“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
I 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.
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.
One 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.
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.
But 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?
The only things they found unbelievable in the novel were the only two things I never actually invented.
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.
(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!)