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Two Mongolian Detectives
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During the nineties, Mary and I wrote four stories about Inspector Dorj, a detective in modern-day Mongolia. Three appeared back then in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and the fourth, more recently, in The Mammoth Book of Perfect Crimes and Impossible Mysteries.

Mongolia interests me for much the same reason sixth century Byzantium does. Both provide exotic settings but, more importantly, they are societies in transition, where past and future co-exist and continue to contend. The Eastern Roman Empire was a Christian society, built on the pagan foundation of ancient Rome. Mongolia is moving from communist rule to an elected government. In both societies contradictions abound. In Constantinople the Hippodrome -- the racetrack modeled on Rome's Circus Maximus -- sits practically next door to the Great Church built in veneration of the Christian God whose followers were slaughtered in Rome. Mongolians have democratically returned communists to power.

As is often the case old ways persist, particularly outside the cities. During the sixth century farmers might still, informally, have maintained a pagan shrine. In Mongolia herders are still moving their livestock as the season's change and living in the remarkable moveable round tents called yurts.

A decade or so ago, before we found ourselves writing Byzantine mysteries, Mary and I wanted to write a Dorj novel. In fact, we had the basic idea for a plot which would see the city bred, communist functionary, have to contend with the native Mongolian ways with which he was so uncomfortable. However, we sold One For Sorrow first and we have not had time to write even one Byzantine mystery a year, let alone anything else.

I doubt the Dorj book would have been written even if we'd had the time. When we penned our first story, The Obo Mystery, Mongolia was still, as far as we knew, a remote and little vivisted corner of the world. But we were writing before the Internet really got going. As soon as that happened it became apparent that Monglia had become an exciting destination for many adventurous travelers. Suddenly there was a huge amount of information on the country available.

I am not uncomfortable setting down my impressions of the sixth century Constantinople based on what I've read -- because no one alive has experienced the place first hand and my guess is as good as anyone's. But I am reluctant to present to readers a second-hand view of a place when there are plenty of first-hand views available. So you will have to live without the Dorj novel.

However, you will not have to live without a novel featuring a modern Mongolian detective! Mary and I just discovered the Nergui novels, a series of modern crime thrillers set in modern-day Mongolia. Author Michael Walters has first hand experience of the country.

Michael kindly mentioned our stories on his blog and rather than me saying more here please continue reading A Rival for Nergui.

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