Maps in Books

by Barb, who’s headed in for knee replacement surgery tomorrow

I have a friend who says, “No book with a map in it can ever be all bad,” to which I heartily reply, “Amen!” I’ve loved books that contain maps going back to reading my mother’s 1935 edition of Winnie the Pooh.

dwell-nyt-best-3More recently, I’ve so enjoyed the maps by Laura Hartman Maestro in Deborah Crombie’s books. When a new book comes out, I’m excited to read the mystery and to see what has happened to Gemma and Duncan, because I am a huge fan and have been from the beginning of the series. But I’m also excited to see the map. I examine it before I start reading because Maestro’s hand-drawn maps are so aesthetically pleasing, but the maps don’t mean much before I’ve begun the book. It’s going back to them that gives me so much pleasure, layer upon layer over the course of the story. If you haven’t seen these wonderful maps, they are here. You can click on them to enlarge them.

thecuttingseasonI once startled Attica Locke at a book signing at Newtonville Books, when I opened The Cutting Season and exclaimed, “A map by Laura Hartman Maestro!” Attica was gracious, explaining that her publisher thought it was important for her readers to be able to visualize the “living history” sugar plantation where the story takes place.

So when I read that Minotaur was doing a giveaway of a map of Three Pines, the fictional town at the center of Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache mysteries, I was all over it. All you had to do to enter was to fill out a form telling Minotaur where you pre-ordered the latest, The Nature of the Beast.

thenatureofthebeastThere was no question that I would buy The Nature of the Beast on release day. The prospect of having a Louise Penny novel to read over the long Labor Day weekend was too good to pass up. And I knew where I would purchase it–our local bookstore in Boothbay Harbor–Sherman’s Books & Stationery. So bing, bang, boom, I entered.

Two weeks ago a flat package from Minotaur showed up in my mail. I honestly wondered what it was, so much time had gone by. So it was a delightful surprise to open the flatpack and find my copy of the map of Three Pines.

It’s copyrighted, and I’ve looked all over the web to see if they’re using it promotionally, but couldn’t find it, so I’m not going to post it on the blog. You can see the piece of the draft they used to promote it here.

Louise Penny has said she resisted having a map done for years because she wanted readers to picture Three Pines in their own minds. This seems to me to be true for any well-rendered fictional location, but particularly so for Three Pines, which Penny tells us does not appear on any map or GPS. Even in the books, it is a place of the imagination. So, I opened the package with some trepidation.

mapofnethermonkslipThe Three Pines of the map is almost exactly as I had pictured it, which is a tribute to both Penny and the mapmaker, Rhys Davies–the same person who made this marvelous map for G.M. Malliet. I’m one to make up lots of stuff in my head–having clear pictures of characters and places that are sometimes at odds with what’s in the books. The houses of Three Pines weren’t labelled. Some I recognized instantly, but going forward I will need to pay more attention as various characters troop home from the bistro.

As for The Nature of the Beast–I loved it. It’s particularly appropriate that the map should come out now, because this book takes place entirely in Three Pines. Inspector Gamache has retired there, so there’s no back and forth in this book to Montreal or other parts of Canada.

All of this naturally made me wonder if I would ever like to have a map of Busman’s Harbor, the fictional location of my Maine Clambake Mysteries. As the series progresses, the town gets richer and fuller. We find out in Clammed Up that Gleason’s Hardware with an apartment above it is on Main Street, since several key scenes take place there. In Fogged Inn (Feb, 2016) we learn that next to Gleason’s is the double storefront of Walker’s Art Supplies and Frameshop. And on the corner of Main and Main, at the only stoplight in town, where Main Street curves back around, hugging the shape of the harbor hill and crosses itself, is Gordon’s Jewelry. Gus’s restaurant is in the back harbor, along with the marina, the shipbuilders, and Bud Barbour’s marine repair shop which appeared in Boiled Over. In Fogged Inn we learn that the Busman’s Harbor Yacht Club is also there. And then there’s what’s out on Eastclaw and Westclaw Points, and, of course, on Morrow Island.

So I think a map would be fun, but probably premature. I’m still filling in the town.

What about you, readers. Maps of fictional places, yay or nay?

