The Crime Readers' Association

CRA Blog Author Chris SimmsCRA Blog Author Chris SimmsFeatured Author Friday: Chris Simms

24th January 2014

Cut Adrift – the ideas behind the story

My previous two posts looked at where ideas for novels come from. For some writers, a book is created when a very particular thought hits home: what if? This was certainly the case for Cut Adrift, my eighth novel.

Remember a news item from a few years ago about rubber ducks? A freight ship off the American coast shed some of its containers in a storm. One broke open on hitting the sea. The container sank, but its cargo of ducks bobbed to the surface. Those bright yellow ones with silly grins people have in the bath. Only, this particular bath was the Atlantic. The ducks were carried off on ocean currents and their progress tracked by a scientist named Ebbesmeyer. (Perfect name for an oceanographer, that.)

Eventually, the ducks started washing up on the coast of south-west Britain. What if, I thought? What if some of the ducks had pleas for help hidden inside them? Little scraps of paper, written by someone adrift at sea. Like messages in a bottle.

Then, as now, there was a lot in the news about refugees risking everything to travel to countries like Britain. What if some refugees had stowed away on a container ship? A ship travelling out of the Middle East. What if, unknown to those refugees, the ship was also carrying a deadly secret? So, on discovering the stowaways, the ship’s crew simply dumped the container they were hiding in overboard.

A survivor, alone in the ocean, perched on a pallet among the flotilla of ducks, manages to scrawl why she was fleeing her country. She also names the ship she had stowed away on. And, as the ducks are washed ashore and her messages slowly pieced together, they spark an investigation that reaches to the very top of America’s government.

 Post One: The Question Author’s Dread

Post Two: Outside the White Lines


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