Eva Maria Staal* was an international arms trafficker. Since the '80s, she has sold weapons in Chechnya, Pakistan, China and beyond. Her work, while legal, frequently brought her in close contact with all kinds of underworld figures — from drug dealers to child and sex traffickers. Her debut novel “Try the Morgue,” draws on these experiences. It also addresses her struggles to balance the testosterone-fueled world of arm trafficking with the demands of raising a little girl.
"Of course a lot of it is fictional, because when your pen hits the paper, you start to lie," she says. But she does admit that this novel closely mirrors her own experiences.
"I went to work, which was always just another day at the office," Staal says. "And at the end of the day, you will come home, and there you will have a husband and a child and dishes that need to be washed, and that was how it was."
Staal began running weapons when she was in her early twenties, and at the time, she said, it seemed very exciting. "I was a thrill seeker," she says. "Some people jump out of a plane with a parachute, I did this, because I was sort of addicted to it."
In her business, there was a real effort made to never sell weapons to bad people. But of course, she did not always know exactly whose hands the weapons would end in. "We always tried to sell weapons only to people for defending themselves, never to aggressors," she says. "But I must be honest to you, I sometimes closed my eyes… I didn't always dig too deep."
"I've come to my senses, you could say," Staal says, of why she quit the business. "When you're young, well, you're a bit reckless."
*Not her real name.