Some of my favourite novels have a sense of place inextricably tied to their stories. I can’t think of The Count of Monte Cristo without thinking of Paris and Rome, Gatsby without Manhattan or Fifth Business without the mix of old Toronto and rural Deptford (aka Thamesvile). I loved the portrayal of Quauhnahuac (aka Cuernavaca), Mexico in Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano – the heat, the weather, the people are all infused into the interactions of the three British ex-pat main characters.
I also chose Mexico as the setting for my novel, The Devil’s Gold*. In 1998 I spent the summer working in Zacatecas – Mexico’s best kept secret. Recently, I was in Mexico on business and I took a day off to fly to Zacatecas to spend a day to see the sites, take notes and breathe the city air again. Before the trip I used Google Earth, Google Street View and image searches to do the majority of my location research, which was very useful but it was no substitute for actually visiting the city. I had forgotten how beautiful it was and how much I loved the city. It is a small, colonial-style city, a U.N. National Heritage site and one of the oldest colonized cities in the Americas.