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I wrote In Retrospect when I was living in a suburb of Cairo, Egypt. I had a job as a publications specialist for a USAID project on economic development—specifically, on agricultural development in the Middle East. Every day I would descend from my fourth floor flat in the leafy town of Maadi and be driven, along with my seven colleagues, north to Cairo and then across the Nile to the Agricultural Research Center in the district of Giza. As in Giza pyramids.
It was a lovely place to work. Modern brick and glass building surrounded by fifty hectares of test plots, a green and brown checkerboard of crops such as sorghum, rye, winter wheat, and the ever present faba bean. No Egyptian cotton, which turns out to be uneconomical to grow, as it occupies the land for two of Egypt’s three growing seasons, and is labor intensive.
Since almost every document produced by the section of NARP I worked in went across my desk, I learned a lot about the range capacity of the arid sheep pastures of the Sinai, rain-water collection systems on the Mediterranean coast, and the pros and cons of various grape trellis systems. I got to travel to the Delta, where most of Egypt’s farm land is located, and down along the Nile, where the rest of it is found in two narrow bands less than a mile wide on either side of the river.
In Retrospect is set in Turkey, a country I visited during my fifteen years in Egypt. And though the story depends upon the geography of Turkey (notably the famed Straits of Bosporus), the agricultural and pastoral detail, the Eucalyptus trees that grow along the river, and the references to the scent of jasmine in the night all come from my experiences in Egypt.
Thank you, Egypt. I miss you.
ABOUT ELLEN LARSONEllen Larson’s first story appeared in Yankee Magazine in 1971. She has sold stories to AHMM (Barry Award finalist) and Big Pulp and is the author of the NJ Mysteries, The Hatch and Brood of Time and Unfold the Evil, featuring a sleuthing reporter. Her current book is In Retrospect, a dystopian mystery (Carefully crafted whodunit -PW starred). Larson lived for seventeen years in Egypt, where she developed a love of different cultures. She is editor of the Poisoned Pencil, the YA mystery imprint. These days she lives in an off-grid cabin in upstate New York, enjoying the solitude. Visit her at http://www.inretrospectbook.com
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