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The 'real' house with the golden door

Photo credit: Silvia Vacca

The brothel in my novel The Wolf Den is an exact recreation of a real building - the lupanar of Pompeii. For the sequel, The House with the Golden Door, I based the house in the title on a number of buildings and also my own imagination, because I wanted to have the freedom to create details that are specific to the characters and the story.

One of the houses that inspired me is the Casa de Ceii, which you can see above in Silvia Vacca's beautiful photo. It is not as huge and grand as some of the other villas, and I borrowed details such as the impluvium (pool) which is lined by amphora shards (essentially broken pottery).

The house is also distinctive for the huge beast hunt on the garden wall, which inspired the hunting scene of Acteon and Diana which Amara has painted in the house of my story. You can see the Ceii's fresco below.

Photo credit: Silvia Vacca

I borrowed some of the layout of the Casa de Ceii for the novel too - including Philos's cell under the stairs.

The frescos in my house are entirely invented, but the images captured by Silvia of the Casa dell'Ara Massima might help you picture the delicacy of the paintings I try to reimagine, including the 'portrait' scenes of Venus in the atrium.

Photo credit: Sylvia Vacca

Another house whose atmosphere inspired the book, is the Casa dell'Orso Ferito. Like the Ceii, this is a smaller, more modest home than some in Pompeii. I love the view from the street into the hallway, which looks like the owners might return at any moment.

Finally, there is the door itself. I had two sources of inspiration. The first was the plaster casts of actual doors I saw in Pompeii - enormously tall and studded with metal which I imagined shining golden.

The other source of inspiration is the city scene painted on the walls of the Villa of P Fannius Synistor in Boscoreale in the bay of Naples, which was also destroyed/preserved by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

The giant, metal studded golden door, and the colourful buildings, give an impression of what the streets of Pompeii might have looked like to its original inhabitants.

Photo credit: The Met Museum

I'm grateful to photographer Silvia Vacca for allowing me to reproduce her pictures on my site. Given I wrote in lockdown and was unable to visit Pompeii as often as I originally planned, Silvia's photos were a real inspiration to me when writing, and I recommend you check out her work here!

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Karl Hucklenbruch
Karl Hucklenbruch

How I have enjoyed your novels about Pompeii. You are a very clever and creative lady. Had I had the skill, I would have loved to have written such books. I admire you, you have captured the whole ethos of the place. I admire your workmanship, deep understanding, creativity and artistry. I have been to Pompeii many times and as I read your books am transported there. Not only now, but magically back all those years ago when the city was alive. I cannot praise you enough. What a beautiful set of books. Well done, you are a very special and gifted lady. Thankyou. and ps. I especially was amused by your character, Brittannica. With my deepest admiration, Jennifer Hucklenbruch

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