60 Thoughts

  1. I love maps in books. They really help orient me to the locations mentioned and I refer to them often in the course of reading the book. I agree with you about the maps in Crombie’s books. They are a thing of wonder. I’ve also always loved the maps in Mercedes Lackey’s books, especially her Valdemar series. Good luck with the knee surgery. I’ll be thinking of you tomorrow.

  2. I never look at the maps, even though I know some are quite beautiful. I’ve read all of Crombie’s books, but looking at the map beforehand is like reading a cast of characters at the start of the book: I want to discover the people and places as I read and not be introduced to them before they mean anything to me. That said, it does make sense, Barb, to go back to the map as I read and afterwards, so I might try that with the next Gemma and Duncan. I’m reading G.M. Maillet’s first Max Tudor mystery now, too, after spending the day with her at a book festival yesterday, and am just getting to know Nether Monkslip. So maybe I’ll start paying attention to maps!

    In my own books, the only town I have made up from scratch is South Lick in the new Country Store Mysteries. So far I have a picture in my head of where everything is, but I think with the current book I’ll need to create a map. But I doubt I’ll ever put one in a book.

  3. I loved the Golden Age mysteries (mostly British) where the publisher/author included not only a map, but a floor plan of the manor house where all the nefarious activity took place, and a cast of characters (and that was back when I could still remember who was who!). Hmm…I might include a slightly fictional map for Philadelphia in the next Museum Mystery, as part of the plot.

    1. The floor plans of the mansion! How could I forget those? I love those, too, though I love floor plans in general, anywhere I find them in books or magazines or on the web, real or fictional.

  4. I love maps in books! I just pulled out For the Sake of Elena by Elizabeth George because I remembered how much I enjoyed mulling over the map of Cambridge while reading the book. It makes the story feel more real. Even better, I enjoy being able to explore places within a book in person. I was thrilled to visit the inspiration for Armistead Maupin’s Barbary Lane in Tales from the City. (By the way, he has a great interactive map of sites from his books on his website.)

    Barb, I think you can do a map and fill it in as you write additional books. Busman’s Harbor would have new stores, etc. opening and old ones closing, just like in any town. Now I’m thinking how much fun I could have in my books with maps of St John. Great post!

    1. While researching this post, I found out on the web there are tons of self-guided tours of the locations in the Eastern townships that inspired Louise Penny’s books. Which makes perfect sense, though I’d never thought of it.

  5. I like seeing the maps. I draw maps for my own books, but they’re only for me. I drew one for the fictional town of Spite in a previous (unpublished) book because I kept forgetting where everything was. And even though the upcoming To Brew Or Not To Brew is set in Pittsburgh, the block where Max’s brewpub is located is a figment of my imagination. I wanted to be sure to remember the exact layout.

    1. That’s interesting. I’ve drawn some rough maps during drafting of various clambake books to help me keep things straight, but I’ve never done it in a way that would be useful to anyone but me.

  6. I’d love to see a map of Busman’s Harbor. It’s such a great setting and I can picture it but seeing the claws of the Harbor would be fun! I draw little maps of Sarah’s apartment and the town even though it’s based on a real place. I realized halfway through writing The Longest Yard Sale. In my head the front door of Sarah’s apartment couldn’t be where I pictured it.

    1. That’s happened to me, too. I’ve had three different configurations for the driveway at Julia’s mother’s house in my head. Fortunately, I haven’t gotten that specific about it in the books.

  7. I can’t write without lots of maps and floorplans to remind me of where things are, but I’m not sure I need them as a reader. Some seem to be there just because previous books in the same series had maps. On the other hand, the historical novels I wrote as Kate Emerson all had maps and most were useful to let readers see where locations were in relation to each other (places Henry VIII visited on a royal progress, for example). Interesting post, Barb.


  8. Maps in books are one of my favorite reading pleasures, a lagniappe that adds another dimension to the story.

    In fact, I was just looking at a map of Nether Monkslip yesterday, having opened the last Max Tudor I’d read to check something. And I’m currently reading Louise Penny’s “How the Light Gets In”, wherein Chief Inspector Gamache is investigating a murder of a woman based on the famous Dionne Quints. I found myself wishing for a map of Three Pines. Failing that, a visit to that charmingly off the grid place.

