I’m getting ready to dive over to Turkey at the beginning of December and have just returned from a shopping trip to Manchester to pick up supplies. Apart from anything else Marmite has to be purchased for deprived expats. Something else I bought, for me, was a copy of Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. It’s been years and years since I last read it and now I both want and need to do so again.
In return for giving a talk about my own books, the Pera Palas Hotel in İstanbul is letting me stay one night in Agatha Christie’s old room. This is the room where she wrote, at least in part, Murder on the Orient Express and also where she liked to stay while in transit between England and the Middle East in the 1920s and 1930s. So I’m very honoured and very fortunate. The Pera Palas, which was built to accommodate passengers from the Orient Express, is a legendary hotel which, in the past, has played host to luminaries like Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Queen Elizabeth II, King Edward VIII, Ernest Hemingway, Mata Hari, Jackie Onassis, Greta Garbo and King Zog of Albania.
Now a scruff from the East End of London will join their number. Who knew? However, arranging such a thing has not been particularly straightforward and I have a lot of friends and aquaintances to thank for helping me to get this organised. Because of course I do have an ulterior motive too. I’m a crime writer, what do you expect?
I’ve always wanted to write a ‘traditional’ locked room mystery featuring Çetin İkmen, set somewhere very prominent and atmospheric. So now I have an opportunity to give that a go, I’m going to launch myself into it for all I am worth.
I have a basic plot and a cast of characters and it is my intention to start this book in the hotel, in Agatha Christie’s bedroom. God forbid that I should ever compare myself in any way to Miss Christie but I think that she’d find this notion not unpleasing. After all it’s not as if I’m in competition with her work. I’m not. Çetin İkmen and Hercule Poirot could hardly be less alike now could they? Poirot is a most particular fellow with some real obsessive compulsive traits going on. İkmen, like me, would hardly notice if his office was covered in volcanic ash.
But whatever happens, this İstanbul trip will be like no other I have ever made before and I look forward to seeing just what it will bring. Now let me get back to my book…