Wednesday, May 11, 2011
LADIES' KILLING THURSDAYS
Is there anything more spectacular than the Nahanni River in Canada’s Northwest Territories? A world Heritage site and a National Park Reserve, it has some of the most incredible natural diversity and scenery in the entire world. Miles and miles of wilderness with canyons, whitewater, waterfalls, hot springs, lazy, meandering flat water, and ragged glacial mountains. It is home to caribou, grizzlies, swans, eagles, mountain goats and sheep. Brilliant pink wild flowers cling to its gravel shores, while alpine meadows and jagged spruce forests rise up the slopes around it.
Why am I going on like this? Because this is the setting for my next Inspector Green novel. Yes, that’s Ottawa Police Inspector Michael Green, the inner city boy who loves crumbling asphalt and diesel fumes, and who struggles to learn the suburban “dad” skills of mowing the lawn and firing up the barbeque. Inspector Green is going on the Nahanni.
Only one thing could possibly pry him loose from his safe urban world and send him up into one of the last true wildernesses on earth. One of his children has disappeared. His spirited, independent daughter Hannah has gone on a wilderness canoe trip down the Nahanni with a group of friends, and they have failed to show up at their take-out point.
Canoeing the Nahanni has always been a dream of mine, but with the tight timeline of this book and with this summer (not to mention this year’s budget) already spoken for, I will have to content myself with researching from afar. Luckily I have been on a wilderness rafting trip in the Yukon, a very different river and a raft instead of a canoe, but at least I have scanned the distant slopes in search of mountain sheep and watched a grizzly prowl along the gravel shoreline in search of food. I have seen the wild flowers and heard the rush of river current. Along with my research, those memories will have to do.
At the moment my dining room table is completely taken over by topographical maps as I attempt to trace the route his daughter took and decide where she would have gone astray. I will use these maps when I write the search scenes and when Green tries desperately to figure out where she has gone. It is wonderful fun to try to recreate the real wilderness from these lines and squiggles on the page, with the rapids, moraines and creek beds marked. The topographical maps even show the old mining roads and the trappers’ cabins left decades ago by explorers and prospectors who ventured and died in this stunning land.
I am at the beginning of my journey, so stay tuned as I give periodic updates on my progress. With any luck, by the end Faint Hope, Green’s latest adventure, will be born.
Barbara Fradkin is a child psychologist with a fascination for how we turn bad. In addition to her darkly haunting short stories in the Ladies Killing Circle anthologies, she writes the gritty, Ottawa-based Inspector Green novels which have
won back to back Arthur Ellis Awards for Best Novel from Crime Writers of Canada. The eighth in the series, Beautiful Lie the Dead, explores love in all its complications. And, her new Rapid Read from Orca, The Fall Guy, is being launched Sun. May 15th.