We authors of fiction, specifically crime fiction, are frequently asked where we get our ideas. Mostly, the answers I hear from other authors evoke mysticism, hard-driving, detailed research, happenstance or dreams., or careful thought. So, here’s some details from one author about one of his books. I will say, right up front, that I’m writing here about one book, not all my novels.
The book in question is “The Case of the Yellow Diamond.”
We have to start with the understanding of the current situation. My detective, Sean NMI Sean, is a short man who can’t qualify to be a cop. So he’s a private investigator. Because I’ve written about him in other novels, his persona is pretty well established. When a potential client shows up and starts talking about troubled trips to Yap Island in the Pacific Ocean, my readers know Sean is never going to go to Yap!
The germ of this novel came out of my long-standing interest in World War Two. I had a distant relative who fought on Guadalcanal. He told us a few stories and I read widely in the topic. I learned that there was a lot of pressure at the end of the war to get the troops home as quickly as possible. As a result, some troops came back and were able to bypass the usual immigration routines.
Much as we’d like to believe all our soldiers were fine, upstanding, honest citizens, there were some men and women who saw the end of their service as an opportunity to do a little smuggling. And some of them were smart enough to realize that smuggling grimy pebbles was easier and safer than shipping swords, or pistols or art objects or drugs. I read about it almost as an aside but it spoke to me as if it was printed in all caps on the page.
Aha, I thought, nobody has yet written a fiction about smuggling uncut gems. Why not? So, I called a local gemologist and discovered a lot of fascinating facts about world sources of precious gems, and what kind of gems had seriously high value. Like a two-caret diamond that might be worth twenty-thousand dollars. Or more.
Most of the detailed information about diamond smuggling from South East Asia is locked away in my files because that isn’t the kind of novels I write. My stories are focused on the human factor, and their interactions, and as one reviewer noted, the novel calls up memories of some of the noir detective novels of the forties and fifties. I am inordinately pleased.
Many criminals are tripped up by the way they display their ill-gotten goods. I thought about that a lot as I drafted the early part of the book. I have a good friend who lives in des Moines who is a fan of crime fiction. As a nod to my friend, I decided to make a link to the city for the smugglers that could effectively mask the infusion of diamond money.. And that’s the story of how this novel came about. Mostly.
About the Author
Before he became a mystery writer and reviewer, Carl Brookins was a counselor and faculty member at Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Brookins and his wife are avid recreational sailors. He is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Private Eye Writers of America. He can frequently be found touring bookstores and libraries with his companions-in-crime, The Minnesota Crime Wave.
He writes the sailing adventure series featuring Michael Tanner and Mary Whitney. The third novel is Old Silver. His new private investigator series features Sean NMI Sean, a short P.I. The first is titled The Case of the Greedy Lawyers. Brookins received a liberal arts degree from the University of Minnesota and studied for a MA in Communications at Michigan State University.