella, meet at a concert in Carnegie Hall the prestigious musical venue; so naturally I had to attend a concert there. Amazingly I managed to book the actual seat I picked for Freddie in the story (www.carnegiehall.org). My concert was by the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Charles Dutoit with a young Chinese pianist, Yuja Wang, playing Prokofiev’s exciting and dramatic Piano Concerto No.2. Carnegie Hall is beautiful, the atmosphere exciting and the acoustics brilliant. Before the concert I had English Tea with cakes at the delightful Petrossian Boutique in 7th.Avenue, two minutes from Carnegie and I understand their sister restaurant Petrossian is worth a visit just two doors away.
Next morning I walk into Chinatown where Freddie takes Stella. They eat in Hester Street which I found vibrant and exciting with almost any food dish that you fancy. The Palazzo Ristorante I found particularly good and friendly, and for a decent coffee try Triamisau Little Italy. There are so many varied places to eat that it would need a separate article to cover them all.
I continue into the Financial District of Wall Street, so named because of the wooden wall built to protect the Dutch from the Brits. I need to look at Pine Street because this is where I set up the bank robbery. Just round a corner from Pine Street is Wall Street Stock Exchange with the huge American flag draped across its front. Just nearby is the statue of George Washington and Federal Hall with its imposing Parthenon columns. It was here on April 30 1789 that George Washington was sworn in as the First President. It is worth seeing the domed ceiling under which the United States Bill of Rights was adopted on September 25 1789. It is in this area where I kept stumbling upon different camera crews filming the latest TV series.
Grand Central Station is where my Mafia ‘hit man’ blows his cover with a violent killing. Shame to call it a station as it is so beautiful with several levels holding a food market hall and shops. The main concourse is fascinating and after 9/11 the American flag hangs from the beautifully astronomical painted domed ceiling. The star attraction is the four-sided clock above the info booth worth an estimated 10-20 million dollars - wow! I ate in one of the many super restaurants and this marble 'Emporium' should be on any tourist list.
Hopkins Square, or East Village, is where Stella has her apartment overlooking the park - a delightful area of trees and shade, children’s fun-area, people strolling and reading. I enjoyed watching a group of retired men playing chess.
I took the Metro to Brooklyn to see Freddie's home; yes Freddie would definitely live there. The houses are very attractive with tree-lined streets. The Metro is user friendly and I found it very clean, efficient and eight dollars buys you four journeys with no distance-zones.
I made a forty minute walk over the iconic Brooklyn Bridge as I had Stella and Frederic walk across on their wedding day. During my short visit to Manhattan the only time it rained was when I started my walk. This is amazing because they also walked across huddled under an umbrella. As I raised my umbrella I spied the brand new Queen Mary 2. This was spooky because in my story they had watched the old Queen Mary depart. At the Brooklyn end you look across at the building where they print the monthly Watch Tower and, with a circulation of over 37 million, it has the largest distribution in the world.
In my six days I also managed to be a tourist. I caught the ‘Miss Ellis Island’ ferry to sail around the Statue of Liberty en route to Ellis Island with the amazing New York skyline beyond; the first sight welcoming those twelve million immigrants to the ‘city with gold-covered pavements’.
Ground Zero is, of course, a sobering place and I couldn’t help thinking of where I was at that time. The United Nations building somehow looked rather plain, but maybe I am only used to seeing it soaring up dramatically behind a TV reporter. I also saw the iconic steam from the underground 160Kms grid system, heating New York since 1882.
I admired the house where Bette Davis lived with ‘one of her husbands’, the Rockefeller Centre with the outdoor ice rink and the talented skaters displaying their skills and Central Park with its amazing gigantic boulders deposited from the Laurentide Glacier that covered Manhattan thousands of years before. I chatted to a friendly policeman and admired his beautiful black horse; four years old being trained for the city traffic. He, as yet, didn’t have a name - just 909 - I wanted to call him 999. I took an exciting helicopter ride with Liberty Helicopters along the Hudson River. www.libertyhelicopterstours.com.
There were so many other interesting places to see but I guess that would have to be ‘another story’. I only had to make a couple of location alterations to my novel, and as such, my original Google research was a triumph!