Friday, February 17, 2012

Research Turns up Intriguing Facts

Researching a mystery novel takes you in all different directions and unearths intriguing facts that may or may not find a place in the book. I've always been fascinated by codes and code-breaking, which is why I find the NSA (National Security Agency) and its cryptography operations such a captivating subject. But while I was gathering material for my first published book, Secret of the Scroll, I ran across a different take on the subject: the Bible codes.

I found the original Bible code was called Atbash, which is a simple substitution cypher for the Hebrew alphabet. I used the example in the Book of Jeremiah where Sheshakh appears as Atbash for Babylon. But the later Bible codes involve a belief by many (I read a couple of books on it) that the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, contain hidden messages from God about things to come. It's a complex setup where you take, for example, every fifth letter in a section to spell out a message.

By using a system called Equidistant Letter Sequence, some Israeli researchers say they turned up details in Genesis concerning the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat on October 6, 1981. A former NSA cryptologist spent months using a supercomputer in an attempt to prove or disprove the theory, which originated with Jewish mystics several centuries ago.

In my third Greg McKenzie mystery, Deadly Illusions, I had the main murder take place at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville. Of course, when it came out, the name was changed to the Opry World Hotel as the publisher got cold feet. The hotel is only a few miles from my home, and I was quite familiar with it. But I had a son working in the banquet department at the time and he told me about the underground tunnels that are used by service personnel to get around. One of them connected the hotel to the laundry building across the road in back. I used it as an escape route for the murderer.

For the fourth book, The Marathon Murders, I decided to use an agent with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. In preparation, I got an inside tour of the TBI Headquarters by one of their PR guys who was a former news photographer I had known years ago. He showed me all the ins and outs of the various sections, including their new (at that time) investigation truck loaded with all sorts of tools for use at crime scenes. I also got a close-up look at the firearms section, which had fascinating ways of connecting weapons with murders.

While working on my latest book, The Good, The Bad and The Murderous, I got the ultimate dose of police procedures by attending the Metro Nashville Citizen Police Academy. I stocked up on material I'll be using for a good while. One facet I put to use in the book was information on the Taser, particularly the model available to the public. Two officers at the police firing range said they bought them for their wives and daughters, contending it was the best self defense weapon available. People who might balk at shooting someone with a gun will readily fire a Taser.

Research can be fascinating, and you usually learn a lot more than you're able to get into your books.

Chester Campbell

Visit me at Mystery Mania


Morgan Mandel said...

That's fascinating, Chester. I'm not a researcher, but it's fun to hear what others who do it find out.

I had no idea that Tasers were allowed by regular citizens. I thought only police could use them.

Morgan Mandel

Jean Henry Mead said...

I've enjoyed your books, Chester, and hope that I'm at least half as productive in my 80s.