Much of the Great London Conspiracy is recorded in the history books - and little wonder. Upon writing the story, there was only one rule - the fictional narrative had to weave in and out of recorded history.
The Great London Conspiracy is a fictional story. But the only truly fictional aspect - as far as we know - is the society and book at the heart of the story. William Jacomb, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Thomas Brereton and Daniel Gooch - not to mention many others - were very much real, and, where possible, are influenced in the narrative from letters and documents filed when they were alive. These are just some of the real life stories behind the book's characters.
William Jacomb was the Supervising Engineer - and assistant - to Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and one of the youngest assistants he had ever had at the time. He oversaw the construction of the Great Eastern, and was instrumental in building Paddington Railway Station.
Later on in life, he went on to work as a consultant to many engineering projects in Westminster, was an inspecting engineer for the first Underground Railway, and would later go on to be the Chief Resident Engineer of the South Western Railway for over 18 years.
While Jacomb was celebrated and well liked by his peers, he isn't well recorded or remembered. In The Great London Conspiracy, Jacomb writes from his desk at the end of his life, in 1888. He is the man whom Brunel entrusted his knowledge to - and writes of his time as a naive young student trying to make sense of the world.
(The above photograph is a subject of debate - but we think we have the answer!)
Isambard Kingdom Brunel is often regarded as history's greatest engineer. The designer of the three largest and most advanced steamships of his day - the SS Great Western, SS Great Britain and the SS Great Eastern, Brunel also built over 1,000 miles of railway line in England, a flatpack hospital for use in the Crimean War, the docks of Bristol and Cardiff... the list goes on. He was also famously intemperate, perfectionist and difficult to work with - and often rather over-enthusiastic. Many of his projects were not successful - but made many strides into improving the world around him, and bringing it closer together.
The Great London Conspiracy sees Brunel at the end of his life - struggling with the world's largest man made moving object, and his 'Great Babe' - the SS Great Eastern.
Daniel Gooch was one of the first men to stand up to Brunel in the field of engineering. When he joined the GWR as a Superintendent at only age 20, he wrote a scathing report on Brunel's locomotives.
Brunel was furious - but impressed. The two quickly became best friends, and would be for life. Brunel placed him in charge of locomotives for the railway, and Daniel skilfully redesigned, rebuilt and redistributed the GWR's motive power to create one of the most efficient railways in the world.
Daniel Gooch was very emotionally invested in preserving Brunel's creations after his passing, and worked tirelessly to keep the SS Great Eastern operable - including purchasing the ship and recommending it for the purpose of laying the Transatlantic Telegraph Cable - a voyage for which he was on board.
Robert Brereton gave more to Brunel's projects than many would ever dare - including one of his eyeballs.
With his distinctive eyepatch, energy and expertise, Robert Pearson Brereton worked tirelessly on the GWR's work sites, developing Brunel's plans for railways with incredible vigour. Brunel was highly complimentary towards him, making Brereton one of the only other gentlemen to regularly work at his Duke Street drawing office.
Even after Brunel's death, Robert continued constructing railways from Brunel's old office - having being left a great deal of professional assets in his master's will. The result was one of the most acclaimed railway engineers of his day.
Brereton is another historical figure whom is dangerously close to being forgotten. In The Great London Conspiracy, he finds himself exhausted, reluctant and fearful, following the death of Brunel. He suddenly realises his own legacy has little to his name that is not first attributed to his old friend.
Robert Stephenson is in no danger of being forgotten. The man attributed with designing the modern railway, Robert and his father created the Rocket, and with it the blueprint for steam locomotives that would prevail for over a century.
He was a good friend of Isambard Kingdom Brunel in real life, despite being fierce business rivals, and the two worked with eachother in close quarters on engineering projects.
Stephenson fell ill during a visit to the SS Great Eastern, and never properly recovered. He died a few weeks after Brunel himself, and garnered much of the limelight as the builder of Britain.
In The Great London Conspiracy, Stephenson is a polar opposite to his rival - an even-tempered, patient and friendly grandfatherly figure, eager to see Jacomb prosper and join in the fight he and Brunel have started.
Samuel Lucas is a figure that should, by rights, be far more prominent in history. One of the early abolitionists in the United Kingdom, Samuel Lucas was a trendsetter in the world of equal rights, activism and campaigning.
A fierce journalist with a strong sense of justice, Samuel Lucas was the editor of the only national newspaper to take the side of the Unionists in the American Civil War. He also extensively fought for the right to public schooling in England, and against the Corn Law.
A humanitarian through and through, it's unlikely that Samuel Lucas, Jacomb et al ever met in reality - and there is no evidence of him taking interest in Brunel's death, but he's so criminally forgotten that the author set out to involve him in the tale very early on in The Great London Conspiracy's development.
His wife, Margaret Bright, would go on to take his causes even further, with an incredible vigour - she would become one of the first public members of the Suffrage movement.
The portrait alongside is the only properly attributed visual record of the man - displaying him as part of a crowd in 1840 as part of the Anti-Slavery Society Convention - captured by Benjamin Robert Haydon.