How did the setting of your story impact your writing?
The book is set in Calcutta, India in 1919. I think it’s a fascinating place and time, unique in many respects and one that’s been overlooked, especially in terms of crime fiction. I think that period in history has contributed so much to modern India and Britain, and it was a time that saw the best and the worst of both peoples. In the period that the book is set, Calcutta was still the premier city in Asia and was as glamorous and exotic a location as anywhere in the world. At the same time, it was a city undergoing immense change and was the centre of the freedom movement, a hotbed of agitation against British rule. I made several trips to the city as part of the research, and I hope some of the ‘feel’ of the city has made its way to the pages of the book.
How or why is the setting important to who your character is?
The main character, Sam Wyndham is a British detective who’s gone there looking for a new start after the trauma he suffers as a soldier in the Great War. As such, the setting is hugely important. For Sam, Calcutta’s an alien place, and unburdened as he is by colonial baggage, one that he sees with fresh eyes. I think that, over time, Calcutta and its people will offer Sam a path to redemption.
When you visited France, which location did you prefer?
I’ve been to France quite a few times, and to quite a few places. Paris, for both work and pleasure, the Alps for skiing and the South of France for the beaches. I think my favourite place has to be the coast between Nice and Monaco. When I was younger, my family would often go there on holiday, and one of my favourite memories is walking with my father from the station at Beaulieu sur Mer up to the village of Eze.
What gave you the greatest cultural shock when in France?
The sheer architectural beauty of Paris. Living in London, I always find Paris to be such a beautiful city. It’s truly a city for romantics.
Which part of the French archetype did you discover to be wrong? Right?
We’re told that the French are rude and have no time for tourists speaking English. I found that to be totally false. I think almost everyone I have met in France has been very friendly and keen to help.
There’s so much – the food, the fantastic wine, the joie de vivre. I think the French know how to live life well and to appreciate it better than we do in the UK.
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