  9. I love maps. Fictional ones and non-. The problem with maps, though, is if you use one early in a series, it doesn’t leave you room for the town to grow and for new buildings to be added. I once heard Julia Spencer-Fleming say that the town in her series is now much much bigger than it was in book one, as with each new crime and with more and more characters and businesses, things have tended to expand geographically. But as long as readers can suspend disbelief as a town grows from book to book, then they can enjoy series maps, as I do.

    As to non-fictional maps, I love looking at them, seeing how far things are from each other, how to get from one place to another. I once lived in a town I hated, and I spent a lot of time looking at maps, seeing all the roads that could take me away. Every road was a road to freedom. Love maps!

    1. I agree about getting boxed in by a map too early in the series, Barb. I’ve said before I love Ruth Rendell’s Kingsmarkham books in part because of the way the town, which starts as a market town, grows into a dense, diverse suburb of London. I guess it depends on where you’re writing about and whether the population is growing or declining in that area.

  10. I forgot the map of Middle Earth! When I first read the Ring Trilogy, I bought a poster-size version in Greenwich Village (which was tres cool when I was in high school), and I still have it–and walk past it every day.

  11. Barb, I also have always loved maps. A great calamity befell my map collection when I was living in Florida and the bottom of the water heater fell out and flooded the unpacked book boxes in the garage. I had maps from the library where I worked as a teenager, culled from the ones that were being discarded. So a definite “yay” on maps of fictional places!

    Best of luck with the knee surgery. Hope to hear excellent reports of a rapid recovery.

  12. Yes, I love maps in books. I refer back to them while reading. They help me to more clearly envision places I read about, and where they actually appear, and that helps my visual perception of the entire story. The ones you featured in your post are truly fascinating and intricately detailed.
    All the best to you with your knee surgery. I’m sure it will go fine and you’ll be up and running in no time. ( :

  13. I really don’t care about maps in books. The thing is, those maps always get it wrong. Or, if they get it right, are put in the book at the wrong orientation so it feels like the town is upside down. See, how I picture the town is how it really is. Heck, even the author can get it wrong. πŸ˜‰

    And just to show you how crazy my view of things is, in a favorite series I read as a kid, I learned I’d been mentally pronouncing one of the supporting character’s names wrong. I tried to correct that in my mind the next time I read a book in the series, but I just couldn’t do it. The name pronounced differently was a completely different person.

    1. I’m laughing, Mark, because I do the same thing! Stubbornly cling to mispronounced character names and to my own vision, regardless of the map! It is absolutely true that once a book leaves the author’s desk, it belongs to everyone else and their unique vision of it.

  14. I, too, love maps in books, and I was amazed by the maps in the Max Tudor stories. When I read one of Charles Finch’s books, I got out my own map of Oxford, England, so I could trot along the streets he described with his detective, Charles Lenox. Maps help me envision what’s happening in a story, and for that reason, include me in your list of map-lovers.

    1. It’s amazing to me after all the books I’ve read set in the UK how fogging my geography still is. I’m pretty good with London and Edinburgh, but those are both places I’ve been. Other than that, “a general sense” is about as good as it gets..

      1. I often say, if I’ve been there (locally or abroad) I can find it; if I’ve never been there I’m kind of clueless. Don’t get me started on Jeopardy geography questions–hopeless!

  15. I think my love of maps in books may also go back to Winnie the Pooh and the Hundred Acre Wood! And, then, The Lord of the Rings! I reread all three books last spring with many, many referrals to the map, working out the journeys in my head. And of course I adore Laura Maestro’s maps in my Duncan and Gemma books. They add a dimension even for me, and they are SO charming! Love the Nether Monkslip maps, too.

    Good luck with your surgery, Barb!

  16. Barb, I didn’t think to ask earlier (Blame it on lack of caffeine) — Do you mind if I report the news of your knee surgery on the Amazon forum (I’m LoveMyBooks/Dee over there). I know the regular readers/posters will want to remember you in their prayers, and we have some active power prayers there.

