The Story Behind The King Of Diamonds

I have always been fascinated by jewels. As a kid I loved to play a game called Buccaneer in which tiny boats moved across the board carrying cargoes of pearls and rubies, and I believed utterly in my grandfather’s fiction that the fate of an entire world could depend on what happened to one golden ring. But for me nothing was quite like the diamond. I knew that no jewel was as hard; no precious stone was as bright, and the stories of the great diamonds appealed to my love of history and romance. It was icing on the cake that so many of them turned out to be cursed, bringing ruin and damnation to their owners who could even so never be persuaded to part with them. 

Later in life I became particularly interested by the Second World War – a time when the fate of the world hung in the balance and fact often seemed stranger than fiction - and I made a massacre of a family in France in 1944 the key to the mystery in my last book, The Inheritance. Afterward I began reading extensively about the Holocaust in Western Europe and discovered how important a role diamonds had played in the efforts of Jews to escape the Nazis, especially in Belgium where the town of Antwerp was then as now the center of the world diamond trade. Diamonds were small and easy to hide and they could be used to buy a way to freedom, except that sometimes the men who ran the escape routes betrayed their trust. 

And so I decided to follow The Inheritance with a book about these blood diamonds of the past. In The King of Diamonds, Inspector Trave, my policeman in The Inheritance, must once again search back into the wartime past, this time in Belgium, to find out who is responsible for a double murder, while meanwhile Titus Osman, the king of the title, casts a spell over Trave’s estranged wife and secures her engagement to marry him by placing a cutting of the world-famous Regency Diamond on her finger. 

The King of Diamonds is first and foremost a murder mystery, but it is also a story like my grandfather’s about how people can be corrupted and enslaved by jewels, while in addition it is a piece of historical fiction seeking to throw a light on the infinitely sad but little-discussed fate of the Belgian Jews during the Holocaust. 

Simon Tolkien
February 11, 2011