This week I began to sculpt the third chapter of my current book, Anticipation in the Valley, in which the first prison scene comes to life.

Here's a question for you: did prison guards (and were they even called that in the late 1870s/early 1880s?) carry a bully club, billy stick, policeman's club, cosh, nightstick, sap, blackjack, stick, cudgel, truncheonor...or was it called a protection wand?

Huh. I had no clue there were so many different names for this one item, but it felt important enough to the feel of my current story that I researched high and low for answers and explanations. (Sometimes I go on tangents that way.)

What I came up with was this: Dictionary dot com claims the billy club found its origin somewhere between 1945-50 and Wikipedia claims the phrase originated "in 1848, American English, originally burglars' slang for "crowbar;" [the] meaning "policeman's club" first recorded 1856".

As a reader, I want to be assured what I'm feeding my brain is correct; as the author, it's my job to make sure my readers receive that correct information! So what are we authors to do when we find such a huge discrepancy in a time period when it comes to the origin of these important words and phrases?

 In this instance, I thought back to those old Jack the Ripper movies from when I was a kid; the London officers carried "billy clubs". I remember that phrase in the movies. Jack the Ripper committed his crimes in late 1888.

I'm using the term "billy club" in Anticipation. (If anyone comes to me after publication with a rebuttal on the subject, I shall refer them to this blog post.)

We'll see what I stumble across in the next few days. Until then, keep those books and minds open - accurate knowledge is important!