How do you prove something that doesn’t exist?

The proofreaders on Awakening of Spies did an amazing job but some of their queries made me think..

Part of the novel, which is set in the 1970s, takes place in the Hotel Sonnewende in the Dutch seaside town of Zandvoort. The proofreader couldn’t find a Hotel Sonnewende and indeed Sonnewende is not a Dutch word. Did I perhaps mean Sonnenwende?

I was sure my memory had not let me down but how to prove it? Fortunately google came to my rescue – and I eventually found a report in Dutch of the demolition of Hotel Sonnewende in 1980. The same thing happened for two other locations. One was a bar in Zandvoort which I was able to demonstrate had existed. The other was far more embarrassing.

The headquarters of MI6 at that time was Century House at the back of Waterloo Station. I had visited the building and taken care to describe it faithfully. But was I sure, asked the proofreader, that the address was 100 Waterloo Bridge Road?

Yes I was. Much of the fourth book in the series, Exodus of Spies is set there and I had quoted that address again. But just to be sure I checked. I was wrong. The address is 100 Westminster Bridge Road.

I doubt that many spy thriller fans would query the spelling of a Dutch hotel, but getting the wrong address for MI6 would have been unforgivable.

Thank heavens for my publisher’s proofreader.