If you want to know the time, ask a policeman. If you want to know what makes a city tick, ask a crime-writer.

That’s how NPR – America’s answer to Radio 4 – are taking listeners to fascinating places around the world.

I think it’s a brilliant idea. Crime-writers  do explore their cities. Sometimes they define them – imagine a London without Sherlock Holmes at 221b Baker Street, or Los Angeles without Philip Marlowe. For several minutes, at breakfast-time in the summer holidays, you might hear Donna Leon strolling through Venice,  Robert P. Parker talking about Boston, Laura Lippman on Baltimore. It’s called ‘Crime in the City’ and it airs on Morning Edition.

So last week, while in Istanbul again, I spent a great day tramping the streets with NPR journalist Ivan Watson, visiting places and people I know, linking them to passages from the books.

We went underground, into the cisterns of Byzantine Constantinople. We went onto rooftops, with Istanbul spread below us. I did one reading about muezzins to the sound of the muezzins – and another, about the Spice Bazaar, to the sound of hucksters and shoppers in the Spice Bazaar. We talked about Yashim, and Istanbul, and the passage of history – and at the end of the day we went to a friend’s place and actually cooked imam bayildi the way Yashim might have done it, with an indecent amount of virgin oil.

It tasted delicious.

The segment runs the week of August 11th.

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