  17. that’s so cool that you won the map Barb! I wonder where you’ll put it? Since my series takes place in Key West, most of the places actually exist. But I’d hate to have people flooding Houseboat Row looking for Miss Gloria and Hayley:)

    We’ve got you covered in thoughts and prayers here too, Barb! xo

  18. I love maps as well as Cast of characters. Love Deborah Crombie’s.Since I’ve never been to England this helps me sort thru things. Kate Carlisle gave her fans a map of Dharma if we sent a self address envelope. I use it often to see where everything otherwise I think about Sonoma. So I’m a big map lover. Will think about tomorrow, that all goes well and it solves a few problems. Tell Bill To keep us posted.

  19. *Hums Game of Thrones opening theme*. As a fantasy author I find drawing out maps essential not only for orientation, but for worldbuilding in general; easier to create a map that looks like it could be a real collection of nations and then start a profile for each than to try and think up a list of places and then draw them out. As a reader though, I actually find maps more useful when they’re used to illustrate real-world places, whether in historical fiction or historical reference.

    1. Wow. That seems overwhelming. I guess that’s why I don’t have a hankering to tackle fantasy. I do like maps in historical fiction and reference, too.

  20. Dearest Barb– I’m wishing you the best in surgery with smooth recovery.

    I love maps and illustrations, although I have to say that Three Pines is so clear in my mind that I don’t think it will reconcile with any map except the one in my head! All those books have cemented my vision of the village green, the woods and surrounding area, and each building… the bistro, the church, the room where Clara creates her masterpieces… each thing and creature. I don’t think I would understand any other vision put down hard on paper. I have been living my own too long for that.

    Relax, rest well and recover comfortably, lovely friend. xoxoxxx

    1. Thanks, Reine. Penny is a master of description. Though I love the books, I don’t think I knew how good she was until I saw the map and realized how closely it matched my vision.

  21. I love maps in books! I agree that the maps in Deborah Crombie’s books are beautiful. I was also lucky enough to get a Three Pines map when I preordered the new Louise Penny book. I have to say that Three Pines looks a lot like I imagined it would. Good luck with your surgery tomorrow, Barbara.

  22. Someone different than a map – but I once came across a groundplan/drawing that Shirley Jackson had done for the house in THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE. It was scribbled on note paper but was absolutely meticulous about the layout of the house – and where the rooms where in relationship to each other. It was the first time a lightbulb went off in my head and I thought, “You mean writers really keep track of these things and don’t just make them up on the spot??” Tried to find the image to post but couldn’t. I’ll keep trying. It was a fun look into that crazy and wonderful mind of Shirley Jackson, whose work I love.

  23. I use real Salem places in my Witch City Mystery series, and wish there was a map in the books. Whenever I do signings, I carry a stack of the excellent “Destination Salem” booklets produced by the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, with nice fold-out map of Salem.(They generously send me plenty of them) I give one with each book, so that readers can follow Lee’s adventures. A couple of girls who attended one of my book launches wrote to tell me they’d spent a couple of days in Salem and visited the places mentioned. They’d stayed at the Hawthorne Hotel, had lunch at In A Pig’s Eye, photographed the Civil War Monument on the corner of Winter Street, looked for the ghost at the Lyceum and more!

    1. I did as well in Defending the Dead–especially where Gallows Hill really was, which is not where the park is. And I can tell you where my ancestor Matthew Barton lived, a block or so from the House of Seven Gables. Nothing like working out how long it takes a person to walk from Point A to Point B on the ground.

      1. Sheila, do you mean that you have a map in the book? I don’t find it there. Maybe because it’s an e-book? Some of our Salem ancestors were neighbors.

      2. No, no real map (it’s an ebook), but I had to follow the maps to make sure how to get from one place to another. Google Earth is great-especially if you’re looking for places to eat or signs along the street. Or if you can see the harbor if you stand on top of Gallows Hill. The maps for the original landowners I got from an online version of a 1930s (?) serial publication–I’ve never seen a modern version, but the old one is clear and informative (it’s actually split up into four or five individual maps). I can send you copies if you’re interested.

      3. That’s great way to research that! I would, yes, be very interested in seeing the copies. I have in mind the location, but it’s only a guess. Now my curiosity is way up!


  24. I love all of Louise Penny’s novels! I wasn’t lucky enough to receive a map πŸ™ I just wish someone could send me a copy of it. I’m so curious to see how three pines compares to the one in my head

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