Travel and Monte Carlo

Remember travel?

Remember getting in the car and going to the airport and walking onto a plane and sitting down SHOULDER TO SHOULDER WITH STRANGERS and breathing their air for hours and blithely drinking things you took from the ungloved hands of the flight attendants and—

(Okay, calm down, breathe now, just maybe pull up the neck of your shirt and pull it over your mouth for a minute til you feel better….okay?)

Yeah: travel.

The books I write depend on my going places. Sure, some of the places I write about I’ve been to, even lived in for a while, but not all. So when I went off to Eastern Europe 18 months ago, there were a lot of possibilities out there for me. I started with a week in England, where a casual jaunt down to Brighton and visit to the Pavilion coincided with a fascinating exhibition on its history as a hospital for wounded Indian soldiers—and there was the setting of the story I needed to write for an MWA anthology, “Ten Years On.” (I think I’ll talk more about that in a couple of days…)

But after Brighton and Sussex I flew off to spend several weeks in Eastern Europe. This was unexplored territory, a place I’d never intended on going until my friends said “Hey, you should come on this Danube cruise we’re doing!” and since I’d never done a cruise I thought, okay, I’m up for a trial.

The only faint research guideline I had was a line in the second-from-last Russell & Holmes story, The Murder of Mary Russell,  in which Mrs Hudson—on her way out of England two steps in front of Scotland Yard—says thoughtfully…

“Do you know, I’ve always been fond of Monte Carlo.”

As for me, I’d never been there, knew nothing about it other than MONEY and CASINO. But that’s often the way my books start, with a tiny seed that finds fertile ground.

So after Bucharest and Constanza and Budapest and Vienna and various places in between, I set off on a plane (ah, travel…) to the south of France. An hour after landing, my driver delivered me over windy roads and tunnels to this:

And this:

And these:

But also this:

And amidst those gardens, hills, restaurants, fabulous entranceways, incredible yachts, gilded casinos, and in general obscene displays of consumerism, that tiny seed of a throwaway phrase—I have always been fond of Monte Carlo—took root, and my story began to grow.

Riviera Gold (about it here) is available for pre-order, signed from Bookshop Santa Cruz or Poisoned Pen, or from your local Independent bookshopBarnes & Noble/NookAmazon/KindleCD, or audio.


  1. Linda Hay on April 25, 2020 at 8:53 am

    Gosh, those “ships” … “mini cruise ships” strike me as such desecration of an older tradition. The sailing ships built for pleasure, such as the original America of the America’s Cup or even the boats one saw now and then in the 50’s and 60’s in harbors along the New England coast and south along the Inland Coastal Waterway. Craft designed so one experienced the sea, rather than being separated from it in a space which could just as well be on land.

    Being a lover of Sussex I am always happy when they are at “home”. How about an encounter with the Bloomsbury set, or Kipling who lived not that far away? After all, Charleston is an easy walk from Alfriston and with Mary’s love of driving fast, Bateman’s (Kipling’s estate) wasn’t far. Lots of artistic/literary types to weave in.

    • Laurie King on April 25, 2020 at 10:17 pm

      Oh, Bateman’s is so great, that would be fun. Although I can just imagine Holmes’ conversation with some of the Bloomsbury set…

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