During the early days of the Syrian war I was monitoring a family friend who smuggled himself out of the country. I didn’t say anything to anyone because his safety was paramount.
In the course of his journey he was swindled, robbed, almost killed but he made it to Egypt then to Libya before reaching Italy. Some money was transferred to him.
He kept in touch with that “someone” I know through a cell phone at various stops. He’s safe now somewhere in Europe. His wife and family are with him.
Got bitten by a relative’s horse recently after taking a selfie with it. Laceration on my right arm. I ended up at a Malaysian polyclinic for treatment.
The medical service in Singapore is very slow. So you’d expect Malaysia to be much slower. I mean really sloooooooow, plus their reputation for being too lax.
But I got the surprise of my life. I walked into a crowded polyclinic in a small Malaysian town. Lots of patients already. The staff seemed very calm (humored by my incident, of course).
So I registered, got an injection,met the doctor, ended up in another room for a dressing, got some medication after — and I was out in less than half hour. I guess they won’t cast me as the next Lone Ranger.
1. Incognito was inspired by my frightful incident after encountering a mysterious woman in black one cold night in Geneva. The woman had been standing outside the building as I watched her from my room window. Later, when I went downstairs, I found her in the dim foyer. She was standing frigid, staring at me. There was no one else in the foyer. I was reminded of the governess in the old movie, The Omen. It led me to create an assassin based on this character.
2. I went for a holiday to Switzerland and Italy, but the holiday turn into research work for my novel. Meeting people, taking trains, visiting historical monuments all played a part for the story backdrop. I took down lots of notes.
3. I have always been fascinated by the Pierre Lotti café in Istanbul with its spectacular view of the Golden Horn. The first time I saw the place, it was in a tourist book. As I sat drinking apple tea, I realized I could write an action scene here, which I did.
4. Guy, one of the names of the characters in the book, is based on a real person. He was the receptionist and telephone operator in the hotel I stayed in Geneva.
5. I did some fact checking, which included contacting the Mandarin Oriental Geneva. The day I wrote “The End” after finishing Incognito’s manuscript was also the day the hotel’s marketing and communications manager resigned from her job. I had been corresponding with her to fact check some details.
6. The tourist guide’s character at Villa Balbianello in Lake Como is based on a real person who led the tour during my visit. This is the villa where they filmed Daniel Craig (James Bond) was recovering with Vesper (Evan Green) in Casino Royale.
7. I chose the novel’s title “Incognito” to blend with my previous novel’s one-word title, Smokescreen, to create a signature identity.
8. The idea of dragging the Vatican into the picture is based on my encounter with a Swiss woman I met while trekking a snowy mountain in Saint Moritz. I had asked her for directions. One thing led to another and she started complaining about her neighbor, Italy. Then she blamed the Vatican for all “the problems of the Europe.” I felt she had issues, but her words prompted me to thicken the plot.
9. The mystery side of the novel was inspired by Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose and Robert Ludlum’s the Road to Gandolfo, which included a plot to kidnap the Pope.
10. There were two other characters that made up the specialist team sent to rescue the Pope. But I had to downsize to keep the plot focused. The character Guy was initially a hotel receptionist, but I merged him with another. The other, a young Swiss, had to be deleted.