My car was stuck in the forest. The forest was in the middle of a desert. The nearest people who could help me lived in a village a few miles through the trees, beyond the Moche pyramids; unfortunately, these forest gypsies had a ferocious reputation – for shooting unwanted intruders.
I stared at my Toyota Hilux, lodged in the Peruvian sand. The sun was going down. The evening was already chilly. I began to wonder if I’d taken my determination to research my thrillers, as authentically and thoroughly as possible, just a little too far.
Generally, when I am writing a Tom Knox book, I pride myself on Getting Out There and seeing the stuff I am writing about, for real. Indeed, this is how my career as a thriller writer began: one day, half a decade ago, I decided that I just had to see the amazing temple of Gobekli Tepe in eastern Turkey. I’d glimpsed it on TV and it seemed all too tantalising. 10,000 years old! 5,000 years older than Stonehenge!
The very next day I jumped on a plane, and eventually I found myself in the Kurdish wilderness, staring in astonishment at a rock frieze dating from the end of the Ice Age. A couple of years later that intense experience became the kernel of The Genesis Secret, my first thriller – now translated into 24 languages, I’m happy to say.
Since then I’ve tried to visit all the locations in my books. I’ve climbed the misty Pyrenees of the Basque country, and gone walkabout in the Sperrgebiet – the Forbidden Zone – of southern Namibia. I’ve visited the vile little bunker where Cambodian dictator Pol Pot lived out his final years. I’ve been to Bohemian castles and Gascon caves and Tibetan mountains where I think I saw God. Either that or the tea was too strong.
One of the spookiest experiences happened in England. I was in the Knights Templar preceptory of Temple Bruer in the wintry emptiness of Lincolnshire. Alone in this haunted place (said to have skeletons buried in the walls – read all about it in The Babylon Rite) I heard what sounded like a hundred ghosts rising from their graves. It was very eerie. But it turned out to be the howls of a pack of bloodhounds, being exercised in the snowbound fields outside.
As for Peru, that also features in the The Babylon Rite, and that’s why I ended up
stuck in the Forest of Pomac, in the Sechura desert, once the homeland of the bloodthirsty Moche tribes of the 2nd-10th century AD, who used to sacrifice their children to a Tarantula God. Nice people.
Actually, they are nice people – the locals, I mean. As I stood there in the twilit woods, one of those supposedly deadly villagers trundled by on a moped. He took one look at my pitifully stranded 4WD, and then recruited half his family to help liberate my car, which we did, with a lot of planks and grunting, and some coca tea to toast our success.
Maybe that’s the real reason I love researching exotic locations. The travel is interesting and exciting, of course; but the sudden unexpected friendships, with people you would never otherwise meet: they are priceless.
Tom’s latest book, The Babylon Rite, published this month and already has some fantastic 5 star reviews on Amazon! Have a read, and get a taste of the adventure!