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.
Q: Your first thriller, The Genesis Secret, was set around an ancient temple in southern Turkey, and The Marks of Cain takes us to the Pyrenees and the Namibian Desert. Do you travel to these places as part of your research?
A: I try and visit all the locations in my thrillers – I like to think of it as a Tom Knox hallmark. About the only place I didn’t go to see for The Genesis Secret was the Isle of Man (I ran out of time) and Lalesh in Iraq (too dangerous). But everywhere else, from Dublin to Dorset to northern France – to Kurdistan, Istanbul and Tel Aviv – I visited them all.
The same goes for Marks of Cain – I went to (or had already visited) the Basque country, Namibia, Arizona, the Monastery of Tourette, etc.
There is nothing like actually going to a place to get those telling details that make a location come alive. For instance I recently visited an old Khmer Rouge lair in Cambodia for my third book. The house of the Khmer Dictator Pol Pot turned out to be situated right next to a dead lake. None of the guide books told me this (most don’t even mention the house). But a dead lake was perfect for my thriller, and I wouldn’t have known it existed without visiting the locale.
Q: Do you prefer the research or the writing part of the process?
A: The research and the rewriting are by far the most fun. The research is great because – let’s be honest – I get to travel to exotic locations, hopefully nice and sunny when it’s cold and rainy in England! And I am paid to do it – what could be better than that? Also I just like travelling.
Read an extract from Tom’s first novel The Genesis Secret
Read an extract from Tom’s latest novel The Marks of Cain
How do you write a blogpost about a thriller? I’ve been thinking about this for a few days. In the end I decided I couldn’t do better than show you the True Story which first inspired The Marks of Cain.
Europe’s Forgotten Untouchables
Sitting in her little house near Tarbes in the Pyrenees, Marie-Pierre Manet-Beauzac is talking about her ancestry. For most people this would be easy enough, perhaps even pleasurable. For the forty-something mother-of-three Marie, the truth about her bloodline is tinged with great sadness: she belongs to a strange tribe of supposed cannibals, apparently descended from Saracens. A tribe that has been repressed in Pyrenean France for a thousand years.