Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Beginning February 15th of 2012, I will write something for it every week.

I hope you enjoy the blog. Please write and let me know what you think, by clicking

on the ‘Contact Author’ icon on the website. If you have questions, I will do my best to

answer them.

The question I’ve been asked most often since I began writing the series is how I came

up with the idea for Inspector Pekkala.

Here is the story –

During the mid 1990’s, a friend of mine was present at a construction site in Russia

when a backhoe unearthed the body of a soldier. The dead man was laying spread

eagled on the carcass of a horse which had been buried at the same time. The man

was wearing a long greatcoat, tall boots and had a thick leather belt across his middle.

The clothing and the body had been preserved by the soil so that the man appeared to

be partially mummified. Upon examination of the corpse, it became clear that the rider

had been buried around the time of the First World War. It also seemed clear, from the

fact that he had been laid to rest along with his horse, that the man had probably been

buried on the same spot where he had been killed. The man’s belt buckle, which clearly

showed the double-headed eagle of the Romanovs, identified him as a soldier of the

Tsar’s Army. However, because of the location, which was not on what would have

been the front lines during the Great War, the man must have been buried after, not

during, the war. This would have placed the soldier’s death at some time in the early

days of the Revolution, when soldiers still loyal to the Tsar, known as the Whites, fought

pitched battles with the Bolsheviks, who became known as the Reds.

During the course of the construction, several other bodies were discovered, all of

whom were similarly dressed and, presumably, had been killed during the same battle.

After the bodies had been re-interred, my friend was given one of the belt buckles as a

souvenir. He then passed it on to me, and I still have it.

For every book, there is always some unexpected catalyst that sets everything in

motion. Waiting for these catalysts to take hold is like standing in the path of a gently

falling meteor shower. Ideas will come hurtling past, but they don’t hit you, so eventually

you forget them. But then some image or some anecdote will strike you right between

the eyes. From that point on, the formation of the book becomes like the making of a

pearl inside an oyster. The grain of sand embeds itself inside the oyster. The oyster is

not trying to produce a thing of beauty. It is trying to survive. The pearl is the product of

pain. It is the same with these stories. Once they have snagged like a fishhook in your

brain, you have to find a way to work them loose.

Holding that buckle in my hand made me think of the tens of thousands of people who

were swallowed up in that revolution whose stories have never been told. Russian

history, perhaps more than any other country, is layered with so many lies, denials,

discreditations and rehabilitations that there is no one version of that country’s past. The

only reliable stance to take is that nothing about it is reliable. And yet you know that the

truth is in there somewhere, woven into the fabric of these deceptions.

For months after I began writing The Eye of the Red Tsar, the first book in eth series,

that rider galloped through my dreams. It became an act of self-preservation to conjure

back to life the story of that buckle, and of the man who wore it to his death.

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