By Chester Campbell
Writing mysteries with foreign locations can cause some difficulties, but when I started penning novels in the early nineties, I plunged ahead without hesitation. You do that when you're young (I was only sixty-seven then). My second book, still unpublished, was set largely in Korea, with smaller sections in Hungary and Thailand. I'm currently revising it with a new market in mind.
For the Korean part, I had the advantage of having spent a year in Seoul during the Korean War in 1952-53, plus a visit there during a tour of the Far East in 1987. I also had a Korean daughter-in-law who provided some information on customs in the country. I read lots of other views of the Hermit Kingdom, including those in various travel books.
The title of the book is The Poksu Conspiracy. Poksu in Korean means "vengeance." I found enough expressions in phrase books to give the story a realistic feel. Transliterations of Oriental languages with odd alphabets are notably inconsistent, but I tried to stick with spellings used in the media for better known words. After completion of the manuscript, I had it read by a Korean college student to catch any inaccuracies.
For the portion set in Thailand, I used the area around Chaing Mai, a popular tourist destination in the northern part of the country. In checking on Google, I found the city has grown tremendously in the past quarter century. The metropolitan area now includes a million population. I had visited Chaing Mai as part of that month-long Far East tour in 1987.
The Hungarian setting was a bit different. I had never visited that part of Europe. I read several books to get a feel for the people and the country. My chapters were set in Budapest, and I found a copy of National Geographic that included lots of good photos and details of locations I used in the story.
Using foreign locations in mysteries isn't all that difficult if you're willing to do the research. As best I recall, Martin Cruz Smith wrote Gorky Park without ever visiting the Soviet Union. Reading the book, you'd have thought he had lived there. Have you written foreign locations? If so, how did you handle it?
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