My Little Book of Inspiration
My Little Book of Inspiration has been with me for a long time. I bought it in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul many years ago. What is it? Well, it’s a little leather-bound notebook with replaceable pages. It’s a cross between a diary, notepad, and sketchbook, I suppose. But it’s a lot more than that: it’s a companion, a trusted friend who guards valuable information for me. I use it to jot down ideas, impressions, names and places, even words or phrases I come across in the most unexpected ways.

Early in my career as a young barrister, my mentor – an eminent QC – taught me something important I’ve never forgotten: ‘If you want to remember things later, write them down straight away,’ I can still hear him lecture me, ‘because your memory will play tricks on you. And when that happens, it’s gone forever.’ For an inquisitive author like me who relies on interesting little snippets, that would be tragic.

I’ve lost the little book several times, but somehow, it found its way back to me on each occasion. I remember once leaving it in a felucca sailing down the Nile. I was doing research for The Empress Holds the Key in Egypt. I thought it had gone for good that time, but a young deckhand tracked me down, brought it to our camp the next day, and returned it to me with great flourish.

And then there was this unforgettable occasion in the Kimberley in Western Australia a couple of years ago. I was writing The Disappearance of Anna Popov. My Aboriginal guide took me to a remote cave to look at some ancient rock art, when the little book slipped out of my backpack and fell straight down into a deep gorge below. Fortunately, it didn’t fall into the water, but landed on a sandbank full of crocodiles sunning themselves. My guide had to retrieve the little book with a long stick while I was distracting the curious reptiles by throwing pebbles at them from above.

Over the years, the little book got soaked countless times, was spat on by a camel, chewed by a donkey, singed around the edges in a campfire and was run over by a bus. But somehow, it seems indestructible and doesn’t want to leave me. We’ve become inseparable, and I couldn’t do without it. As a matter of fact, it’s here on my desk in front of me right now; look:

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