Foul Trade: the untold stories

Book cover for Foul Trade by BK Duncan

A behind the scenes look at the world of May Keaps

As a reporter on the East End News, Jack finds it instructive to compile character dossiers on those people who might, one day, prove useful. May, of course, falls into that category so here is Jack’s take on her:

Foul Trade by BK Duncan. Character dossier: May Keaps


Jack will be adding insights on the rest of the people he has got to know in Poplar when the fancy takes him. So take a peek into his notebook from time to time because you never know when it might contain a secret or two of what is going on beneath the surface.

Jack’s character assassinations

Foul Trade book club topics

Would you like some author input for your book club discussion? Choose from aspects of oral history, Great War experiences, key research topics, or the themes I am drawn to exploring.

more book club topics

Explore the other books in the May Keaps series:

The Last Post

Found Drowned

Examine the background that went into the writing of Foul Trade. Delve into the entire catalogue of topics for all my books:

Research category

Or target specifics:

Research for the May Keaps series

Women in the 1920s

As well as the May Keaps series, you may also be interested in the Rhythms in Crime Dance Quartet or Walls of Silence


It wasn't all Downton Abbey by BK Duncan

It wasn’t all Downton Abbey by BK Duncan

History as nostalgic entertainment will always be with us.

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1920's women. Mother reading to her children.

“It was as if every man you had ever danced with was dead.”

The ‘Surplus Women problem’ was hotly debated in the 1920s.

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Oscar Kirk's 1919 diary

An East End voice

The research for Foul Trade really came alive

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Still from Wellcome film on shell-shock treatment in WW1


I’d always had a horrified fascination

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BK Duncan on novel Foul Trade. Cambridge TV

BK Duncan on Foul Trade

Interview for Cambridge TV July 2016

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Beneath Foul Trade

It’s often the odd or obscure things

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Vintage gramophone. Researching novels by Ruth Wade / BK Duncan

How do I research?

The easy answer is that in researching novels, I use every method at my disposal.

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Historical fiction. Edwardian family. From Ruth Wade collection

The past in the present

Hilary Mantel’s thoughts on historical fiction chime with mine.  

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Oak tree on brown. Pastel by Ruth Wade

Poplar and Limehouse

Mostly I used the 1914 OS maps

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Vintage medical field kit. Wellcome foundation.

Murder and medics

So what did they do before DNA?

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Yellow sailing boasts on blue. Pastel by Ruth Wade

London docklands

If you want to learn about what made London

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Poplar Street party for Peace Day 1919. BK Duncan

It was never to be the coming of peace

These residents of Poplar had little money to spare

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Peach oak tree. Pastel by Ruth Wade representing East End communities. BK Duncan

East End communities

Limehouse was London’s original Chinatown. 

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Theatre card for Tivoli 1933. BK Duncan

Music halls and all things theatrical, darling

I’ve always been fascinated by the theatrical life of yesteryear. 

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The Fishing Smack, Cold Harbour. Poplar pubs and waterside taverns

Poplar pubs and waterside taverns

Pubs and taverns have always held a special place in the community 

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Red and navy saloon cars on green. Pastel by Ruth Wade

Libraries: Poplar’s palaces of learning

Books and leisure time in which to read them were precious commodities

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Blue racing car on orange. Pastel by Ruth Wade

Slang and cant decoded

Language forms the platform for the words that come and go in fashion.

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Blue racing car on brown. Pastel by Ruth Wade

Slang and cant: the words and the music

Much of my research is around language. In fact, all my writing starts and finishes with the words I choose to use.

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Women swapping stories at summer fete. Oral history. Research Ruth Wade

“I remember her wearing this, what a fright . . .”

Oral history is people telling stories. Storytelling.

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Author collection 1912 Ruth Wade

Gazing into the eye of the beholder

One of the challenges of writing historical fiction is that we can’t know

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