Monday, February 25, 2013

A Glimpse at Some Locations in Spy Island

This post is for readers who are interested in seeing what some of the locations in the novel look like. Since the 1917 transfer of the Danish West Indies to the US, the islands have not changed significantly in appearance, so these pictures give a good idea of life looked like back during colonial days. I took these pictures during my "location scouting" trip in August 2007, when the average temperature was a sweltering 95°F and most of the islanders were hiding out on the beach.

This is the pavilion in Emancipation Park where the pivotal assassination scene takes place. This park is only a short distance from Fort Christian, which was undergoing renovations during my visit and was gated off to the public. I daresay I look pretty confident for a person about to embark on a major, life-changing event, although I wasn't aware of it at the time!

These scary-looking cannons line the driveway of Bluebeard's castle. I suppose at one time or another they were fired at marauding pirate ships and privateers, but in these less-dramatic times, the harbor is mostly bombarded with cruise ships and rich yachts filled with eager tourists.

The Barracks that once held the Danish Gendarmes now houses the V.I. Legislature. Gone are the blue-suited soldiers with shiny swords and revolvers. They've been replaced with the symbol of our generation: over-worked, harried bureaucrats armed with cellphones and Ipads. My how times have changed!

This house on Synagogue Hill was my inspiration for Abby's house. It has a large, sweeping veranda, a beautiful, panoramic view of the harbor, and lots of mysterious doors leading to secret locations.
The Famous Market Square and behind it, the former National Bank of the Danish West Indies, the site of some tense scenes with the mad Voodoo Queen-bamboula dancer, Queen Coziah, whose real-life identity remains a mystery even to this day.
A bedroom in the Haagensen House Museum (a restored Danish house from colonial days) provided tremendous inspiration for Abby's room with its West Indian mahogany furniture, four-posted bed, vanity table, old pictures, and large, jalousied windows.
The Grand Hotel has not been a working hotel in 40 years, but it stands as a reminder of what life was like back in Danish Times, quieter, simpler, less congested. Exactly the kind of life many of us would love to return to!

A Creole kitchen from the 19th Century. You can imagine all the arguing and bickering that must have gone on in this kitchen over the proper way to make kallaloo!
I hope you enjoyed this little tour. If you should ever find yourself in the town of Charlotte Amalie, keep an eye out for Queen Coziah; she's been known to make sudden appearances from time to time:)

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