For no particularly good reason, a handful of things you probably didn't know (or even want to know) about Shemlan: A Deadly Tragedy. Which is a book I've written. Don't know if I mentioned that before or not...
The wooden Estonian orthodox church is real
Dennis Wye meets Jaan Kallas outside a wooden church with an ageing congregation. It's real, down near the port in Tallinn (just across the road, in fact, from the Museum Of Soviet Uselessness) and rather beautiful. It's one of few surviving churches in Tallinn - Estonia seems quite proud of being the most secular country in Europe and most churches have been deconsecrated and are being used as concert halls or Irish pubs. Hence the ageing congregation. The music in these churches, by the way, is beautiful and forms a connection to the Syrian Urfalee church.
So's the ice road
And you genuinely are told not to wear a seat belt and to travel within the minimum and maximum speed limit for fear of creating resonance and cracking the ice.
Marwan Nimr is back
He was inspired by a box of fruit. There's a company that airfreights fruit out of Lebanon called 'Marwan' and its logo is a little dakota-like aeroplane whizzing through the air. And so Marwan Nimr was born. He makes a cameo in Shemlan - having survived Beirut - and he's not best pleased with our Gerald.
Talking of cameos...
Lamiable extra brut champagne makes a brief appearance, following its excellent debut in Beirut. It's actually hard to make great extra brut champagne (with little or no added sugar, or 'dosage', it's easy to make sour extra brut, hard to make flinty, dry but rounded extra brut) The family that produces this exquisite single grower grand cru champagne appear to have forgiven me for using their delicious product to kill a chap in Beirut. I know they've read it because their UK importer sent them the relevant passage. Snitch.
The Puss In Boots
Marcelle's rather outré establishment in Monot, Le Chat Botté, is actually named after a Belgian hotel I stayed in as a kid. It just seemed like a good name and I've always liked that Marcelle insists on using its French name rather than the English version. How very Lebanese, darling!
The nature of Lance Browning's fate and the fact he works for a certain bank are by no means intended to be some sort of revenge on my bank and certainly not written with ferocious relish. I can state that categorically.
The baddies are really bad...
The Ühiskassa, the umbrella organisation of the Estonian mafia is real, although apparently less active these days than in its heyday before Estonia's accession to the European Union.
The goodies are hardly better - and no, the whole CIA scheme in the book is by no means far fetched
In fact, the precise scheme they're up to in Shemlan is documented as having been seriously evaluated as an operation by the CIA. There are many recorded instances of US intelligence having become involved in the international arms and drugs trades, including the ill-fated Iran contra scandal, as well as money laundering drug related funds. So now you know...