Saturday, January 31, 2009

Locations Map

A little while ago on CrimeSpace we had a discussion about using Google Maps for research.

It got me thinking, so I made up a Google Map with the locations from Dirty Sweet, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere and even some from Swap marked.

Another thing about the map that I find cool is that if you view it in photo mode you can see hundreds of pictures that other people have taken and uploaded. Many of the photos are a little more "tourist board," than my books, but they do give a feel for Toronto.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Future of Publishing

Over at his blog, Jason Pinter is running a series on the future of publishing.

He asked people for suggestions and mine is one of the ones up today. I said that all versions of a book should be available at the same time; hardcover, trade, mass market, e-book, audio - whatever the customer wants.

It looks like it should be a good discussion.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Free e-book

Some of the links to flash fictions over there --> weren't working anymore, so I put up a link to the whole e-book.

There is still a raging debate among writers giving away their work for free and I can see both sides of it, but I finally came to realize that there is a very good crime fiction community online and writing and sharing stories is one of the best things about it. I wanted to do what I could to support the great 'zines people were putting so much effort into like Spinetingler, MuzzleFlash, Powder Burn Flash, Hard Luck Stories, Demolition Magazine, Shred of Evidence, A Twist of Noir and also the flash challenges put together by Patti Abbott, Gerald So and the Mystery Dawg.

So that's where all these stories first appeared.

There are also a few interviews, stuff I did with Peter Rozovsky at Detectives Beyond Border, Declan Burke at Crime Always Pays and Linda L. Richards at January Magazine.

I'm thinking about including some of these stories and flash fictions in the paperback versions of my novels, kind of like the "bonus tracks" on CDs.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Go With Me and The Murder Stone

Last October on the way from Toronto to Baltimore for Bouchercon, Declan Burke and I stopped in Brattleboro, Vermont and spent a very pleasant couple hours in Mystery on Main Street bookstore with the owner, David, and a few friends. It's a great place.

As we were leaving I looked at the table of 'local authors,' and asked David to recommend a book. He mentioned a few and I bought, Go With Me by Castle Freeman Jr. I think I chose it because the 'about the author' said Castle Freeman, "Has been a regular essayist for the Old Farmer's Almanac," and I've never seen that on a novel.

On the weekend I finally got around to reading the book and it's fantastic. The flap says:

The Vermont hill country is the stark, vivid setting for this gripping and entertaining story of bold determination. The local villain, Blackway, is making life hellish for Lillian, a young woman from parts elsewhere. Her boyfriend has fled the state in fear, and local law enforcement can do nothing to protect her. She resolves, however, to stand her ground, and to fight back. A pair of unlikely allies – Lester, a crafty old-timer, and Nate, a powerful but naive youth – join her cause, understanding that there is no point in taking up the challenge unless you’re willing to “go through.” In this modern-day drama, a kind of Greek chorus – wry, witty, digressive; obsessively, amusingly reminiscent; skeptical, opinionated, and not always entirely sober – enriches the telling of this unforgettable tale as the reader follows the threesome’s progress on their dangerous, suspenseful quest.

Which is all true, but the incredible writing style adds so much. Direct, clear, not a wasted word. The book's only 160 pages and there's more insight into the characters than in most books four times the length.

One of the old guys, Whizzer, tells a story about some loggers who disappeared one winter. They were from Quebec and knew how to live in the woods, so it must have been foul play, but they were never found.

That passage got me thinking about another book I read recently that mentioned guys from Quebec working in the woods, Louise Penny's The Murder Stone, the fourth Inspecter Gamache mystery. A much different book, I'd say that Louise Penny's novels are very much traditional small village murder mysteries, "cozies," set in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, but they're also completely modern because of the completely modern characters.

The opening of The Murder Stone describes the Manoir Bellechasse, built more than a hundred years ago by the robber barons of Montreal, Boston and New York. Well, as it says, "They didn't actually dirty their own hands. What clung to them was something else entirely. No, these men hired men with names like Zoétique, Télesphore and Honoré to hack down the massive and ancient forests."

The locations of these two books are only seperated by a few hundred miles, but also by an international border and some very different cultures. The writing styles here are very different, too, but I found them both to be fantastic.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Graham Powell has been kind enough to list this blog on CrimeSpot (thanks Graham!), so I think I should try something a little more than self-promotion.

This year I'm the vice-president of the Crime Writers of Canada. I like the organization, it's small but it's coast to coast in Canada and a pretty diverse bunch; from international bestsellers Linwood Barclay, Louise Penny, Giles Blunt and Peter Robinson to "pre-published" members.

We hold our Annual General Meeting at the Bloody Words Convention which this year will be in Ottawa from June 5th to 7th.

The CWC represent crime writers at events like BookExpo and Word on the Street, we publish a catalogue of member's books, send out a newsletter and notices of member's book launches and readings and organize the Arthur Ellis Awards for crime writing in Canada.

So far in my vice-presidency all I've managed to do is talk to the folks at Sony about a discount on their e-reader for our members (right now it looks good, more info to follow).

My question now is, what do people look for in writers' organizations? What should we be doing at the Crime Writers of Canada to better serve our members and maybe even to get more members?

Of course, this wouldn't be my blog without a little self-promotion, so I'll just say that yesterday Thomas Dunne Books agreed to publish Swap in the USA in early 2010. I'll have more on that soon.

Monday, January 19, 2009

My Boys

That's Doug on the left and Jimmy on the right. They're brothers and they're friends and I'm proud of them.

Tomorrow their school will have an assembly to watch the inauguration of Barak Obama.

I have no idea what the future holds for my boys, but the world they're growing up in is different than the one in which I grew up.

