Are all crime writers voicing their inner fears as they write, I wonder? It was an uneasy suspicion that travelling on the London Underground during the Olympic Games in 2012 could be dangerous that gave rise to the idea behind The Bird that Did Not Sing. After all, London had been exposed to mad bombers before; why not during something as high profile as the Olympics?

My husband and I had been lucky enough to obtain more than a week’s tickets both for the football at home in Glasgow as well as two days in Wimbledon (yes, we saw Andy win his gold!!!) and two days at the Olympic Stadium. It was fantastic! My fears about a bomb attack on the underground system were swiftly allayed by the tremendous security operation. And yet … what if …?

Ah, there it is, that germ of an idea planted in the ever-fertile imagination of a crime writer. What if, I thought to myself, some group were to target the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games? Somewhere closer to home and in the very heart of my protagonist, Lorimer’s, territory.

Some years ago Glasgow International Airport really had been the target of a terrorist cell; happily the bombers’ plans did not come to fruition, but I discovered through police contacts that a trial run had taken place out in the countryside, a fact that I squirreled away. It was one of these pieces of info that came in handy as I began to write the book. Begin with a bang, writers’ tutors are often fond of telling their students. And so I did. A huge big bang that took away an entire stretch of forest and closed the West Highland Way … at least within the confines of my novel.

Any large international event is bound to attract a huge diversity of people and, as I wrote, I imagined a darker undercurrent to the 2014 Commonwealth Games. People Trafficking has lately become a subject often written about in the Press, but until I began to weave my story of Asa, a girl who is lured away from her homeland in Nigeria to begin a life of slavery in Britain, there had not been a great deal covering this subject. It is one of those strange coincidences that, as I researched and wrote my story, more and more articles began to appear in national newspapers! My research led me to question various authorities. One school of thought was that there would be no upsurge of human trafficking to cope with the demand for sex workers in the run up to the Games but other sources assured me that this was something that would really happen.

As I write this, there are still more than four months before the Opening Ceremony that will take place in Parkhead Stadium, attended by a Royal personage. As the date of July 23 draws nearer I admit to having misgivings about my fictional plot to blow up this illustrious venue and with it the Head of the Realm. Albeit fictionally.

What if …?

Alex Gray

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