Friday, February 28, 2014

MYSTERY REVIEW - GOLD WEB

GOLD WEB
By Vicki Delany
Dundurn



Travel back in time to the days of the Klondike gold rush and meet one of the fiestiest ladies then and now. She's Fiona MacGillivray - Mrs. MacGillivray to her many customers at the Savoy Saloon and Dance Hall, which she co-owns in Dawson, 1898. And she can't seem to stay out of trouble.

In fact, trouble seems to track her down, as witnessed in the earlier three books in this series. But that shouldn't be surprising because as we find out right from the start, Fiona has a somewhat questionable past, despite all her ladylike qualities, and being far away in the north suits her just fine. In fact, in Gold Web, we find out even more about her past and how her life on the streets as a young girl contributed to the determined, clever and crafty woman who is tough enough to own a saloon in a town filled with men struck with gold fever.

All the regulars are back -- Angus, her twelve-year-old son who works part-time in the general store and dreams of being a Mountie; the handsome North-West Mounted Police Corporal Richard Sterling who has a soft spot for Fiona but can't seem to tell her about it, partly because he's too busy keeping the rowdiness of this wild town in check; and, her business partner Ray Walker.

Dawson, being a wide open town with lots of gold nuggets flowing across the bars, gambling tables and stages, attracts an equally boisterous gang of prospectors and women. This time, there's a murder out back of the Savoy and the victim calls out Fiona's name as he stumbles towards her.

The story is rich in historical references. You can see the mud on the street as Fiona tucks her skirt into her boots and trudges along; cringe at the sight of the lecherous drunks; and get a sense of the tightrope the NWMP would often walk in order to keep law and order.

Delany has added another historical layer this time, that has the possiblity of the Scottish Independence Movement taking hold in the Yukon and hints of the Fenian Brotherhood. There's also the American interest in obtaining the territory and even a plot to trade Alaska in exchange for the Yukon...well, you'll have to read it to get the whole picture.

Vicki Delany has managed to fill the pages with a different era, with history and scenery that comes alive on the pages, and with three-dimensional characters whose stories will capture you in the web. The Gold Web, that is.

Friday, February 21, 2014

SCHMOOZING WITH LINDA HALL


Who has influenced you the most in your writing career?

I’ve had so very many influences through the years that it’s hard to come up with just one. If you had asked me this when I was a teenager I had one name- Edgar Allan Poe. Later on it was Ruth Rendell. I especially adored her Barbara Vine books. I read Sue Grafton devoured her books and loved the idea of the series character.

What are you working on now?

I have a number of projects in the works. As we speak, my full length mystery, Night Watch is in with my agent. It features my new series character, Captain Emmeline Ridge, a female boat delivery captain who, of course, ends up being right in the middle of all sorts of murders and mystery and mayhem.

A second thing I’m working on is a short story collection. I’ve written a number through the years and I’m currently planning on self-publishing an ebook collection. I love short stories, love reading them and love writing them, but for a long time the publishing industry decided that “they didn't sell”. Well, no body asked me! This collection of mine will include a few stories reprinted from anthologies and some new ones. Currently I don’t even have a title for the collection - so stay tuned - writerhall.com or Facebook.com/writerhall

The final thing I’m doing is re-editing some of my out-of print works and getting them up as eBooks. That has been rewarding and great fun.

In what ways is your main protagonist like you? If at all?

Writing a series featuring a sailor has long been something I’ve wanted to do. I love the water and boats and happily am married to someone who shares this passion. My husband and I have a sailboat, aptly named ‘Mystery’ that we move aboard once summer comes. We consider it our summer cottage. Em Ridge is sort of my alter ego, the braver version of me. She’s the kind of sailor I want to be, not the kind I really am - the one who cowers down below in the cabin during storms while my husband mans the sails. She is strong and brave and takes control. I’m not that way so much on boats during storms.

Are you character driven or plot driven?


I like to say character driven, and probably for the most part that’s true, but sometimes stories come to me by a snippet of plot or a bit of a setting. Setting is a big one for me. Recently I watched a documentary about groups of young dumpster divers. They are very regimented - as in they have certain dumpsters they go to on certain nights of the week. But oh, the stashes they come up with - full loaves of bread, tons of barely bad produce, boxes of cereal and more. I kept thinking about these kids, and kept thinking about them, until an idea came to me. It’s the short story I’m currently working on. So, is that character or plot? Yes. And no.

