ALWAYS TAKE EXTRA CARE WHEN PUTTING A BODY THROUGH A MEAT GRINDER

“Rule one of reading other people’s stories is that whenever you say ‘well that’s not convincing’ the author tells you that’s the bit that wasn’t made up. This is because real life is under no obligation to be convincing.” – Neil Gaiman

Opium, James Clavell, The GodfatherI recently re-edited and re-released a series of novels I wrote about the genesis of the drug trade in South East Asia. They had never been published in the US before and it was my opportunity to bring them to a wider audience.

I had trekked the Burmese jungle, and been to Corsican hang-outs in Vientiane and the underbelly of Bangkok for much of the research.

Colin Falconer, James Clavell, The Godfather

photograph: QWB656

But I also needed some inside information on the Triads so I went to Hong Kong, just before the handover. With some persistence I found a detective inspector with the glorious monicker of John Chetwynd-Chatwin, a man of infinite charm and patience who offered to help me.

He introduced me to a number of his friends and colleagues in the Royal Hong Kong police force.

One of his fellow DCI’s – a brilliant character and a lovely bloke who looked a bit like Magnum PI and even had a revolver down the back of his pants – took me under his wing and showed me around. He was great company and also a fantastic story teller.

Colin Falconer, James Clavell, The GodfatherOne of the stories he told me was about two triad henchmen who were driving around one night wondering with what to do with the body they had in the boot – as you do– so they broke into a dumpling factory and tried to force the corpse through a mincer.

(Yum cha anyone?)

But the body jammed and when one of them tried to free it he got his own hand stuck in the machine as well and lost two of his fingers. His mate took him and his mangled digits to the local emergency department.

Colin Falconer, James Clavell, The Godfather

photograph: Eckhard Pecher

But the doctor who tried to re-attach them was quite puzzled. His patient had lost an index finger and a thumb; what they had brought with them to the ER was a pinkie and part of a toe.

His suspicions were aroused, as they say.

And that’s how the cops made the arrest. The two hitmen were caught red-handed, so to speak.

The other story he told me involved a couple who leased a 26th floor apartment in Kowloon and decided to reinvigorate the sadly neglected window box. It was massive, the size of a small car.

Colin Falconer, James Clavell, The GodfatherBut when they started digging, they discovered to their great surprise that it contained an acquaintance of the previous tenant. Further inquiries revealed that the last occupier – who was “known to the police” – had recently emigrated and left no forwarding address.

Didn’t even try and get his rental deposit back.

Naturally, I found a way to work both these stories into my plot, thinking I was being smart. Or was I?

Colin Falconer, James Clavell, The GodfatherSeveral friends who read the book took me aside: “Look, loved that one about the triads …but that bit about the meat mincer … and the window box … wasn’t that a bit far-fetched?

The only things they found unbelievable in the novel were the only two things I never actually invented.

Colin Falconer, James Clavell, The GodfatherAs Neil Gaiman says, real life has no obligation to be convincing.

I continue in my efforts to make my fiction realistic; but not so realistic that people think that – well … think that that I’m just making it up.

The OPIUM series was described by one critic as ‘James Clavell meets The Godfather.’

Today EYE OF THE TIGER, the fourth book in the series, is free on Amazon.

Pick up a copy. I’ll leave you to guess which bits I made up.

Colin Falconer, James Clavell, The GodfatherEYE OF THE TIGER

(oh and JJulieJ, sorry about the typos back when, we had a formatting glitch which we fixed as soon as we discovered it. Why didn’t you just write and tell me? My publisher and I are very approachable and quick to fix any problems. You probably would have got a free book for telling us!)

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Holy Week, Easter, Spain

COLIN FALCONER

About colinfalconer

author of bestselling historical novels like Anastasia, When We Were Gods, Aztec and Harem. My books have been published in the UK, US and ANZ and translated into seventeen languages.
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8 Responses to ALWAYS TAKE EXTRA CARE WHEN PUTTING A BODY THROUGH A MEAT GRINDER

  1. Russell Wiskar says:

    Once again Col,Just reading this takes me back to the stories I related to you about the South Australian Metropolian Fire Service and you said “Russ ,I could’nt write that because no-one would believe me”.Funny is it not that truth is stranger than fiction?.
    Love ur work Mate.

  2. Triad was great,can you do a sequel?.

  3. Julia Robb says:

    It seems to be a cliche that real life is stranger than fiction yet I am an historical novelist and have had that experience so many times. I’ve decided the way something should go, but when I investigated historical fact found something so much more interesting, often astonishing. And the fact I discovered gives a jolt of life to a manuscript.

    • When I wrote SILK ROAD, I discovered something about the Tatars that left me stunned and suddenly I had an ending – I wasn’t happy with the one I had. But still people didn’t believe it – they thought there was something wrong with me! Well of course there is – but even I couldn’t have thought of (spoiler alert). I so agree with you there, Julia!

  4. filbio says:

    Both interesting and kind of funny stories here. The hitmen sound like something out of a monty python skit!

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