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Researching Olives - A Violent Romance took huge dedication and involved drinking Martinis in the Four Seasons Amman, sploshing about smoking Cohibas in the Dead Sea and necking red wine in conservatories overlooking the rain-swept streets of an Amman winter. I had to eat sunny Mezzes overlooking the Golan Heights and wander around the warm spring streets of Madaba before lunching on pan-fried potato, eggs and Mediterranean herbs washed down with icy cold beers. It was hard, hard, hard people.
Still reeling from the exertions and huge personal distress I had to invest in Olives, researching Beirut - An Explosive Thriller was breathtakingly difficult. Walking the city's streets with a variety of highly attractive and personable companions, pottering around the Mouawad museum and investing many selfless hours in exploring the labyrinthine bars of Gemmayze, Monot and Hamra were nothing to the long, hard hours of toil drinking in Raouché, wandering the sun-dappled corniche sipping little cups of piping hot espresso from Uncle Deek's and, of course, eating a huge amount of stuff in the name of veracity.
You'll begin to appreciate I have Suffered For My Art. And if that weren't enough, writing Shemlan - A Deadly Tragedy took me into the mountains above Beirut for long AlMaza-laced lunches sipping sweet chai nana as my companions sat around puffing shisha in the balmy late afternoon, bees and cicadas competing to provide the soundtrack to our panoramic view of the blue city far below - let alone forays into Aleppo's tragically destroyed C14th Ottoman souk. The sweet days foraging around Tallinn and nights chasing hot plates of rich stock with bobbing islets of pelmeni down with iced vodka were agony, I can assure you. Agony.
So you'll understand the sacrifices I'm about to make in Belfast's pubs and its finest hotel, the endless journeys across Ireland's green sward to possibly the best restaurant in the world and other terrible hardships I'm currently putting into A Simple Irish Farmer. Interviewing an IRA man who did 15 years of a 27-year sentence in Long Kesh, part of the game plan, is probably the nearest thing to real 'work' I'll have ever devoted to researching a book. I'll try not to let the platters and pints distract me. Honest...