Spy Novels – The Importance of ‘Sense of’ Location

When writing, building a picture of a location in the reader’s mind is best done if the author has himself (or herself), experienced that place.

I wrote a piece today about location research for spy novels, and then dug out some of my pictures from last year to illustrate it. The pictures were taken in the ruined city of Carthage, which is right next to the Palace of the then-president of Tunisia, Ben Ali. The palace has since been ransacked.

As I compiled the pictures into a brief clip, I saw with new eyes what I’d seen in 2010, just a month before the Tunisian Revolution was started when Mohamed Bouazizi set himself alight in protest against the endemic corruption of Ben Ali’s regime and its bureaucracy. What I saw was the perfect scene for a sequence in ‘Sicilian Channel’. Serendipity indeed. The full piece about my location research for the spy novel covers visits to Morocco, Tunisia, Greece, Malta and Sicily – a busy year! It also includes a picture of the palace walls taken from Carthage.