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Saturday, 10 November 2012

Secret Places

I couldn't find photos of the actual Venice Beach rum runner tunnels, so this one, of a Pirate Cellar in Savannah, Georgia stood in for the entrance to Saira's tagging gallery under Venice.  The actual Venice tunnels were originally constructed to allow sunbathers to walk back to their hotels since swimsuits weren't allowed on the boardwalk in 1905.  During prohibition, those tunnels from the beach were used by rum runners to bring illegal booze in from the beach.

When I was a private investigator, I worked in the loft above the market at Windward and Pacific where Saira and her artist Mom lived when her mother disappeared.  One of my bosses had inherited a massive oriental carpet, at least 25 feet long, from his wealthy grandmother who bought it from Macy's in New York before the Depression, and the front stairwell of the building was always full of the same shadows that Saira hates.

The London Bridge Catacombs were another internet find and the wanna-be urban archeologist in me was in heaven with the plague pit excavation currently going on there.  There's a horror attraction called "The London Bridge Experience" in the catacombs, complete with animatronic zombies and ghouls designed to give tourists the British version of a Halloween scare.  The Londonist described his night under London, wandering the tunnels and avoiding the plague victim skeletons, which was the inspiration for Saira and Archer's adventures in the tunnels.

Elian Manor was modeled on a gorgeous 16th Century manor house in Essex called Ingatestone Hall.  I later discovered that the Manor has a Priest Hole that was built under a small ante-chamber of the master bedroom.  When it was discovered, hidden under new floorboards, they also found the "bones of a small bird, possibly the remains of food supplied to some unfortunate priest," and a chest containing the vestments, utensils, etc. for a Mass.  The Manor house is now rented out for weddings and corporate events, and the private rooms aren't accessible to the public, so imagination had to fill in the interior blanks.  But I invented the warded Keep inside Elian Manor as a hiding place for the archives of the main branch of Time's descendants, so discovering that a Priest Hole actually exists there was very satisfying.

And although I have no evidence that a Priest Hole actually exists under the altar in Guy's Chapel at Kings College London, it was a perfect place to hide Archer, and a place that I knew would delight Bishop Cleary, just as it delights me.  I love secret, hidden, mysterious places, just like Saira does and someday I look forward to visiting all the real locations I've written into my book, hoping to find evidence of the imaginary ones there too.