Somerset Maugham once famously said, “Raffles stands for all the fables of the exotic East”. And whilst the mysticism that once shrouded the region has largely disappeared, for me, the Raffles has lost none of its allure. For over a century, it has been a meeting point for global travellers; synonymous with luxury and extraordinary adventure.
I had just finished an adventure of my own the first time I stayed here. Fresh from trekking in the Himalayas, I was resplendent in my (not altogether clean) tramping boots, which had obstinately refused to squeeze into my luggage at Kathmandu airport. But as Narajan guided me across the red carpet into the cool, pillared lobby, I felt like Cinderella in glass slippers.
Contrasts like this have always attracted me. Mixing the old with the new, combining the familiar with the unfamiliar or having luxury at the end of a rugged adventure. Such contradictions add variety and richness to my life. They also provided me with the inspiration for the first novel in my new series The Raffles Affair, a modern-day murder mystery that brings back all the fun and glamour of the classic whodunnit.
For any writer lucky enough to stay at Raffles Singapore, it is impossible not to feel inspired by the hotel and its rich literary heritage. I can still remember my first visit to Writers Bar, sipping a chilled glass of Billecart-Salmon and basking in the legacy of the many literary greats who had crossed the fabled threshold before me, whilst dreaming of penning my novel under a frangipani tree.
Little did I imagine then that I would one day return as Writer-in-Residence, having written that novel and sipping cocktails inspired by the characters in it. Yet, as soon as travel restrictions ease, that is where you will find me. Enjoying an Agent Provocateur and thinking of my beautiful protagonist, Secret Agent Victoria West – whose first appearance in the book is in Writers Bar. Because what could be more reminiscent of Golden Age glamour than a beautiful spy, sitting in an elegant bar with a cocktail in hand – shaken or stirred.
The Raffles Affair will be available in paperback and e-book from April 12. You can also taste Virtue’s words in a series of inspired cocktails created by the team at Writers Bar – including Agent Provocateur, a mix of Blandy’s 5 Year Old Bual Madeira, El Dorado 12, Concord Grenadine, lemon and mint.