How do dreams and imagination tell a story? 

I wanted a very quiet and confining opening to Islands of Deception, something that would provide a stark contrast between the security of life in Holland and the perils of being a spy in the Pacific Islands. Hans Bernsteen is bookkeeper, stuck in offices when he wants to be outdoors taking pictures.

The only real information I had was that father’s family had owned some 300 stores that sold notions, textiles, and millinery supplies – what we call the rag trade these days. That meant that there had to be some 300 ledgers, pages of work that was tedious and exacting. Most of us cannot count and talk at the same time, so tasks would be solitary. There would be thousands of daily transactions to ink and pages to blot. I could almost feel the weight, lugging and shelving the heavy ledgers.

Two years after I had written those first scenes, I received an envelope from Amsterdam.

It contained a few 1930s photos that had escaped the dust and debris of the war. Imagine my surprise when I saw these bookshelves. Here was the room I had conjured, with the addition of the trolley tracks for carrying the heavy volumes to the proper locations.

I wonder if they ever imagined Excel?

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