I’m never quite sure why some writers react so tetchily to the question, ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ At literary festivals, I often watch the author’s face when the question comes in, looking for that telltale roll of the eyes. The subtext seems to be that the perfect plot is not like a suit – you can’t just pick one up off the peg at Moss Bros. Maybe there’s some kind of superstition that a straight answer to the question might silence the muse.
My ideas tend to start with the setting. The hero of my series, Spike Sanguinetti, is a lawyer from Gibraltar with a licence to roam the Mediterranean. In his first outing, ‘Shadow of the Rock’, he follows a case across the Straits to Morocco. I wanted an excuse to include the cinematic sweep of the Sahara, and needed a great deal of money to be at stake, so the troubled financing of an enormous solar power site seemed a good place to start. In ‘Sign of the Cross’, Spike’s family connections take him to Malta. I’d read of the horrendous boat crossings which wash up there; I also had a childhood fascination with the Knights of St John. Could the two elements be combined?
In his latest adventure, ‘Sleeping Dogs’, Spike finds himself in Corfu, staying at his business partner’s villa. Just 2km off Corfu lies Albania. The former is an Easyjet staple for family summer holidays, the latter still rarely visited. I sensed the germ of a story in this contrast, but had no idea how rich it might be until my wife and I travelled to Albania on a research trip, and stumbled across a mountainside village growing hundreds of tonnes of cannabis a year. The trip was hair-raising, but once again setting had steered the way.
Now for Spike Book 5 – time to dig out that map of the Mediterranean…
Sleeping Dogs is published by Bloomsbury