Monday, February 4, 2008

Accidental Trivia

The Accident Man is a work of pure fiction, but it is inspired by real events, places and facts...so here are some of said places and facts.

WARNING! There are spoilers (ish) in what follows!

  • It is possible to sabotage a helicopter using a screwdriver, hacksaw and Blu-Tack, just as Samuel Carver does in the opening chapter. It is also possible to mix C4 explosive and lubricating oil to create explosive putty, as Carver does when he first arrives in Paris.

  • Although no year is specified in the book, all the research was based on the fact that Princess Diana was killed on 31 August 1997. For example, the Gulfstream V in which Carver flies from New Zealand to Paris, via Los Angeles, was not officially introduced until September 1997. It was, however, air-certified in April 1997, so it is conceivable that a group as powerful as the Consortium might have obtained a plane ahead of its public launch. The flight described between new Zealand and Los Angeles would have been – just! – within the jet’s range.

  • The geography of Paris is exactly as described in the book. There are, for example, steps at the front of the Palais de Tokyo which would be climbable by a skilled rider on a Honda XR-400 (1997 model) trail-bike, like the one ridden by Carver. The fight between Carver and Kursk in the sewer museum at Les Egouts takes place in tunnels and chambers open to any visitor and they can also see the giant wooden ball with which Kursk attacks Carver, not to mention the winding metal steps up which Carver then escapes.

  • In the admittedly unlikely event that even Grigori Kursk were tough enough to survive being blown up by an explosive charge, not to mention being swept away by a flood of sewage, the Paris sewer-network would deposit him just were he emerges, somewhere near the junction of the Boulevard Berthier and Avenue de Clichy, by the SNCF railyards.

  • The bus-stop where Carver first encounters Alix exists, while the flat on the Ile St Louis which Carver booby-traps and the ‘hotel particular’ where he and Alix confront Max and his men are both adapted versions of genuine locations. The night-club off the Boulevard de Sebastopol where they hide out is a (heavily) fictionalised version of the famous ‘Bains Douches’.

  • The train-timetables between France and Switzerland and the bus-routes within Geneva are all closely based on genuine schedules.

  • The street on which Carver lives in the Old Town of Geneva is a fictional creation. But the cafĂ© owned by his friend Freddy is based on a tiny place on Grand Rue, next to an antiquarian bookshop which displays its goods on open shelves in the streets, in the very style that Alix finds so surprising. The Irish pub where Carver fights Kursk’s heavies was inspired by the experience of walking past Flanagan’s in the Rue du Cheval Blanc and realising, with a smile, that nowhere on earth was immune to Guinness and shamrocks. But it isn't intended to be Flanagan's.

  • The management of the Hotel Beau Rivage, on the Quai du Mont Blanc are owed an apology for the use of their beautiful and deeply respectable establishment as the backdrop for such sleazy, honey-trapping activities as the ones that Alix and Carver get up to with the ill-fated banker, M. Leclerc! And I should point out that their bookings system is in fact far too secure for a real-life Thor Larsson to hack into it as he does in the book.

  • The drugs used to create the correct combination of emotional warmth, disorientation, disinhibition and sexual arousal in M. Leclerc were hypothetically prescribed by a genuine doctor. Readers are, however, strongly advised not to try them at home, either individually or in combination.

  • The flight-plan and cost (at 1997 prices) of a private flight from Biggin Hill to Sion are both accurate.

  • The effects of prolonged torture by an electro-shock device like the belt used on Carver certainly involve muscle-spasm, incapacity, extreme pain and, if prolonged for too long, potential heart-failure and death. They can also include involuntary loss of bowel and bladder-control and memory-loss. Extreme mental stress can also induce a ‘fugue’ state in which a subject becomes totally dissociated from their usual identity, adopting another persona.

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