Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Scene of the Crime: real life settings with links to fictional crime

There was a short but interesting article by Travel Editor Jim Eagles in the New Zealand Herald today (NZ's largest-circulation daily newspaper) talking about Hotel.com recently putting together a list of hotels which have become famous for their literary connections.

Eagles says, "I have to confess I've never heard of some of the authors and books on its list. But I was fascinated to learn that The Dukes Hotel [pictured left] in London is where Ian Fleming got the idea of having his James Bond character insist on a vodka martini 'Shaken, not stirred'."

Some of the other hotels Eagles highlights from the list have crime, thriller, or horror fiction connotations as well: the Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul which gave Agatha Christie the idea for MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS; The Stanley Hotel at Estes Park, Colorado, where Stephen King evidently had the nightmare which gave him the idea for THE SHINING. You can read Eagles' full article here.

I haven't specifically or intentionally done any such 'literary travel', although I have visited a couple of author-related places on various trips, e.g. the Floridita Bar and the Ambos Mundos Hotel in Havana, Cuba (Hemingway) - see photo to the right of a shaggy world-travelling me with the lifesize statue of Hemingway in the Floridita Bar in April 2008.

I imagine that with all the cool places I've been, I've also visited plenty of other 'literary locations', even if I didn't go there for specific books-related reasons (e.g. I have cruised the Nile - I really should have had a copy of Christie's DEATH ON THE NILE to read, methinks).

It got me thinking - what are some other specific real-life places around the world which have strong connections to crime, mystery and thriller fiction - not just cities and places, but specific hotels, businesses, or other such locations? Could we create a list of 'must sees' for crime fiction fans? What would be on your list? Thoughts and comments welcome.


  1. DEATH ON THE NILE inspired my desire to travel when I was a kid so when I went to Egypt I stayed at the hotel they used in the film version of that story (The Cataract Hotel in Aswan). You can see a photo of me on the balcony of the hotel in this post http://reactionstoreading.wordpress.com/2009/09/14/agatha-and-me/

    As for other places I'll have to think a little harder

  2. Craig - What an intriguing idea! I'm going to have to think about places I would contribute...

  3. My personal favourite is Agatha Christie's brilliant if politically incorrect "Ten Little Niggers" set on 'Nigger Island' which is said to have been inspired by Burgh Island in Bigbury Bay, Devon. Also, I think, her "Evil Under the Sun".

    The real island is a wonderful place - approached at low tide these days by "sea tractor" rather than boat and comprises a run-down art deco hotel and a pub and that's it!

    Back in 2002, Julian Earwaker and Kathleen Becker did a wonderful book "Scene of the Crime" which detailed all the major settings of British detective fiction. Sadly, it is hardly remembered at all except by the people who were inverviewed for it - like me!

    In my own writing experience, I was inspired by the remote village of TYNEHAM in Dorset which was forcibly evacuated in 1943 and taken over as an army firing range, with the promise that the villagers would be brought back after the war. They never were and the village remains as a ghost town (complete with 1943 telephone box) and although most of the houses have lost their roofs, the church and school are well preserved. As soon as I saw it, I knew this would be the setting for the climactic shoot-out in "Angel's Share".

    Trouble is, people think I made it up - even people who live in Dorset didn't know it was there!

  4. Great comments guys. It's kind of all about Agatha thusfar, haha (understandably so). What about some other authors?

    Nice pics Bernadette. I was in Aswan in January, and heard that Christie had written Death on the Nile while in that town/city (I stayed at a different hotel). Also did the felluca - quite a few of the others on our tour chose the cruise boats, but I'm glad I went with the traditional transport. A magic three days cruising...