Behind the Scenes

Inspiration and research sources for the mystery fiction of Eric Mayer and Mary Reed

We decided to provide some bits and pieces of "behind the scenes" information because we both find the ideas behind the stories more interesting than the mechanics of writing.

In ONE FOR SORROW, our first "John the Eunuch" novel, many of the characters are, nor suprisingly, motivated by money. In the course of our research we had to educate ourselves a little about just what sorts of coins the avaricious grasped at back in the 6th century. So here's a little essay on a Byzantine Follis

Readers seem to be most interested by the ideas, too. Especially where they come from. For us, at least, ideas can pop up in unusual places.

In Fortune's Other Steward, Edward Bunne, the publican who inspired the Bard to create Falstaff, investigates Will's untimely death. The story was suggested by Shakespeare's will and the inscription on his grave. It takes place in Stratford-on-Avon, England. You can visit Shakespeare's grave, and take a great tour, by visiting Holy Trinity Church.

Newspaper items are a good source of inspiration. Mary has found The Weekly Telegraph especially helpful. As a couple of examples:  The Ladyfish Mystery (the second Inspector Dorj story) was written after Mary read in the Telegraph a five-line report from Hong Kong relating that crowds had gathered at a dock there, following reports that a fisherman had captured a mermaid, which in the Chinese culture is considered an unlucky creature. (As to what this has to do with landlocked Mongolia...well, you'll have to read the story!)

 The third, forthcoming, Inspector Dorj Mystery (Death on the Trans-Mongolian Railway) was also suggested by a bit in the Telegraph. In real life, the victim died in hospital rather than a locked train carriage, and since only half of the cause of death was given, it took some research to deduce what actually might have happened. (The Mongolian authorities must have figured it out for themselves because they haven't contacted us! But, you can visit Mongolia on-line.) We've had some thoughts about a first novel about Dorj based on yet another Telegraph snippet.

 The first story Mary sold, Aunt Ba's Story, was inspired by a dream and the Arthur Hughes' painting "Home From Sea," which hangs in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, England. Mary worked next door and would go to the museum to admire the Pre-Raphaelite paintings during her lunch hour. Here's a site where you can see paintings by Arthur Hughes.

Even Kings Die, about William the Conqueror, was partly inspired by another work of art, the Bayeux Tapestry. In fact, an important clue to the mystery appears in the tapestry. We describe it in the story, but you can view the entire Bayeux Tapestry here.

And then there was Mary's Cat's Paw, inspired by the arrival of Rachel the cat, as related elsewhere.

Thus, so far as ideas go, it is less a question of searching for them as fielding those which throw themselves at us!


Here's a bit of trivia. Check out the covers that flash past on our "Fiction" page. If you look for Shakepearean Whodunits in the book store you won't find the cover you see there. It's a rarity! (OK, so it isn't the Beatles' "Butcher" cover...)

It seems that certain online book sellers scan information from publisher's catalogs. In this case, the publisher decided to change covers, after the catalog had been produced. Is this another argument for your independent neighborhood book store where what you see is what you get?


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