EXOTIC LOCATIONS FOR EXOTIC THRILLERS by Karna Small Bodman
When you travel and have unique experiences, do you ever say to yourself, “This would make a great setting for a novel?” Or, “These characters would be perfect heroes or even villains in a great story?” Well, that’s exactly what we are writing about on our website right now. Let me tell you about a series of adventures and how they inspired me to write one of my thrillers.
When I was serving in The White House just before the President went on vacation in August and Congress would be in recess, things usually calmed down in the nation’s capital, so that’s the time
some of us on his staff were sent to various parts of the world to speak to groups about our policies and try to drum up support from our various allies. I remember meeting with the President to tell him about my trip. I drew the Far East. At that point I had never been to my “assigned” destinations, and what exotic and exciting places they were.
In Japan I had the unique task of speaking to business and student groups and then being “entertained” by Japanese officials (all male) who seemed to have absolutely no clue what to do with a female guest. They put together a lovely luncheon at a long table where I sat with some 20 Japanese government types, and we all had individual “servers” — lovely, quiet, Japanese ladies to bring our food, napkins and anything else we might request. It must have been a first for those men (and the ladies) — though since that encounter, I know that Japanese women have made great strides in commerce and academia and do “get out more.”
I went to the Philippines for a visit with then President Ferdinand Marcos and First Lady, Imelda
(no I didn’t have a chance to see her shoe collection). These were tense times in Manila. We were trying to re-negotiate our use of Clark Field and Subic Bay — but the Soviets were trying to play the same game. During a formal dinner Imelda gave me a tour of “The Blue House” (their “palace”) and
took me into a huge ballroom lined with what looked like 100 incredible icons. I asked where she had amassed so much priceless art. She then told me she had just returned from a trip to Moscow where Andre Gromyko asked what she would like as a gift, and being a strong catholic, she said she would love to have a Russian icon. He then evidently cleared out many of their churches and presented her with this unbelievable collection (a rather unique way to curry favor with the Marcos Administration). Of course, I promptly reported all conversations back to The White House.
Another stop was South Korea where I stayed at the Ambassador’s residence. They asked where I’d like to go on the one break I had in the schedule. I said, “Up to the DMZ.” So we took a 30 minute helicopter ride to that very tense border where I had a “CIA briefing” about the meetings between North and South hosted by the Red Cross. They also told me that the North Korean soldiers stationed there would always rush up close to the border to look at American visitors. I had to laugh out loud when a Colonel explained that the times when the most North Koreans came to gawk at our people was when we hosted Miss Universe and the Dallas Cow Boy Cheerleaders!
Then there was Hong Kong where I spent time with our Consular staff, learning all about the tensions between that fabulous city and China as well as what was going on in Taiwan, a key ally. Those conversations and settings inspired my novel, Gambit, which involves a White House hero teaming up with a woman working on a missile defense system — trying to stop a plot by rogue Chinese Generals with a fixation on Taiwan — and of course, there is a romantic twist in this one.
Now, I’m sure you can just imagine all of the other ideas one could gather from such adventures. Question for all your thriller readers: Where have you traveled and which places might inspire a great novel? Please check out my website for summaries of all my stories: www.karnabodman.com
Karna Small Bodman