I prefer to have been to the
locations I write about in my stories but that has not always been possible. In
those cases I find the Internet to be invaluable in learning about those areas
both for geography and history. In Sacrament of Fear, for instance, I
have never been to Damascus, so for those chapters I relied on GoogleEarth for
terrain and street names, and the Internet for cultural information, as well as
hotels, taxis, and the Souk. I also used a travel book on Syria for names,
language, and customs. I also extrapolated from my months in Pakistan to
establish the sensory inputs I would expect were I to travel to Damascus.
For other locations in that
story—The Netherlands, France, and
Scotland—I drew from my direct experiences of those places, also using
the names of friends or historical figures for my characters. In those
instances, I should say that, while characters might be named for and
modeled after friends, it is never my intention to make those
characterizations isomorphic to the actual people! And I don't use the names
of friends for the bad guys in my stories. Or, as I tell others, I will
never make my friends look bad...I might kill them off; but I'll never make
them look bad! Basically I figure I need to name characters something, so why not use
names I already know, which also serves as a way of saying to my friends,
"Hi...I was thinking of you!"
I also like to bring in
factual information to enhance the credibility of the stories. A friend of
mine—Una Zeck—once asked me if I did much research for my
stories or did I just know that stuff. I think my first answer to her was
that I didn't do much research, and instead just drew from things I had
learned along the way. After thinking about it, I realized that, while I did
draw from a lot of things I had learned along the way, I actually did a
whole lot more research than I realized! So the purpose of this page is to
share with you some of the research I've done for the various stories, or,
to put it another way...
Things I learned
enroute to looking up other stuff!!
I have to locate my backup disks for most of this
material, but till then...
The Quran factors into the story but when I
first started writing it, I had as yet not read the Quran (or Koran). It is
really a very nice work; not at all what some would have us believe. Here is
a little background on the concept of Jihad, which I use at the end of the
story when Ahmad clarifies that term for Wes and company. Click on
JIHAD to see pdf discussion of
We first meet Wes at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
in Washington DC. where he and Crandall Forsyth refer to two names, people that
they knew. Both of these young men were real, but never got to live their lives.
I saw a touring version of The Wall in Cheyenne, WY while I was visiting Jim and
Carol Marshall (also characters in the book!), and made a point of finding
Dennis and Dale. Hopefully, mentioning them in this story will help those who
knew them best and were closest to them know that they are not forgotten. Click
their names for their remembrances:
& Dale Plote (prn
Items of interest regarding Methesulah gene
research and thoughts on Aging...
The Methuselah Report
The Human Aging
Discovery of the
Genes and Ageing - II
Another major theme of The Methuselah Man
deals with nuclear energy, both for peace and war. The movie Fatman and
Little Boy was informative on many counts, not the least of which was
the slow, agonizing death of John Cusack's character. But beyond cinema, I
needed to know more about radiation and its effects. While I was still
living in Palo Alto, CA I visited my friends in Las Vegas, Ron and Donna, to do some
research. In addition to going to the Las Vegas Atomic Testing Museum (a
fascinating and informative place to visit if you're ever here), Ron and
Donna made reservations for us to take the tour of the Mercury Test Site.
Here are some of the things I learned about this subject:
Albert Einstein letter to FDR - 1939
Another key concept in The Methuselah Man
is the Methuselah Man himself, Jared Kennan Cain, and his body's ability to
fend off disease. I wanted to know what kinds of diseases are out there and
what their symptoms might be. This is some of what I found...
And then there was travel! When I write about
planes or trains, I generally need to know two things: do they travel where
my characters need to go; and what are their schedules. In The
Methuselah Man, a great sub-plot deals with a train ride from Kiev to
Bucharest, and Bucharest on to Istanbul. I had to do a bit of research to
find out if this route was possible, and what their schedule would be. I
also got some pix of the compartment that my character Taras Ostrovsky would
occupy for this trip. Those pix are in the PHOTOS section, and here is some
other stuff I found...
Calculations for the Trip
Finally, there were miscellaneous pieces of the
puzzle. The PATRIOT Act, the FBI, the dying process, and Life After Death!
For the last two, I would suggest the works of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who
writes about the five stages of the dying process. And a key book on life
after death was written by Raymond Moody in the '70s. I had read it back
then but couldn't find my copy (I tend to loan out books I like and then
forget to get them back!), but I was fortunate enough to find one lone copy
at a bookstore in Menlo Park a couple years ago. I believe it is out of
print, but you might be able to find a copy in a library, or find some other
writings on the subject...a fascinating one, to be sure! As to the first two
items noted above, here is what I found...
ACT (BTW, read this then let me know how safe -- and 'private' -- you
feel!) The San
Francisco FBI Offices
I'm still working on this book so I don't want to
give up too much here. But here are a few items you will find entertaining.
First, I contacted a radio DJ friend, Terrie Springs of KKLZ 96.3 FM in Las
Vegas, to help me create a faux interview of the Russian rock band, REVOLVER.
Since the band only exists in my mind (and both books, The Methuselah Man
on the train, and this new work), I thought I would find some pictures of
Russian models that would approximate my image of the band. That way Terrie
would have some visual reference as she considered what questions she might ask.
Second, there is a sequence in the book that takes place in Havana (which I have
obviously not visited) featuring the very famous Cuban band, Los Van Van (which
translates to The Go Go's interestingly enough). What I learned was that one of
their very famous songs has the same structure as the Rolling Stones'
Sympathy for the Devil (a great song!) and that, in fact, Los Van Van is
often referred to as the Cuban Rolling Stones! Below are some very entertaining
representations of those things in the book... I think you'll love this...
The Band -
REVOLVER (as I would
Ven y Muevete: by Los Van Van, featuring Pedrito Calvo
Sympathy for the Devil: Rolling
Stones live version. With some classic 'Mick' moves!!
I'll continue to update this section over time.
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