Are you a pantser or a plotter?


Again, I would like to say Pantzer, but recently I’ve begun using Scrivener and LOVE it for writing and organizing my mystery clues and ideas. So, maybe that makes me a plotter? Don’t know.

What do you hope readers will most take away from your writing?


Entertainment, and entertainment alone. I hope I can provide a moment away from my reader’s real life. I want them to finish my book and quickly ask, “Where’s Linda’s next book?”


Where do you see yourself as a writer in 10 years?


I am chuckling as I read this question. This is the sort of question you ask someone in their 30s and 40s, maybe even someone in their early 50s. People in these age categories spend a lot of time at the beginning of every year writing down goals. They come up with 5-year plans and 10-year plans, carefully kept in notebooks which they check from time to time to make sure they’re on track.

But where do I want to be in ten years? I want to be ten years older, but still writing and still healthy and enjoying my grandchildren who will be ten years older. I cannot envision myself ‘retiring’ from writing.

What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to know about you?


In the mid-2000s I studied Celestial Navigation - it nearly killed me. It was a difficult, difficult course, and took this non-Math person a year to complete, but I can theoretically use a sextant to find my way around the planet’s oceans using nothing but the math this planet provides.

What do you like to read for pleasure?


My favorite reading is mysteries, of course, but I enjoy a lot of genres. One of the funnest things I’ve done lately is to join a book club. We read a wide variety of books, including Canada Reads selections and Gov. General Award finalists. It has really broadened my reading. and I love it. I feel I’m learning a lot.

Give us a summary of your latest book in a Tweet


Everything is not as it seems aboard sailboat Blue Peace and when one crew member is found dead and another goes missing, Captain Em Ridge finds herself right in the middle of mayhem on the high seas.


Award-winning author Linda Hall has written eighteen mystery novels plus many short stories. She has written for Multnomah Publishing, WaterBrook Press, Random House and most recently for Harlequin’s Love Inspired line. Most of her novels have something to do with the sea. When she's not writing, Linda and her husband Rik enjoy sailing the coast of Maine aboard their 34' sailboat aptly named - MYSTERY.

Friday, February 14, 2014

CRIME ON MY MIND

Now for something a bit different!


It's Valentine's Day (which will become Valentine's Week at this blogsite) and I thought we'd have a bit of fun. The next mystery review will be in two weeks, so stand by!

In honour of this day, I'd like to compile a list of favourite Canadian fictional mystery couples. There are, of course, the married ones like Ottawa Police Inspector Michael Green and his wife, Sharon, from Barbara Fradkin's award-winning series.

Mike Martin has given his Newfoundland RCMP Sgt. Winston Windflower a girlfriend, Sheila who works at the local diner, the Mug Up.

John Moss has his Toronto police team of Miranda Quin and David Morgan. There are a lot of innuendos and long looks but basically, it's a working partnership. Or is it?

In Mary Jane Maffini's Camilla McPhee series set in Ottawa, the long distance love interest is Sgt.Ray Deveau, a Cape Breton police officer.

Robin Harlick has a long-standing romance going on between her protagonist Meg Harris and Eric, an Algonquin band chief.

For Vicki Delany's Const. Molly Smith in Trafalgar, B.C., the hearthrob is RCMP officer Adam Tocek.

Erika Chase has a blossoming romance between main character Lizzie Turner and Police Chief Mark Dreyfus.

In Janice MacDonald's Randy Craig mysteries, her long-time romantic interest is a local cop, Steve.

Hilary MacLeod has Hy McAllister, the main character in the Shores Mysteries, in a relationship with neighbour Ian Simmons.

For Brad Smith's Virgil Cain, there's a lot of romance going on with law enforcement officer Claire Marchand.

That's it for me. I know I've missed more than I've listed so please, take a minute and add a romantic couple to this list. Remember, they do have to live between the pages of a mystery novel written by a Canadian. And we all love Canadian mystery authors!





