Dragonwall, and the lunatics who use it.

and the lunatics who use it.

When I’m researching for novels, I end up in some very strange territory sometimes.

Especially with the new Project Kobra series, I often wondered if I was setting off alarm bells in a cubicle at the NSA, or the counter-terrorism unit of the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police), considering some of the websites I was visiting suggest subversive interests.

No one has come to barge down my door yet, so maybe they saw “author” attached to my name and relaxed. 🙂

A great deal of Hunting the Kobra takes place in Vienna, Austria. It just happens to be a city I’ve visited a long (long) time ago, and loved. In my mind, Vienna is always associated with the tragic romance between the Crown Prince Rudolf and Baroness Mary Vetsera, in the 19th century. When I was also too young to mention a specific year, I saw a rerun of the MGM movie, Mayerling, which is a fictional account of the tragedy.

And, of course, Vienna is music. >

I was a competition level ballroom dancer (also long ago), and fell in love with the lilting cadences of the Viennese Waltz. Even the name is exotic and interesting (which is why I have at least one story with the name in the title).

So, when I first decided to make two of the principal characters in the novel musicians and dreamers, Vienna almost instantly sprang to mind as a city of origin for one of them.

A few hours of research later, I came up for air and realized I had accidentally hit upon the perfect city in which to set the story. Vienna also happens to be a hotbed of espionage activities, one of the busiest in the world.

Tom Cruise in the opening scene of Mission Impossible II

Another of the characters in the book needed to be able to climb very tall structures unaided, and I couldn’t get an image out of my mind of Tom Cruise climbing a vertical mountain side in the opening of Mission Impossible II.

That opening scene always makes my heart race because he climbs without ropes or pitons. I’m sure that the actor used a net and any ropes or wires he did use were erased from the final scenes…so imagine my surprise to learn that climbers climb mountains all the time without ropes or pitons or other aids. Just them and their hands and feet and muscle strength.

I would be terrified.

It’s called free climbing and there have been, not surprisingly, a number of fatalities over the years.


So I dug deeper into the types of rock climbing out there and came across a reference to the world’s ten top scariest climbs. Number five was a favourite of BASE jumpers — a mountain in Austria called Drachenwald. (Dragonwall).

Better and better.

I dug a bit deeper and learned that BASE jumpers climb mountains or very tall structures (including the highest bridges in the world, and the highest skyscrapers), then, when they reach the top, fling themselves off, free fall for a while, then open a parachute and land.

Not in a million years would I do that.

But it was perfect for the hero of Hunting the Kobra.

It’s surprising how often these wonderful coincidences crop up in my research.



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