Author Dolores-Gordon Smith talks about her new book, As If By Magic; the third Jack Haldean mystery
As If By Magic; the third Jack Haldean mystery by Dolores Gordon Smith
“Where do you get your ideas from?” is a question that’s often asked at book festivals and – be warned! – infuriates some writers. I don’t know why; I think it’s a perfectly reasonable thing to ask.
I know exactly where the ideas for As If By Magic came from. Every Christmas the corporate world breaks out into a mass of dinners, dances and parties and I’m invited to a couple. This particular dinner featured a Magic show as an after-dinner entertainment. Members of the audience were invited to take part and, nothing loath, I joined in. I’d never been so close to a “real” magician before and I was struck by the edge between illusion and reality. There’s something else, too. The dove that the magician produces from the empty box is real; the box is real. It’s how they’re put together that makes the illusion. That thought stayed with me. Jack Haldean (who, oddly enough, has virtually the same thought when he sees a street magician!) uses it to work out what’s real and what’s illusory in the tangled web his poor friend George finds himself in.
George, you see, has it tough. Not only is he completely destitute, starving and on the verge of a serious illness, he also sees a beautiful woman apparently agree to her own murder in the deserted kitchen of a house in Mayfair. When the police arrive minutes later, the body has disappeared - as if by magic.
That was one plank of an idea in the story. The other idea came, quite simply, from a book. I was poking around in a second-hand bookshop in Manchester when I found All About The Aircraft Of Today written by one Frederick Talbot and published in 1921. I’ve always been interested in old aeroplanes and All About The Aircraft Of Today was a must. I was the first person to read it; I had to cut the pages. As I read the book, I realised that here was the other element I’d been looking for. Aviation and that great surge in civilian flying in the 1920’s, when another record was broken seemingly every month, was exactly the sort of background I was looking for. Not only that, but Frederick Talbot included a wonderful description of the Crossley Aircraft factory and this sort of detail was pure gold. I was so grateful to Frederick, I gave him a walk-on part in As If By Magic as an aviation reporter. As a matter of fact, I bet that’s what he was in real life.
The rest of the book is, of course, where the Plot happens and Plots, which I brood over like an old mother hen, are where the real hard work kicks in. It’s absorbing though and a real thrill when it all comes together and you know it works. That takes a year or so, writing, discarding, trying it again, but at the end – well, it’s Magic!
If you’d like to know more about Jack and catch up on the latest news, I’d be delighted if you visited my website, www.doloresgordon-smith.co.uk