Vintage Photos Inform Author Emma Donoghue's Racy Murder Mystery 'Frog Music'

While fact-checking Current contributor Leigh Baldwin's review of Frog Music, I happened upon author Emma Donoghue's blog post for The New Yorker titled Inspiration Information: "Frog Music." While Donoghue's description of sifting through newspaper and genealogical databases sheds light on her approach to writing historical fiction, the visual influences she cites—everything from fashion plates and popular songs of the mid-Victorian era to Mark Twain and the vintage photographs below—add a layer of intrigue to Frog Music, which features dozens of real people and surrounds the 1876 death of Jenny Bonnet—a singer who caught frogs for the restaurant trade and was routinely arrested for “wearing the attire of the other sex.”


Jenny Bonnet’s sole item of property at the time of her death—a Colt pistol she used to flash in bars.


Not Jenny Bonnet but likeminded dresser Anita Garibaldi, who inspired the 1952 film Red Shirts.


Jules Léotard inspired Donoghue to make the character Arthur a trapeze artist.


According to Donoghue, much of her sense of what life in 19th-century America might've been like came from Mark Twain (shown here at his 70th birthday dinner) and Walt Whitman.

Photographs: Colt revolver, by David E. Scherman/Time Life Pictures/Getty; Jules Léotard in Kleidung; Anita Garibaldi in Rome, 1849, by Leemage/UIG/Getty; Mark Twain’s seventieth birthday dinner, photograph by Culture Club/Getty.

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