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Top 10 odd and unexpected things I discovered doing research

The walkalone cage is a kennel for humans. It’s in fact a 6ft x 8ft cage where prison inmates in solitary confinement can be in the open air and still be protected. It is a person-size kennel and it’s quite disturbing to see a prison yard full of caged human beings. The walkalone went straight into THE DARK (Book 2).

There is a large number of abandoned airbases in Washington State. I was looking for a place out in the Rockies to land a small private jet and found dozens of deserted airstrips, part of a different world when cargo and people travelled in different ways. The airstrips went into THE DARK (Book 2) and were crucial for the ending.

A wolf will not bite you but a dog will. Recently I had the opportunity to meet and go for a walk with two hybrid wolves (90% wolf and 10% dog) and I learnt many surprising facts about wolf behaviour from their handlers. Wolves are self-contained and not at all demonstrative; they also don’t act out or throw tantrums like dogs. In short, unless I was compromising his pack or his food I am much more likely to be bitten by a dog out of control than a wolf, who would pity my puniness in the wild and give me a wide berth. Wolves appear in SWEET AFTER DEATH (Book 4).

It is possible to rip up a T-shirt with your bare hands.  I had to have a moment of pure rage and frustration in BLOOD AND BONE (Book 3) and my character had to destroy something close at hand. It is surprisingly difficult but if you work on the weaker seams, say, under the arms, you can do it. (Yes, I did choose an old Tee, and I felt both guilty and silly while doing it!)

Ice cream flavours are part of the narrative. My novels are set in Seattle and my character, Alice Madison, likes ice cream. Sometime research can lead you to dangerous places; sometimes it leads you to Mocha Almond Fudge at Husky Deli. This was a part of research that I felt I had to return to time and again to get things just right.

The recoil when you shoot a 44 Magnum is enough to make you wobble on your feet even when you know it’s coming. And you really don’t look anything like Clint Eastwood.

A Harris hawk landing on your arm is much lighter than you might think. In fact it is almost delicate. Just under two pounds of bird of prey with a three foot wing span lands with a surgeon’s precision on your glove and picks a tiny morsel of raw chicken from the nook between thumb and fingers. Beautiful.

Sometimes you have to think like the bad guy. Suxamethonium chloride is a muscle relaxant used to help intubating patients in a hospital when you need help to breathe and they insert a tube in your throat. It is quite a scary thing because even though the effects wear off very quickly while it is working someone else has to push air into your lungs with a ventilator as all the muscles in your body are inert. I used it in THE DARK as a form of torture and it was a very challenging chapter to write.

Ravens love rolling in snow. They are brilliant, incredibly bright and socially aware birds with a great talent for play. When it snows heavily they love rolling down a hill and splashing in the white stuff. They also recognise faces and tell their friends if you’re someone they should avoid. There are ravens in SWEET AFTER DEATH and they are very important in the structure of the story.

It’s 2016 but there are still spies hiding among us. I have recently spent a day at FBI Headquarters in New York and one of the cases they related was the pursue and arrest of six Russian ‘illegals’ (people who had gone to the U.S. and completely integrated into U.S. society with the intention of spying). They were providing Russia with information about US citizen who might be vulnerable to pressure and might provide useful intelligence. They married and had children and lived unremarkable lives, except for the fact that everything was a lie.