By Graham Brack
You can blame ice hockey. There isn’t any where I live in Cornwall, so when my wife and I booked a winter break in Prague, we made a deal. I’d go with her to the ballet, if she would come with me to the ice hockey.
So, one afternoon we took the Metro to Nádraží Holešovice, from which it ought to be a short walk to the Arena; except that I had not realised that the station has two exits, and the directions I had assumed we had left by the north exit, whereas in fact we had taken the south one. This meant that we explored the district for a while.
Then I saw a car pull up, and a man and boy in Sparta hockey jerseys got out. This was my clue to follow them, which we did; and the relevance of this is that where they parked their car is where the body is found in my novel, The Outrageous Behaviour of Left-Handed Dwarves.
Next I needed a detective. You didn’t need to talk to Czechs for very long to discover that they were very cynical about those in high places. As one person put it, if you’re old enough here, you’ll have a past. So my detective became a man nearing retirement who knows that he did things he wasn’t proud of during the Communist era, and assumes everyone else of his age did the same. Except, that is, his immediate boss, a man of impeccable integrity but very little detective ability. Slonský – the name is derived from slon (elephant) so, if it means anything, it’s elephant-like – will defend those who are honest and despises those who are not.
Now he needed someone to tell his thoughts to as the investigation unfolds. I didn’t want the whole thing to be cynical, so we needed someone fresh, young and idealistic. Navrátil has just left the police academy. Slonský is so difficult to work with that nobody who has any choice will do so. Navrátil does not have that luxury. And while Slonský has always resisted having anyone to mentor, he finds he likes it. The future for Czech law enforcement is bright, if he can shape Navrátil correctly.
It’s strange how the rest of the cast just pop into your head. I find that the scenes play inside my skull like a movie, and all I have to do is write them down. That’s why there is so much dialogue in the book, I suppose.
Slonský is a Czech as the Czechs like to see themselves. He likes a beer. Well, actually he likes a few beers. A sausage or two would go down nicely too. He’s good company. He’s straightforward. He is, in his own eyes, Everyman.
We can only be grateful that he is wrong about that, because a world full of Slonskýs would be a difficult place to live.
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Get your copy of Graham’s novel, The Outrageous Behaviour of Left Hand Dwarves, here!