Monday, 14 January 2013


This week on my blog I have the bestselling author Chris Ewan. Chris's novel Safe House topped the kindle charts for most of December and was one of the best novels I read last year. Such was the brilliance of Safe House I voted for it to be entered into's top ten of 2012

Chris also writes The Good Thief's Guide To series and I have nothing but praise for this series. With tinder dry wit and excellent plotting the series is one which you miss at your peril. I've read the latest one (TGTGT Berlin) and it's a belter.

Enough from me, here's Chris talking about choosing the locations for his books.

When I’m starting work on planning a novel, location is one of the first things I need to settle on. Different locations conjure up different images and emotions in my mind, and it always helps me to find a location that complements the tone and style that I’m hoping to achieve. On top of that, the location I select tells me what is and isn’t going to be possible in the story I’m writing. For example, in Safe House, the Isle of Man setting helped me to conjure up a sense of isloation, even claustrophobia, and to explore the secrets that can exist in the smallest of communities. But equally, the location eliminated certain possibilities. I was never going to be writing about the working process of an FBI profiler or a tactical assault by a SWAT team down in Peel marina …

In terms of my series of Good Thief’s Guide mysteries about globetrotting burglar Charlie Howard, location plays an even more important role. When I first started the series, part of my goal was to try and combine elements of travel fiction with a crime novel. In the course of the books, Charlie has visited Amsterdam, Paris, Las Vegas and Venice. And, tough as it is, I’ve visited them all several times in the name of research, too.

When it came to writing the fifth entry in the series, I faced up to the dilemma of where to send Charlie next. For a while, I toyed with the idea of Prague or Barcelona. Istanbul became a real possibility. But ultimately, the location that excited me most was Berlin.

Why? Well there’s a fascinating tension at the heart of Berlin – a strikingly modern city that can’t escape its past. Hitler’s bunker is concealed beneath an ordinary-looking car park. The Reichstag, Germany’s parliament building, is topped by a glass and steel dome designed by an Englishman. Fragments of the Berlin Wall remain, and where the wall has been removed, a double-line of cobbles is stitched into the tarmac as a permanent reminder of Berlin’s Cold War history. Even some of the city’s inhabitants play a dual role – by night, the men who dress in US Army uniforms and pose for daytime photographs outside a mock-up of Checkpoint Charlie, perform in a troupe of male strippers.

I wanted to throw Charlie into this mix and to write about contemporary Berlin in a way that gave a nod to its extensive history, as well as the literary tradition of the Berlin-set espionage novel. The icing on the cake was the wonderful architectural backdrop for the action in the book that the city provides – from iconic structures like the Brandenburg Gate to hip and desirable residential zones in the former Eastern district, where graffiti colours the drab concrete apartment blocks, and where underground nightclubs and independent caf├ęs line the streets.

I loved writing The Good Thief’s Guide to Berlin and I had a blast deciding where the action in the book should take place. But ultimately, it seems fitting to me that perhaps my favourite location to write about was one I never had the chance to visit at all. The Spree Park, an abandoned GDR amusement park, plays a pivotal role in the book. And really, what’s not to love about a deserted, socialist amusement park with rusting roller coasters and fake dinosaurs?


Chris Ewan is the bestselling author of the standalone thriller, Safe House, as well as five novels in The Good Thief’s Guide to… series of mystery novels. You can find him on Twitter @chrisewan or visit his website:



  1. This sounds like an interesting story. I remember learning a lot about this back when I was in school.

  2. Thank you for sharing this with us and making us see why a location is so important to the plot of the novel.

  3. Berlin's an amazing backdrop. I was stranded in between East and West many years ago when some angry guards who didn't like my haircut took my passport and shouted a lot - very scary and exciting. And David Bowie seems to be following your example - hope you hit the crest of a wave.