The Amethyst Cat Caper is part of Torquere Press’ Birthstones series, which really piqued my interest. I started looking into some of the birthstones on the list, skimming through their different meanings, as well as lore, and mythology to see if anyone in particular caught my fancy.
Amethyst immediately jumped out at me, and when I read it was a favorite of Egyptian royalty, the first thing that popped into my head was a statue of the goddess Bastet, which I had always found stunning. So I had amethyst, and a statue of an Egyptian goddess in her cat form. Now I needed references. I had to find just the right look for my statue.
The one I liked the most was the Gayer-Anderson cat, a bronze representation of the cat goddess donated to the British Museum by Major Robert Grenville Gayer-Anderson, whom the cat was named after. Now I had my inspiration, so it was time to turn a bronze statue into a priceless amethyst one. A few Photoshop clicks later, and I had the pesky feline that gets Remi into all that trouble.
Speaking of Remi, he was the first hero that popped into my head. I knew right away he was going to be British. How did I get to that conclusion? Egyptian antiquities > British Museum > British hero. It was that simple. That, and when he spoke for the first time in my head, he had a refined English accent. Then pieces of his background, family, and personality started coming through. I started fleshing him out as I saw him. Young, good-looking, wealthy, sweet, yet hot-blooded. Someone always calm and in control of himself and his emotions, even if inside he’s falling apart. Smart, successful, yet childish at times.
When I thought of Remi, I thought of light, bright colors which fit with his cheerful personality. It also felt right to continue the purple theme, especially with its connections to royalty. He would always be wearing some shade of purple or royal/navy blue, unless he was wearing a tuxedo.
This is Remi’s favorite style of suit. Three-piece with faint pinstripes. He’s meticulous about his appearance, never a hair out of place, and everything coordinated from tie to handkerchief. After all, he represents his business and he knows what that entails. On the outside especially, he’s the epitome of grace and class.
I knew Remi was going to be a business owner, so after much thinking and plotting, I decided it had to be something that allowed for him to mingle with Society, compliment his outgoing personality, as well as his poshness. Being a lover of tea, and with his being British–bringing authenticity to his business as far as the well-to do of the day were concerned, Remi became the owner of a snazzy purple tea house, something that would allow him to exude the glamorous side of the 1930s. I wanted the tea house to be grand, yet have a cozy feel, also have enough purple to horrify Hawk.
Originally, Hawk had been a police detective, but as my editor rightfully pointed out, that wouldn’t give him the freedom I needed him to have. He would always have to be reporting in and doing anything that wasn’t by the book would bring in all sorts of complications. She suggested some type of security, especially with Tom’s shop being broken into. With the valuables he sold, even if they were forgeries, he would have security. I still wanted Hawk to be a detective though. Hm… research time. I started researching detectives and security in the 1930s.The more I got to know Remi, the more Hawk started materializing. I wanted an opposite. Someone who under normal circumstances, Remi would have never been acquainted with. Not because he was too haughty, but because there just wouldn’t be a reason for these fellas to know each other. I wanted someone who could bring out the very best and worst in Remi, who could get through that calm reserve and push all his buttons. I needed someone rough around the edges, someone sexy and dangerous. Black three piece suit came to mind. Black hat, tie, shoes, black hair with a rich tan, and just so he wasn’t completely in the shadows, green eyes. Enter Stanley Hawk. Big, brawny, and with a devilish sense of humor. My fellas always have to have a sense of humor.
Imagine my big, wide grin when I read about Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency. The more I read about them and the part they played in the 1930s, the happier I got. It was perfect. Hawk was now a Pinkerton’s Detective. He would have the freedom he needed, could work alone–which was ideal for him, as he doesn’t play well with others, and of course there was the less reputable side of Pinkerton’s at the time, which added an extra aura of mystery and danger to him. Just how far would Hawk be willing to go to bring abut justice? It also gave Remi and Hawk a way to be together in the end without anyone getting suspicious.
Okay, so I had my heroes, who they were, what they did for a living, the cat that came from Cairo. Why Cairo? Because a copy of the original Gayer-Anderson Cat is kept in Cairo. Also, Cairo has been the setting for many a pulp novels, and that’s the sort of feel I was looking to give my story, an old school type caper.
I knew Remi had to have a friend in NY. Someone who cared for him and understood him. Not just someone who popped in for convenient plot purposes, but a fully developed character. Someone who had lived a full life, experiencing war, love and loss. Someone who didn’t want Remi to end up the way he did. Tom Winchell. He’s in his 70s, Remi’s old tutor from back home, a good friend, sweet and fiery. He wants Remi to be happy, and is known to knock some sense into his young friend when he needs it most. Tom would have grown up during the reign of Queen Victoria, so I wanted his shop to have a Victorian feel to it, and his shop is designed in a Gothic Revival style, with steel frames, high ceilings, and plenty of earthy reds.Okay, so I had my heroes, who they were, what they did for a living, the cat that came from Cairo. Why Cairo? Because a copy of the original Gayer-Anderson Cat is kept in Cairo. Also, Cairo has been the setting for many a pulp novels, and that’s the sort of feel I was looking to give my story, an old school type caper.
There was also the Gentleman Thief. I didn’t want him to be some backdrop villain with twirly mustache out to do away with anyone who crosses his path. I wanted him to have a background, to have his good points and bad. He’s not really a villain, just a bit off his nut, in that ‘I can do what I like because who’s going to stop me?’ kind of way. I wanted him to be smooth, skilled, and maybe even someone folks would like. He wasn’t out to hurt Remi, though he didn’t have a problem knocking Hawk around–though he had his reasons. ;) I wanted him to have a heart, and a soft spot for our young hero.
I envisioned him as a mix between Errol Flynn and A.J. Raffles. He’s wealthy, bored, and terribly lonely. He lost out on his big chance at love and even regrets that loss. He’s not a big fan of Hawk’s, and not just because Hawk keeps spoiling his fun.
Research – A whole lot of research went into this book. Starting with the museum. It wasn’t just about plonking the Gentleman Thief in a Cairo museum. The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities is now more commonly known as the Egyptian Museum. I had to look up images taken in the museum from various angles, floor plans to see what was where, and then I had to look up what exhibits and artifacts were placed in what rooms and wings in the 1930s, because exhibits get moved around and I try to be as accurate as possible. I had to look up the chain of command at the time and who was in charge of what, in order to give Tom’s friend Ahmed, the correct job title and responsibilities.
I had to research the more glamorous side of 1930s NYC, as well as the side being effected by the Great Depression, the division of social classes and how that would have an impact on Hawk and Remi’s relationship and their assumptions of each other.
Remi also owns a soup kitchen, so I had to research that too, what sort of meals were provided and how often. Everything from the car Hawk drives, the brands of radio, the movies, cargo ships and how long it took them to cross the Atlantic.
I had to know about the type of lifestyle Remi lived, where he ate, the places he would be seen at, as well as the type of lifestyle Hawk lived and the slang words he would use. Even though Hawk is pretty well spoken compared to his grumpy friend Bruce Shannon, there’s still slang in there from his boyhood days. His diction slips when he gets angry or drunk.
I used the WPA Guide to New York City, for everything from street maps, to hotel price guides, restaurants, and hospitals. Of course the guide was published in 1939, so anything I used I had to double check was around in 1934. And then of course there was the Downtown Skyport and docks where the end of the story takes place.