Behind the Scenes: Gerrie Ferris Finger on researching American Nights

Gerrie, thanks for stopping by Island Confidential. Writing a great story can require a lot of research. Could you tell us a little about your latest mystery, American Nights, and give us a behind-the-scenes look at the research you did for it?

Thanks Frankie for inviting me. American Nights is the 6th in the Moriah Dru/Richard Lake mystery/thriller series. Dru is a former policewoman turned child-finder, and Lake is an Atlanta homicide lieutenant. Portia Devon is a juvenile judge and Dru’s best friend since kindergarten. Dennis Caldwell (Webdog) is Dru’s IT guru. She believes she’d never solve a case were it not for his computer wizardry.

Since I’m not a computer whiz, I’ve had to do a lot of software hacking research for each of the six books in the series. For Lake’s, Dru’s and Judge Portia’s characters, I used my knowledge gained as a reporter for the Atlanta PD and the court system. But personal experience could not help me research the story of the prince whose wife and daughter went missing.

Saudi Arabian prince, Hasam al Saliba—a fictitious name—had gone to college with Portia Devon. Prince Husam asks Portia to convince Dru to find his missing American wife, Reeve, and his daughter, Shahrazad.

Portia tells Dru that the prince is a great storyteller and is partial to reciting tales from Thousand and One Nights. It was fun to again read some of those Arabian Nights tales. Research should be fun, too.

At a dinner to introduce himself and his story to Dru and Lake, the fare is to be typical Saudi fare. I researched typical Saudi fare, but did not cook any. That would be research gone too far. Typical is date and fatir (flat bread), fava beans, yogurt, and chicken. I learned that there are twenty million date palms in S. A. and they are highest consumers of chickens in the world. The prince explains, “The food before us is scooped up in bread. First we do a ritual washing of our hands and then we eat with them.” Dru and Lake shared in the hummus and fatir, dates with a haysa al-tumreya dip, a chicken nugget dish called kapsa, and a salad tabbouleh. Dru’s steak and potato lover, Lake, does not care for the meal.

This is true history: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia—KSA—came into being in 1932. It was founded by King ibn Saud after he defeated rival tribes. Succession was to go to his brothers. Even though Saud had many brothers, some in infancy when he became king, this mandate created a succession problem.

The fictitious king I created is Hasam’s uncle and he is ailing. The king’s surviving two brothers are old and ill. As the eldest of the king’s next-in-line brother, Hasam is in line to become Crown Prince and then when the king dies, he’ll become king.

But against his king’s order that he not marry a foreigner, he had married Reeve. Shahrazad was born. Hasam says, “Were I to become king, I would have the title of Guardian of the Islamic Faith. Being married to a non-Muslim and the sire of an infidel it would be hypocrisy…”

The next day, Reeve’s parents are murdered. They’ve hated their son-in law. Quite naturally, he becomes suspect number one when Lake takes the case for the APD. Dru continues her search for Reeve and Shahrazad.


 

 

Saudi Arabian prince Husam al Saliba hires Moriah Dru, a PI specializing in
tracing missing children, to find his missing wife, NASA scientist Reeve
Cresley, and daughter, Shahrazad (Shara). The prince strikes Dru as charming but
not believable, and his tale of falling in love with Reeve, turning his back on
his kingdom for the woman he loves, and his king’s disapproval of him marrying
sounds like a fairy tale. After all the prince is known to be a great
storyteller and is partial to reciting tales from the Arabian Nights. The
investigation has just begun when Reeve’s parents, Lowell and Donna Cresley, who
did not seem suitably disturbed that Reeve and Shara are missing, are killed.
Dru soon discovers that nobody in this tale is what they seem. Then she finds
out all have something dreadful to hide.


 

About The Author  

Retireed journalist for The Atlanta-Journal Constitution,Gerrie Ferris Finger won the 2009 St. Martin’s Press/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel for The End Game. The Last Temptation is the second in the Moriah Dru/Richard Lake series. She lives on the coast of Georgia with her husband and standard poodle, Bogey.

Keep up with Gerrie


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