Friday, 20 September 2013

Foreign Places In My Blood - by Nik Morton

Still on the subject of book settings, today I'm hosting a fascinating article by Nik Morton uncovering the island of Tenerife, background to his adrenaline-filled thriller "Blood of the Dragon Trees".

Many years ago, when I first hankered after being an author, I wanted to write about exotic places around the world. Have my heroes and heroines travelling the globe, much like Dennis Wheatley managed with his many series characters. Maybe that’s why I eventually joined the Royal Navy…

My first attempt at a novel featured a section in Lisbon – I’d recently been on a school trip. So I got the bug about writing of foreign places early. I’ve set books and short stories in most of the places I’ve visited over the years. Even so, it requires research, no matter how familiar.

My latest book, Blood of the Dragon Trees is set in Tenerife, an island my wife and I have visited a number of times, flying from UK and latterly from mainland Spain, our home for the last ten years.

You’ve probably seen the occasional film that opts for the most interesting places in a town or city for photographic or dramatic reasons but juggles them about in the timeline. In my books, I try not to do that. My characters walk and drive through real places and their route is logical.

The dragon trees are found in North Africa, Spain and Asia. They’re unusual – their sap, when it’s exposed to daylight, darkens to the colour of blood. The gigantic dragon tree in Icod de los Vinos on Tenerife is called Drago Milenario – considered to be over a thousand years old, and is quite a remarkable specimen.

Los Cristianos dockside, where locals and tourists witness a boat-load of illegal immigrants being processed, is real, of course. This occurrence is fairly commonplace, too, a reflection of our modern times.

The huge market in Santa Cruz, Tenerife’s capital, is pivotal to the meeting of two main characters. It’s a place full of colours and smells, with a distinctly North African flavour to it.

Bananas from the Canaries figure in the storyline. They’re sweeter and smaller than those from Central America and the Caribbean.

      "Felipe nodded. “Before he was General Franco, he’d been Captain General of the Canary Islands. After the Second World War, our banana industry was on its knees. Franco decreed that one kilo of Canary bananas was to be bought by every cardholder each month. That measure, it saved the industry from collapse. One good think Franco did for Spain.” (p102).

On mainland Spain, we invariably have the choice of Canary or Colombia bananas, and I opt for the Spanish, even though they’re slightly dearer.

Dominating the island is Mount Teide, the highest point in Spain. It is still regarded as active, though its last eruption was in 1909, and stark evidence remains on the coast by the towns of Garachico, Icod de los Vinos and Puerto de la Cruz. The volcano and the surrounding area is a national park, one of the most visited in the world. The craggy rock formations are fantastic in every sense, the entire area photogenic; indeed, the whole island is. A number of fantasy and science fiction movies have been filmed in the Teide crater.

            "Now Laura gasped as the peak of the mountain came into view on their left through the windscreen. She’d seen it from a distance as a snow-capped tip of a pyramid, but this was totally different. It literally took her breath away – the pockets of snow and sharp rock jutting into the sheer blue sky. They had entered the Las Cañadas National Park, with its flat white expanse of fine sands and gravel. Rocks shimmered in assorted colors.
The steep-walled caldera climbed up to El Teide, the peak of the remaining but dormant volcano. On either side of them stretched the extensive plain of Ucanca, its surface dotted with gullies and ravines, patches of scrub, cactus and broom." (p124).

There’s a cable car that runs (almost) to the top of Teide, though cross-winds can cancel its operation. On a clear day, the views from the top are breathtaking.

A short boat ride from Tenerife is the small island of Gomera. The boat trip and a coach journey round Gomera are worthwhile. It’s lush, with countless barrancos – steep sided verdant valleys. Because of the great inaccessible distances between farms and hillside fields, the locals developed silbo, a whistling language, and crossed ravines using tall poles. The book’s cliff-hanging denouement occurs on Gomera.

About 5 million tourists visit Tenerife each year; it would be wonderful to think that a fair portion of them could pick up Blood of the Dragon Trees while there, and visit the places mentioned!


Nik Morton served for over twenty years in the Royal Navy, appropriately as a Writer, then went into IT. He has sold many short stories and edited several books and magazines. In 2003 he and his wife Jennifer moved to Spain. In February 2011 he was hired as the editor-in-chief of the US publisher, Solstice Publishing until July 2013. 

Blood of the Dragon Trees is Nik’s 18th book to be published and it will appeal to anyone who is interested in Spain, crime thrillers, or romantic adventures.  

 Tigers slaughtered to cure pimples!

Laura Reid likes her new job on Tenerife, teaching the Spanish twins Maria and Ricardo Chávez. She certainly doesn’t want to get involved with Andrew Kirby and his pal, Jalbala Emcheta, who work for CITES, tracking down illegal traders in endangered species. Yet she’s undeniably drawn to Andrew, which is complicated, as she’s also attracted to Felipe, the brother of her widower host, Don Alonso.

Felipe’s girlfriend Lola is jealous and Laura is forced to take sides – risking her own life – as she and Andrew uncover the criminal network that not only deals in the products from endangered species, but also thrives on people trafficking. The pair are aided by two Spanish lawmen, Lieutenant Vargas of the Guardia Civil and Ruben Salazar, Inspector Jefe del Grupo de Homicidios de las Canarias.

Very soon betrayal and mortal danger lurk in the shadows, along with the dark deeds of kidnapping and clandestine scuba diving…

1 comment:

  1. Very enjoyable post. My thanks to Nik and Michela. I've got the book, Nik, and now I need the time to get around to reading all that's in my kindle pile! Like you, I love including fantastic places I've been to around the world in my novels. I, also, went to Lisbon on a school trip (Dunera Cruise- a real tub in 1967). I haven't written it into any of my novels since my memories of it, and Gibraltar, are very vague. I'd have to revisit before I'd write them in now- but, hey! -there's something to plan for. Though it would need to be well after I finish all my reading, and current writing, and earn some pennies.(I must stop visiting blogs, and FB now! :-))