Friday, October 12, 2012

Guest Blog: Does Edith Parzefall Push Her Luck?

Research Break: Sleeping with the Policia Militar

Imagine you've spent months or rather years following Amnesty International reports, reading books, watching movies and documentaries about military police brutality in Brazil. You travel to Rio, the location of the thriller you're working on, Strays of Rio. You explore life in the favelas and roam the fashionable districts of Rio. Military police is ever-present, even on the Copacabana and Ipanema (Rick note: The song, The Girl from Ipanema, is now 50; the girl 68.) beaches. The sight of these well-armed men and women fills you with unease, but nobody else cares, so you stroll on.

Plates and Numbers
smudged on purpose
Then you hop over to the Iguacu Falls for a respite to enjoy nature in the full. You've booked a nice little hotel in advance, close to the main bus terminal. After admiring the Brazilian side of the stunning waterfalls, you return to the hotel and see a military police car parked in the driveway. You pause. It's getting dark and you're tired. Chin held up high, you turn into the driveway and spot two more vehicles. Deep breath. Your bags and travel documents are in your hotel room, and there are no bullets flying yet.

You enter and stare at a man in uniform, cleaning a large knife--rather a dagger really. He gazes up, frowns, and continues to make the blade shine. Then you notice the assault rifle leaning against the sofa he sits on.

For lack of a better idea, you proceed to the reception desk to pick up your key. As always, the lady smiles. From the opposite corner, two more military police officers dart you curious glances.

Edith in the Garden of Eden
You grab the key and escape down the corridor to your room, but all the doors stand ajar. A gaze to the right reveals a man in boxer shorts lying on his bed, a helmet by his feet and an assault rifle on the table. You hurry on past another open door revealing two more cops shedding their uniforms. Faster. Your room is at the end of the darn corridor. No more sideways glances! Quick. The lock resists for a moment but finally yields.

You'd planned to take a shower and then have a beer in the nice tropical garden behind the hotel. Among a bunch of ill-reputed armed guys? Maybe not such a good idea... 

Link to Amazon
The next morning, there's no sign of your infamous neighbors. You ask the receptionist what they were doing here. Smiling, she explains, "Oh, they are after drug dealers and weapon smugglers trying to cross the river from Paraguay. Nothing to worry about."

"Oh, okay." Then you remember the river and the border are only four blocks away... "Is it dangerous to walk around here?" you ask.

Smiling, she waves away your concerns. "No, not at all. Enjoy your stay."
- - -
Nope, I didn't dare to take photos of the armed or naked police officers, and fortunately, I wasn't alone during this adventure. Thanks Monika for playing bodyguard.
- - - 
Rick asks, "So, to what lengths do you go to research your stories?"


Edith Parzefall said...

No, I never push my luck. Luck pounces on me. :-)

Francene Stanley said...

No need to push. Just walk and see what happens along the way.

Rosalie Skinner said...

Amazing experience. Truth being stranger than fiction, hey! No wonder Strays is so gripping. Congratulations.

dolittlesaymuch said...

Great post, Edith!

Sherry Gloag said...

Wonderful story, and yeah, a bit scary. Since i wouldn't know 'till I got there, if I had the opportunity i'd probably try to visit the area I'm researching.

Rick Bylina said...

Though not as exciting, I spent two weeks on the road from Chicago to northern Illinois doing research for a novel. Unfortunately, first readers felt it was too boring. After I killed the first readers, I put the book under the bed for a year. When I reread it, I discovered they were right. My bad. I may still fix it some day.

Don McCandless said...

A great story, Edith. Reminds me of the time, while on vacation, the live-aboard scuba diving boat I was on got boarded by armed Bahamian police. "Put your camera away." The captain warned. These guys don't like to have their pictures taken. I really wanted a shot of one of those rusty sub-machine guns, but I obeyed.

Edith's research in 'Strays of Rio' is readily apparent, and makes all the difference in her vivid imagery.

Poor research is a pet-peeve of mine, and I frequently see it in what I read. Simple things like how things work are are ingnored to the detriment of everything else in the novel.

My current project utilizes several years of research into family history begun by a distant cousin of mine, picked up by an aunt after he died, and finished by myself after she passed away. Thousands of pages had to be read, catalogued, and filed before I could take up the task they began. Somewhere in this process the idea for a novel began to form and grow. The internet opened avenues unavailable to my relatives and I've been contacted by relations I never knew existed. I've discovered ancestors who were involved in revolutions here and abroad, and that fact directed me toward more research on key moments in history that I'd never been aware of before. Good research is a lot like peanuts, or M&Ms. Once you start, it's really hard to stop.

Edith Parzefall said...

Thanks, folks, for the lovely comments. Rick, are you going to write your memoirs in prison?