A few years ago, I was a frequent visitor to the Alhambra Palace in Granada. One of my favourite books about the place was ‘Tales of the Alhambra’ by Washington Irving. Irving is better known as the writer of Rip Van Winkle and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. This book however tells of his time spent in Granada when he lived in the Alhambra itself. In 1827 the Alhambra was a ruin inhabited only by the local gypsies and Washington Irving on his travels through Spain simply moved into an area of the palace that was empty. The book that he subsequently wrote included legends and stories that he heard from those gypsy occupants.
Back in 2007, I bought a box of random books at an auction in Carlisle. Some of them I read immediately but some simply went onto the book shelves to be read at a later date. One day after I had moved to Brittany in 2010, I picked up one of these books and started to read it. It was leather bound, in two volumes and looked to be a first edition by an unknown author. It was called ’The Alhambra’ by Geoffrey Crayon but it really puzzled me because although I didn’t recognise the author’s name, I was sure that I had read it before. Sure enough, when I got down the book ‘Tales of the Alhambra’ by Washington Irving and compared them, the two were identical – word for word. Now here was a puzzle. Was this Geoffrey Crayon guilty of massive plagiarism? It didn’t take much research to discover that in fact, Washington Irving had used the pen name ‘Geoffrey Crayon’ to write some of his works and by sheer fluke, I was now the owner of a first edition by Washington Irving.
The Washington Irving story becomes even more interesting when you learn that in Paris in the 1820’s, he was romantically pursued by a certain Mary Shelley who had moved there following the death by drowning of her husband, the poet Percy Shelley.
Even the dates fitted in with the narrative of my story. How could I not make use of these characters? So I did.