I’m delighted to be staring off the winter celebrations for Anne Blankman’s atmospheric book, ‘A Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke’. It was published by Headline on 21st April 2015 and is available in all good book stores as well as here in the UK and here in the US or direct from the publisher.
Gretchen Muller has three rules for her new life:
1. Blend into the surroundings.
2. Don’t tell anyone who you really are.
3. And never, never go back to Germany.
Here Anne tells us about the background to the story and how a factual event led to her novel.
A Blend of Fact and Fiction: The Real-Life Unsolved Homicide that Inspired the Murder in Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke
Most of the pieces of Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke came to me fairly quickly, but one—a crucial one—kept eluding me. I had figured out every aspect of the mystery in my story except for the murder. I knew I needed a suspicious death to occur. But what kind of killing should it be? Who was the victim? And how could I connect the dead person to my two main characters?
These questions circled in my head for days. Finally, stumped, I turned to one of my favorite activities: research. Usually reading about my story’s historical background will jumpstart my brain, and this time was no exception. As I flipped through an excellent social history of early twentieth century Berlin, I came across a snippet about a still-unsolved homicide case that had occurred on the last night of 1932.
The story was brief: After a long shift, a young seamstress had gotten off a bus in her working-class neighborhood and began walking home. She probably didn’t pay attention to the man riding a bicycle toward her. In those days, he would have been a common sight: a man dressed in the brown uniform belonging to the SA, one of the divisions within the Nazi Party.
Perhaps she didn’t even notice when he slipped a pistol from its holster and aimed it at her head, shouting, “Heil Hitler!” She wouldn’t have felt the bullet ripping into her skull, shattering bone and slicing up brain matter in a split-second. She was dead before she hit the ground.
The SA man continued bicycling down the street while other Berliners rushed to the dead woman’s aid. The killer didn’t look upset or act concerned; just turned the corner and vanished into the inky-black night.
He was never identified. The homicide case’s file has moldered into dust; a heartbreaking, random stranger-on-stranger crime.
How bizarre, I thought as I reread the passage. I wonder if this man had a secret motive for killing her—it seems like a well-planned street assassination.
And then I felt it. The breathless, shivery feeling of anticipation, the tingle deep in my mind, the signal that this story is meant for me. I knew I had my murder.
I’m sure this will have whetted your appetite for Anne’s writing and you can follow her on Twitter and via her Web Site. You can also see what else is happening for Anne’s winter celebrations with other bloggers here: