Sunday, 30 December 2012

Research Corner #2: More Grossness

Apparently, so I've heard, there are writers out there who do their research before they write their books.

Not as horrible as it might be.
Now, far be it from me to question the techniques of my esteemed colleagues, but I've got to say that this seems a bit wrong-headed to me.  I mean, it seems pretty obvious that if you do all your research once you've nearly finished, it becomes a lot less like work and a lot more like ... well ... a holiday.

Thus it was that I set off to the Medina district of Marrakesh a couple of weeks back, with the firm intention of doing all the research I should conceivably have considered doing before I started writing the Easie Damasco books, (Morocco being one of my main visual influences for the towns and cities of the Castoval, particularly Muena Palaiya.)  Obviously, since I've effectively finished the trilogy, there wasn't quite so much to do as there would have been if I'd gone about things the old-fashioned way.  But that was okay by me, and really, just more evidence of how eminently sensible my approach was.

Still, lest anyone should think I was just sloping off for a week, I should point out that I was determined to visit at least one place I'd written about and witness it with my own eyes.  Because, it's one thing to compose a blog post about how unfeasibly disgusting tanneries are, but what sort of a writer would I be if I didn't take the opportunity to see those horrors for myself?*

Merely quite unpleasant.
After the reading-up I'd done, I was prepared for more or less anything; it would take more than blood, brains or bodily fluids to shock me.  So in fairness, it has to be said that - compared with the mind-bogglingly vile stuff I'd read about - the tannery I went around in Marrakesh really wasn't that bad.

But let me emphasize the qualification: it wasn't that bad.  That isn't to say it wasn't bad.  This was not a place I wanted to hang out in any longer than I had to.  At no point did I think about settling down there.  If ever a time comes when I decide to have children and seek out a safe and reassuring environment in which to raise the little darlings, a Moroccan tannery won't be my first choice.  Or my second.  Heck, it might not even make my top thousand.

Still ... there's no getting around the fact that it could have been a lot worse.  In Marrakesh, for example, they use pigeon crap to bate the hides, rather than some of the more staggeringly horrible alternatives mentioned on Wikipedia.  Pigeon crap doesn't exactly smell nice, but you sort of get used to it after a while, and at least our guide was good enough to provide us with what he called a Berber Gas Mask, (that's a sprig of mint to you and me.)  Once you got past the distinctive odour and the mud and the sight of bits of dead animal in various states of treatment hung about everywhere, it was all quite interesting.  The men working there didn't look exactly happy, but none of them were screaming like damned souls.  I bought a nice rug in the attached shop.  All told, a good day was had by all, and only rarely do I wake up screaming at the memory.

Research, huh?  It's a dirty business, but someone's gotta do it.

* And, needless to say, drag my poor girlfriend along for a little added horror-witnessing.


  1. =grins= You are a Bad Man. 8) As a Georgette Heyer character would put it.

    Happy New Year!!


  2. I hear Georgette Heyer did all her research backwards too.

    A happy new year to you too :)