Friday, February 7, 2014

SCMOOZING WITH BARBARA FRADKIN



1. Who has influenced you the most in your writing career?


The Russians and the deadly dames of the Ladies Killing Circle! As a young adult I was fascinated by the character development, the darkness, and the human drama of the Russian legends like Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy and Solzhenitsyn. My very first writing credit was a short story in the first Ladies Killing Circle anthology in 1995. The friendship and support of that wonderful group introduced me to a whole new world which has kept me in its thrall ever since.

2. What are you working on now?

I have just finished the revisions of the tenth Inspector Green novel, entitled None So Blind, which is due out in October 2014. Green is back in Ottawa for that one, wrestling with an old case gone wrong.

3. In what ways is your main protagonist like you? If at all?

Well, he’s a man, which is a little different. He has minimal esthetic appreciation of sunsets, nature, fine food or wine. I have a pricklier relationship with him than some authors have with their protagonists; I would not want to be like him or be married to him, for example. But I enjoy his company because deep down, we share the same values. He is a fundamentally a mensch trying to do the right thing. He acts as a voice for the marginalized and the victimized in society, he distrusts power and authority, he chafes against the rules and restrictions of his job, he dislikes paperwork, committee meetings, and other administrativia, and he loves nothing better than to be down in the trenches. Where I, as a psychologist, loved to be too.

4. Are you character driven or plot driven?


I’ve always seen these as two halves of a circle. A book is not complete without both and each should inform the other. The story often flows from the questions ‘How would this character react?’ and ‘What would they do next?’ If you have to shoehorn a reluctant character into a plot twist that doesn’t suit him, the story will not be believable. But you also have to have sufficiently complex and compelling characters, and throw them enough challenges, to create a dramatic and exciting story. Otherwise no one will keep reading.

5. Are you a pantser or a plotter?

I lean towards pantser. My imagination works best when I am immersed in a story. When I have tried to outline, I come up with better ideas during the actual writing and end up tossing aside the outline. I like the sense of adventure and the discovery of the unexpected. I hope it makes the story less predictable; if I don’t know whodunit until the end, how can the reader guess? However, I do spend a lot of time thinking and speculating before I start writing, so that I have a sense of what I want to say in the story and what it’s about (although I do change my mind!) and I have a feel for the major characters.

5. What do you hope readers will most take away from your writing?

I’ve asked myself that question often over the years. My stories about the struggles of ordinary people and the blurring of right and wrong, so I think a compassion for others, and a sense of ‘there but for the grace of God go I’.

6. Where do you see yourself as a writer in 10 years?

Ten years is a long time, and I like surprises, so who knows? Hopefully still writing the kinds of stories I want to tell, at a pace that allows me time for other life pleasures like friendship, family, travelling, and my cottage. I also hope I have time for a few non-crime projects, including a creative non-fiction account of my father’s amazing life.

7. What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to know about you?

A woman has to have some secrets! Particularly things to do with the 60s, my McGill university days, and student protests. But those early misadventures gave fuel to the passion for social justice and equity that still guides today.

8. What do you like to read for pleasure?

Everything! Okay, I have no patience for wooden writing, or shallow, clich├ęd, boring stories. I love wonderful, moving, dramatic stories about complex people. That’s why I love crime fiction. And I love the Canadians. The quality and diversity is amazing.

9. Give us a summary of your latest book in a Tweet.


When his daughter goes missing in the northern wilderness, Inspector Green battles dangers from man and nature alike to search for her.



Barbara Fradkin is a retired psychologist with a fascination for why we turn bad, and her work with children and families provided ample inspiration for plotting murders. Her dark short stories haunt numerous magazines and anthologies, including the Ladies Killing Circle series, and she also writes an easy-read novella series for Orca Books. However, she is best known for her award-winning detective series, featuring the exasperating, quixotic Ottawa Police Inspector Michael Green whose passion for justice and love of the hunt often interferes with family, friends, and police protocol. Two of these novels have won the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Canadian Crime novel.

The latest, The Whisper of Legends, was released by Dundurn Press in April 2013 to numerous excellent reviews, and the tenth in the series, entitled None So Blind, is due out in October 2014. Like Inspector Green, Barbara makes her home in Ottawa.