I had always been given the impression, from reading interviews, that most authors went to painstaking lengths to research their characters and locations. In some instances people would shadow Police officers, board battleships and hang out in unfamiliar pubs and clubs to get the feel right for their novels.
So it comes as a bit of a surprise to see the admission by Mark Haddon, author of the award winning The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, that he visited Peterborough, the setting of his new book Spot of Bother, only once and hated it. Remarks he made at the Edinburgh Festival, reported in The Independent have incensed locals: “I wrote the book without going there and then went for a night to check a few details. I stayed at a hotel. There's nothing I can say apart from: don't do that. I tried to go to a restaurant; there are no restaurants in Peterborough."
As well as the low-level research the other oddity here is that most authors develop an affinity with the place they set their novels in. Think of Colin Dexter and Philip Pullman and Oxford, Ian Rankin and Edinburgh and J.R.R Tolkien and C.S Lewis and Middle Earth and Narnia and you can see a difference in approach that marks Haddon out from some other techniques. Quite possibly it is that difference in feel that added to the strange feel in The Curious Incident and made it so different from other books on the market.