by | Jun 1, 2016 | Gayle Lynds | 11 comments

Gayle Lynds:  If you write international thrillers, it’s a good idea to travel.  Or if you’re a Walter Mitty type, you’ll want to do a lot of research and day-dreaming.  I always liked what Bob Ludlum said when accused yet again of having secretly been CIA: “I have an imagination.” 

Come, join me in exotic Marrakech. . . . 

Here’s a place that makes my heart stop, and an example of why and how a writer uses a particular location in a novel.  Marrakech . . . playground of royalty and VIPs and sun-burned tourists from around the world.  Think of carpets in the sand, camels belching in the darkness, and indigo-tinged white-washed buildings.  For these reasons and more, the ancient city is crucial to the second half of my new spy thriller, The Assassins.  Here’s how. . . .

“A pickup swerved, and a taxi driver leaned on his horn.  A donkey’s ears laid back, and he bolted, his hoofs pounding the pavement, the cart behind him swaying, the cart driver’s face turning red as he yelled in Arabic and tried to control the animal.  Francesca jumped out of the way and stumbled.  Pytor caught her.  That was Marrakech for you, she thought later.  Where else would you meet a handsome man and fall in lust because of a freaked-out donkey?”

 As the story weaves among the six assassins who give the book its name, we find all are different.  In Marrakech, we focus on Pytor, ex KGB, who in a crazy moment falls in love with Francesca.  Their first meeting is in the paragraph above.  Marrakech infuses their growing romance and the suspense of who each really is with all the exotic flavor of an international metropolis steeped in colorful history.

“The traffic roared, and the sun climbed the sky.  They caught a taxi to a grand old Berber palace, now the Museum of Moroccan Arts.  She found herself glancing around, wondering whether she would see the older woman with the camera who might have been following her last night.”

As a writer, I love the streets of any city.  There you’ll find not only humanity but the city’s character, who and what it is through the people who stroll or bustle, adorn themselves in foreign or local clothes, and move with downcast gaze or sweeping confidence.

A fortune teller called out from an alley.  ‘Come.  Find out how many years of happiness you will have together, love birds.  Come, come.’  Stooped, she beckoned with both hands.  Gold rings covered her arthritic fingers, and tiny gold cymbals chimed from her ears.  ‘You will not be sorry.  You will learn your good future!’

Marrakech boasts the largest marketplace in the world.  Pause and smell the wonderful aroma of a World Atlas of spices.  Feel the whispers and stares around you. . . .

Francesca needed to walk, to think, to clear her head.  She strode past the stalls, hardly hearing the blare of Arabic music, ignoring the whirling dancers. A veiled woman held out a flat basket, her bracelets jingling.  ‘Moroccan dates,’ she crooned in French-accented English.  ‘Moroccan dates.  The finest you will find anywhere—’ Francesca rushed past and into the souk where there were some two miles of convoluted passageways.  Then Pyotr was at her side, walking with her and leaning over to speak in her ear.  ‘Stop.  Please.  I’m sorry.  I’m really not here to pull you back into the business.  Will you give a fellow Russian, an old compatriot, a chance?’ ”

The Assassins

 In the heart of every book lover is wanderlust, a love of new places or of new insights into old places whether geographical, philosophical, political, or of the heart.  We will always have Marrakech!

What are some of your favorite places in real life or in books?  We’d love to know!

Gayle Lynds

Don’t Miss a Thing!



  1. Jamie Freveletti

    I've always wanted to go to Morocco! In books I've loved The Eight, in which they travel the world, and the movie Casablanca cemented Morocco as a dangerous, exotic place. You chose Marrakech for The Assassins, would you say that it's more cosmopolitan than Casablanca?

  2. S. Lee Manning

    Marrakech has a wonderful and exotic feel from your writing. It's now on my list of places to see. Is it my imagination, or did you not answer the implicit question from the first paragraph – have you yourself been there or is this from your imagination? I'm guessing the former, but I like that you did not answer directly. I believe that traveling is a wonderful spur to imagination but a good writer does not necessarily need to see a place to realistically portray it in a novel.

  3. Gayle Lynds

    Thank you so much, Jamie and S. Lee, for your kind words. I love Casablanca, too, especially because of the movie, but alas I've not been there. Nor have I been to Marrakech. That's where intense research, talking with people who've lived or visited there, and imagination come into play. It sure seems to me that if I had to choose, I'd go to Marrakech. Fantastic day trips to the Atlas Mountains and then there's the medina, the souk, and better weather!

  4. Sonja Stone

    I agree with the wanderlust! Lisa See's gorgeous novels are mainly set in China, and Jhumpa Lahiri offers rich descriptions of India. I'm grateful to these authors–densely populated areas of the world are not my cup of tea. Drop me on a deserted beach for a week and I'm thrilled!

  5. Gayle Lynds

    I agree, Sonja! I love the open places, too, especially when they're wild still. Deserts fill me with awe. But then I find cities wonderfully complex in a different way. I just can't stand to live in a metropolis for long. Can anyone ever get too much of wanderlust???

  6. Francine Mathews

    Gorgeous pictures, Gayle. I want to run off into the Blue!

  7. Chris Goff

    Great write up and beautiful pictures. Makes me want to go!

  8. KJ Howe

    Love your post, Gayle. Makes me want to book a trip to Morocco. Can't wait to learn more about your adventures abroad.

  9. Gayle Lynds

    Thanks Francine, Chris, and KJ! Writing our books just gives us extra excuses to dream and travel!

  10. Karna Bodman

    You have given us such a vivid description of Morocco — now I simply must add that one to my bucket list! And the way you weave your experiences into your fabulous novels enables your readers to truly "be there and do that" — such wonderful stories. Thanks for all of them!

  11. Shane Gericke

    As Sinatra did not sing, but should have, "Come spy with me, come spy, come spy away …"

    Terrific writing, Gayle, as always.