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?’ ”
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!