The novel is based on a real event that took place in Sucre, Columbia in 1951. The real story occured "on January 22, 1951. Cayetano Gentile, a handsome medical student of Italian parents, was murdered by the brothers of Margarita Chica Salas. Her husband, Miguel Reyes Palencia, had earlier returned her to the home of her parents."
Garcia later wrote that:
"When the event took place in 1951, I was interested in it not as material for a novel but as a newspaper article. .. I started thinking about the case in literary terms several years later, but I always had to bear in mind how upset my mother would be at the very thought of seeing so many of her friends and relatives in a book written by her son.. .after I’d chewed it over for many years, I discovered the vital ingredient–that the two murderers didn't want to commit the crime and had tried their utmost to get somebody to prevent it, without success. "
Garcia took the events of the real incident and combined them with his own imagination to tell explain his perception, motivation and consequences of the crime.