Research

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Research

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 storyThe 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!!

 

Sacrament of Fear

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 this concept.

The Methuselah Man

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: Dennis Greenwald & Dale Plote (prn Ploh-tee)

Items of interest regarding Methesulah gene research and thoughts on Aging...

The Methuselah Report   The Human Aging Process   Discovery of the Methuselah Gene   Genes and Ageing - II   Cracking the Longevity Code   Aging Revealed

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   World Nuclear Energy Background   Radiation Sickness   Radiation Poisoning

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...

Communicable Diseases   Plague   Armageddon online

 

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...

Train Schedules Kiev-Istanbul   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...

PATRIOT ACT (BTW, read this then let me know how safe -- and 'private' -- you feel!)   The San Francisco FBI Offices

 

Terminal Rock

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 imagine them)

 Anda, Ven y Muevete: by Los Van Van, featuring Pedrito Calvo   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IixganUlyQs

Sympathy for the Devil: Rolling Stones live version. With some classic 'Mick' moves!! www.youtube.com/watch?v=iLddJ1WceHQ 

 

I'll continue to update this section over time.

 

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