My father believed the world I grew up in was better than the one he'd grown up in and I feel the same way now, looking at my boys.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The SWAP Canada Trailer

Thanks for all your input everybody, I think I'm going with this:


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Hula Hoop or Frisbee?

This morning my lovely wife Laurie and I were reading the paper and she mentioned a young, popular actor she doesn't think will be working much in ten years.

Then Laurie said, "These guys can't tell if they going to be a hula hoop," gone in a year, or have staying power, like, we decided, a frisbee.

So, that led to a game, Hula Hoop or Frisbee?

Ian Fleming - Frisbee. Alistair MacLean - Hula Hoop.

Lord of the Rings - Frisbee. Harry Potter ??? What do you think?

What else today looks like it could become a Frisbee, and what looks like it has the makings of a Hula Hoop?


Friday, January 09, 2009

The 10 Rules - Part Five

As always, the disclaimer - it's fiction, all of it, every word of it.

And it starts with part one here.

The small hotel we’d stayed at in Philly didn’t have a parking lot, so we’d left the car a few blocks away. It was funny, the hotel was really only a few rooms above a bar and when we walked in Wednesday afternoon and told the owner – who could have been the brother of the drug dealer in Central Park – that we we’d booked a room he said, “Yeah, look, I don’t want to make any assumptions about your lifestyle or anything,” and I thought, holy shit, he’s going to tell us he doesn’t want any trouble with the law, he doesn’t rent rooms to criminals, but he said, “the thing is, there’s only one bed in the room, and you two don’t look like you’re a couple.”

Behind him the bartender laughed, smirked really and rolled his eyes and I could tell he didn’t think we were well dressed enough to be gay. I was about to tell him we were on the road, you know, give us a chance to clean up and Declan said, “No that room won’t work,” and I realized, yeah, focus, man, focus.

The owner said he’d give us a second room for half price, it’d be ready in a couple hours so we went for lunch at a Mexican place and dropped the car in the lot.

Now we were picking up the car and it was the same guy working the lot, big guy, friendly, he was the one told us about the Mexican place. He saw my car was from Ontario and said he loved Toronto, said he went to a hockey tournament there every year.

I said, “So, you think the Phillies are going to win this thing?” and the guy laughed and said, “Fuck no.” They were playing the Dodgers for the National League Championship.

He said, “Don’t get me wrong, I’d love it if they did, but this is the Phillies, right?”

I said you never know and pulled out of the lot.

Declan said, “We paid him cash, right?” and I said, yeah, so what, and Declan said, “Everyone probably does, there’d be a lot of cash in that little booth,” and I said, yeah, “But he wrote down my license plate number.”

Still, Declan didn’t look convinced. Shit. So I told him about the ’93 Series when the Phillies lost to the Jays, what a great time that was in Toronto. I said, “Joe Carter hit a home run in the bottom on the ninth, two on and two out, won the whole thing. A real Hollywood ending, you know, you can’t make that up.”

Declan said, no, I guess not, and he was looking distracted, making me nervous so I did what I always do when I’m nervous, I kept talking, telling him how Joe Carter’s Series winning homer probably didn’t become the mythical event it would’ve – should’ve - because it hadn’t happened in America and how that was the last time the Jays won the Series, but it was a lot more recently than the Phillies. “Or the Cubs, this year makes a hundred years since the Cubs won it.”

Declan said, oh yeah, still not interested. Then he said, “Man, I’m tired, I didn’t sleep at all last night, and I though okay, good, maybe now we can talk about this crime spree we’re on, but he said, “Started reading that Ice Harvest, shit it’s good, isn’t it.”

I said, “Yeah it is.” It’s got an ending I never saw coming but couldn’t have been anything else, so satisfying, made me want to turn back to page one and start reading again right away.

Then Declan said, “Look, I’ve been thinking about these ten rules, these robberies,” and I thought, fuck, finally.


He said, “Yeah. That cheque cashing place was good but otherwise there’s just not much money in it.”

“Right, not really worth it.”

We were pulling up to the toll booth and Declan said, “Right. That’s why so many books, like Elmore’s Fifty-two Pick-Up, they turn to kidnapping.”

I said, “Yeah, and Riding the Rap,” before I realized it and Declan said, “Yeah, that’s right,” finally looking awake.

I handed the money to the guy in the booth, so short and fat he could barely see over the edge of the window and he grunted when he took the money so I got all cheerful and said, “Thanks!” and he grunted again handing me my change and I said, “You have a great day.”

As we drove away Declan said, “Ah, it’s a wonderful thing to see a trade stay in the family, passed on from generation to generation.” He was smiling and rolling a cigarette with those dark brown papers he uses and I didn’t know what he was talking about and he said, “You can see his ancestors scrambling out from under the bridge, demanding passage.”

I started laughing, too, “Good thing we didn’t have to answer him his questions three.”

Must have been the nervous tension but we both started laughing and making jokes about trolls.

Then Declan said, “So yeah, kidnapping. Seems the odds of a big score are better,” and I said, “You want to kidnap someone at Bouchercon?”

Declan said, “Someone there must have had a bestseller, made some money.”

I thought, yeah, but a writer, who’d pay to get them back?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Second draft, it's a little tighter and the text should be easier to read.

Thanks for the input so far, keep those cards and letters coming.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Book Trailer

So, I'm kicking around ideas for a book trailer. This is what I've got so far:

Opinions? Suggestions? Anything?

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Puck Bunnies

Mike Knowles, author of the terrific debut novel, Darwin's Nightmare, interviewed me for Allan Guthrie's Noir Originals website.

Mike is also Canadian and that comes up in the interview. It's possible that the espression "Puck bunnies" is unknown in the rest of the world, but it becomes pretty self-explanatory. Of course, the Urban Dictionary helps out, here.

Some interesting questions, for sure, but I make no promises the answers measure up.

The interview is here.