City of the Lost


City of the Lost

One of the great rewards of writing archaeological thrillers is the opportunity it offers to visit fascinating new places every year (and as a legitimate business expense too!). That said, finding exotic locations in which to set books isn’t easy, particularly as (with stories like mine) they need to be plausibly capable of concealing the answer to a mystery undiscovered for hundreds or even thousands of years, in spite of all the latest technological advances.

The plot of City Of The Lost demanded a climax in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus; preferably on its eastern coast, as close to the famous historical site of Salamis as I could get. A quick glance at a map shows the port city of Famagusta just a few miles south of Salamis – and it’s a place with a compelling history of its own.

Fifty years ago, its resort district of Varosha was Cyprus’s (and perhaps even the Mediterranean’s) top tourist destination. But then a botched Greek-backed coup prompted the Turkish Army to invade the north of the island and push south until they’d overrun approximately a third of it, including Famagusta and its Varosha resort. Then they stopped, effectively creating the ‘Green Line’ that still divides Cyprus today.

Most of this captured territory – including the bulk of the city of Famagusta – was quickly occupied by Turkish Cypriots and Turks from the mainland. But Varosha was instead completely sealed off by the Turkish army. And so it has remained ever since – a Forbidden Zone that becomes, with each year, ever more of a ghost city, its hotels crumbling into ruin, roofs caving in, abandoned cars rusting in its streets, its open spaces overrun by cactus and other vegetation, while endangered turtles nest upon its deserted beaches.

Since 1974, there have been multiple efforts to resolve the Cyprus problem. Many of them have foundered on the question of what to do about Varosha. The Republic of Cyprus has insisted it be handed back first, as a gesture of goodwill. But Turkey – and, in particular, the Turkish Army – has always refused. Maybe that’s simply a hard-nosed negotiating tactic.

Or maybe there’s a darker reason.

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