Tuesdays of the Twenty Weeks of Buzz are given over to a look at each of my twenty novels, a week at a time, giving some tidbit of information or background about the book. This week, The Game, published in 2004. Click on the photos to enlarge.
Kipling’s Kim is one of my all-time favorite books. Coming-of-age story combined with the romance of the open road, breathing the exoticism of British India and wrapped up in a tale of high espionage: glorious!
I’ve spent several months in India, the country where my husband was born, so it was a natural fit to work travels there into my fiction—particularly because I had a convenient resource who had lived through the time I was writing about. There’s nothing like a Hindi-speaking husband when it comes to researching daily habits and gutter insults.
I pulled my tattered copy of Kim down from the shelf to reread it, taking close notes. When I had finished, I dug into the background, and decided that the dates for Kipling’s story would nicely provide me with a middle-aged Kimball O’Hara in 1924—and what was more, the period when Kim would have been wandering the Himalayas was intriguingly close to another key period in literary history…
In “The Final Problem,” published in 1893 but set in 1891, Conan Doyle threw his troublesome creation Holmes off the Reichenbach Falls. The world mourned for ten long years, until it was finally revealed that Holmes had in fact lived, and returned to London (scaring poor Watson out of his wits) in “the spring of 1894.” What Holmesians call “The Great Hiatus” took place from 1891 to 1894, during which time, as Holmes tells Watson:
I traveled for two years in Tibet…and amused myself by visiting Lhassa, and spending some days with the head Lama. You may have read of the remarkable explorations of a Norwegian named Sigerson, but I am sure that it never occurred to you that you were receiving news of your friend.
And I am sure it never occurred to Watson, or Conan Doyle, or to Rudyard Kipling himself (who was publishing Kim beginning in 1900) that at the same time, the young apprentice into the Great Game was meeting London’s greatest amateur.
This enabled me to write what has to be one of my favorite passages from the Russell books, one that I would read aloud with pleasure when on tour. Russell and Holmes have been called to Mycroft’s flat, where they learn of a missing spy in far-off India, a found amulet case, and the name Kimball O’Hara. Russell interrupts the discussion, somewhat outraged:
“You’ve read it?” Mycroft asked.
“Of course I’ve read it.”
“Good, that saves some explaining. I believe this to be his amulet case.”
“He’s real, then? Kipling’s boy?”
“As real as I am,” said Sherlock Holmes.