Sunday, February 18, 2007


As we sped down Interstate 5 heading south for San Diego, I watched the gauge charting the outside temperature rise and rise. In farenheit, of course. At one point it touched a staggering 86 degrees - which is an unbelievable 30 degrees Celsius. With twenty-four feet of heavy woolen plaid wrapped around my waist, you could say I was feeling the heat.

And when the holiday traffic on the freeway ground to a halt (it's Presidents Day on Monday), we all started cooking. It was hard to believe it was still mid-February.

We were headed for a book event at the "Mysterious Galaxy" bookstore in San Diego to sign some books. Because of the holiday weekend, we didn't really expect a crowd. As it happens, my good friend and pathology adviser, Dr. Steve Campman, turned up with his whole family - Trenda, Danielle, and Jacob - and staff and customers gathered round as we talked about how it was Steve who had made the writing of the China series possible - since one of the main characters is a pathologist, and I knew not the first thing about pathology when I began writing the books.

Steve, currently a medical examiner in San Diego, is the perfect adviser for a writer. He has an eye and an ear (and a nose) for those things that a writer is looking for when describing a scene - particularly an autopsy. He doesn't just answer my specific questions, but looks beyond them to their wider implications and always makes valuable suggestions.

When, in "The Killing Room", I was looking for my pathologist to find tiny clues towards establishing the identites of murder victims found on a building site, Steve came up with some great ideas. A slight groove between the front teeth of one, made by holding pins between them, suggested that she might have been a seamstress. Polyps on the vocal chords of another led to the thought that she might be a singer. Another had tiny stress fractures in the bones of her feet, suggesting that she might have been a dancer. In fact, she turns out to be an acrobat.

Other books dealt with blood spatter patterns, an accident during autopsy, getting DNA from ten-year-old bloodstained flagstones, and many other complex pathological and forensic issues.

It is all those tiny little insights that lead towards authenticity, and it is Steve that I must thank for them all.

We got back to Newport Beach in the early evening and went to the Chakra Indian restaurant on the UC Irvine Campus to, finally, satiate my desire for Indian food. It is just about the only thing we miss since we left Scotland. Our home town of Glasgow has some of the very best Indian restaurants in Europe. Indian cuisine is almost impossible to find in la France profonde, and it never tastes quite the same when you make it yourself.

But for now you'll have to excuse me. As usual, after a curry there is somewhere I have to go in a hurry.

La Patronne and Susie at lunch on the Lido at Newport Beach

1 comment:

Carol and Chris said...

I'll see your 30 degrees Celsius and raise you 6.

Yep, it was 36 degrees Celsius here yesterday with a.....wait for it.....81% humidity.


C x