The Curvature of the Horizon

For twenty-four days, my world had been 582 feet long and had a population of little more than a thousand souls. My rare ventures onto terra firma threatening more disorientation than relief, Kobe was the first time I had allowed myself to become conscious of a two-tiered horizon: one that vanished into the haze, the other that curved upwards in both directions. My eyes stuttered against the concept of distance, just as my legs searched for footing on the motionless docks.

Ship's deck, curving up

Unlike Mary Russell, I’ve never been on a cruise. And although the cruises offered by National Geographic or up the rivers of Europe have their appeal, the very idea of being trapped in a floating Disneyland would have me eyeing the lifeboats. So researching shipboard life for Dreaming Spies was a matter of the second hand (an amazing number of books were written about cruises during the Golden Age of the twenties and thirties) and the immobile. The photo is taken on board the Queen Mary, where the decks do indeed curve up and give an odd effect to the idea of “horizon.” The Queen Mary is now a very pleasant and fascinating hotel in Long Beach with a marvellously helpful and informative Commodore, who showed me about and answered a lot of idiotic questions.

If you’re near Long Beach, do drop in and challenge your horizons.

*  *

24 days until Dreaming Spies! Other posts about writing and researching the book can be seen here, or you can read a long excerpt here

You can pre-order a signed copy from Poisoned Pen Books or Bookshop Santa Cruz, and unsigned or e-books from IndiebooksAmazon/Kindle, or Barnes & Noble/Nook.

My upcoming events are here.

Posted in


  1. Constance on January 24, 2015 at 6:47 am

    One of the events listed is in Raleigh. It’s listed as SC but it is really in NC. Love the excerpts! Thanks!

  2. Laura on January 24, 2015 at 9:15 am

    Computer can’t wait that long, it needs How Helen and Le Megan, the girls of Houston and Scottsdale.

  3. Tricia Mills on January 24, 2015 at 9:51 am

    You should pick a “destination” cruise. I went on one to the Far East…flew to Bankok, 3 days, flew Singapore 3 days, got on the French “Paquet” line Ocean Pearl. Cruised to Kuala Lumpur, Sarawak, Brunei, Sabah (Northern Borneo), Manila, Canton, and Hong Kong. 3 days in hotel. Excellent, interesting lectures, beautiful cruising that area, FRENCH COOKS and also Filippino, so great food. Not for drunks and pick ups, like so many Caribbean cruises, ugh. Paquet is not in business anymore, but others cruise there. Pick a smaller ship that can get into smaller ports. There were things i didn’t attend, like a small gambling lounge, and dancing. But the music things were great, the folks on the cruise were intelligent, and I’d do it again.

Leave a Comment