3/17/2014 -DEADLINE: ISTANBUL
Mystery as travel guide? That’s how I read Deadline: Istanbul, Peggy Hanson’s novel featuring a journalist named Elizabeth Darcy as amateur detective. Of course, Darcy carries Jane Austin with her wherever she goes.
Peggy spoke last week at a meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter meeting of Mystery Writers of America, an organization for mystery and crime writers. She wore an Egyptian dress in memory of Elizabeth Peters, pseudonym of mystery author Barbara Mertz, who died last year.
Peggy was a Peace Corps volunteer in Turkey in the 1960s and has lived in Turkey, Yemen, India, and Indonesia off and on over the years. She has written two mysteries featuring Elizabeth Darcy. The second is Deadline: Yemen. I read Deadline: Istanbul preparing for a trip to Istanbul as a woman traveling alone. I also e-mailed Peggy for tips, which she graciously provided.
As she began her talk, Peggy invited a mystery guest, draped in black veils, to come forward, and then asked the audience to call out what they might assume about the guest. As the veils were pulled back and the person revealed, the point became that you couldn’t really assume anything about that person.
Knowing and respecting local customs is essential for foreign travel, she said, and for writing about foreign settings. Of course, this is obvious—none of us wants to blunder into a mistake that causes an international incident, but I perked up my ears at these two tips: Tip One is to contact past or present Peace Corps volunteers in a country of interest. They have practical knowledge on the day to day activities in the country. Tip Two is to take a bundle of clothes to the local laundry in a foreign city and talk to the people there to pick up on local news and suggestions.
Traveling is an enjoyable way to research a writing project. I met Donna Gough, author of the Handy Guide to Virginia Wineries, at last week’s luncheon meeting of the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime. I asked Donna if writing this guide required traveling around the state, visiting wineries and sampling their wines. Of course, she responded with a smile.
Perhaps my next book should be about chocolate. They grow it in South America, don’t they?
The chapter’s luncheon speaker was Lauren Silberman, author of Wicked Baltimore: Charm City Sin and Scandal. She read from her book and noted a few of Baltimore’s notorious including the “Baltimore Borgia.” This crafty woman made her fortune by poisoning her husband and several others, improving her fortunes with each lethal drop.
As you might imagine, I meet interesting writers, pick up tips, and learn something new at these meetings. Online workshops and meetings just don’t allow for the face-to-face casual conversations that spark ideas and the excitement of cross-pollination. My calendar is full of meeting dates. I don’t want to miss anything.