Location, Location, Location by Graham Minett
Just recently I read CJ Carver’s latest (and highly enjoyable) thriller The Snow Thief, which is set in Tibet. On the sleeve of the book was a note to the effect that she had been inspired to write this book following her participation in a long-distance car rally from London to Saigon and that Tibet was one of the countries she had to negotiate en route.
I’ve never felt so inadequate and unadventurous in my life.
For my debut novel, The Hidden Legacy, much of the action centred around a small Cotswold village, which bore more than a passing resemblance to Stanton, where my grandmother ran the post office and I spent several summer holidays. The rest was set on the south coast which is where I’ve lived for the past 45 years. Write what you know, eh?
For Lie In Wait I took the ambitious step of branching out a little, choosing a number of locations spread across an area from Rustington to Bosham. Where do I live? Just about halfway between the two. My location research probably didn’t take me more than 15 miles in any direction from our front door.
By the time I came to write Anything For Her, I’d decided it was time to show a little intestinal fortitude and strike out for pastures new, however remote and potentially life-threatening they might turn out to be. So, bravely resisting the temptation to hire a couple of Sherpas, I travelled east for a good couple of hours and ended up at a small B&B on the border between Rye and Camber Sands. I stayed there for a couple of nights and found a number of possible settings for the book but knew there was something missing. Luckily I found it later that summer when my wife and I travelled to New England and during an overnight stay in Portland we stumbled upon a place called Peak’s Island which was absolutely perfect for a few scenes I had planned.
Inspired by my safe return from these adventures, I decided that in future novels I would give much more thought to where I wanted them to take place. I think that in my latest novel, The Syndicate, which will be published on July 9th by Bonnier Zaffre, I have got the balance just about right between locations that many will recognise and others that might just tempt them to go and have a look.
Some of the action is in London, a few scenes take place in a Bristol that owes much to the author’s fevered imagination, but the two locations that take up most of the novel are Dorset and Portugal’s Silver Coast. When the action starts, it’s twenty years since the central character, Jon Kavanagh, walked away from his life in London, where he’d spent eight years working for a major crime syndicate. He’s been leading an uneventful existence, running a bookshop in Wareham and keeping fit by running up over Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove. Many readers will have visited this area and I only hope my prose can do justice to the immensity of the place and the majesty of the clifftop walks . . . always assuming you have the energy and the knees to get up there in the first place. Some of you will know exactly what I’m talking about.
Just a short drive from there is the ghost village of Tyneham which had a major effect on me. Again, any reader who has been there will have some understanding of what I mean by that. I’m reluctant to say any more about it at present because the chapters in which it features rather depend on the reader coming to the village with an open mind about things but, suffice to say, it plays an major role in the moulding of Kavanagh’s lugubrious nature and is practically a character in itself.
The more exotic location that may be less familiar to readers is Praia D’El Rey in Portugal, about an hour’s drive north of Lisbon and situated on the Silver Coast. It’s a holiday resort of luxury apartments, villas and townhouses, all within a couple of minutes walking distance from a fantastic beach hemmed in by the Atlantic. The nearby town of Obidos and its lagoon offered the perfect setting for some of the scenes I had in mind when I was ready to start writing the book. I’ll say no more or you’ll assume I’m on some sponsorship deal with the Portuguese Tourist Board…but if you get the chance to visit, or better still if you’ve already been there and know what I’m talking about, I’d love to hear from you.
Just one important detail however, before I finish. In neither of the two holidays our family spent there was there the slightest reason for me to suspect that Praia D’El Rey is rife with the kind of nefarious activities described in The Syndicate. That, as they say, is just artistic licence.
So . . . location for Book 5? You’ll have to wait and see. It will probably depend on where my wife has in mind for our next holiday.
Sorry, CJ . . . but it won’t be Tibet.
Read more about Graham here.