Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Joni Mitchell, Dead Writers Writing, and a Walk Into The Ocean ...

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Joni Mitchell, Dead Writers Writing, and a Walk Into The Ocean ...

Hello Friday, I love you.
I really mean it this time.
I won't take you for granted ...

Before we get ready to unplug for the weekend (or conduct 16 hours of community service for something that was misconstrued as "public mischief"), I want to introduce you to author David Whellams. So grab a coffee and sit down and let's talk about books, Joni Mitchell and dead writers.

CB: David, tell us about your forthcoming novel Walking into the Ocean, which has a really terrific cover by the way.

DW: Walking into the Ocean is my first novel. I deliberately made my main character, Peter Cammon, a semi-retired Chief Inspector from Scotland Yard. Age and experience have made him a formidable investigator. In my trilogy of mysteries, I place him in unusual situations and explore his responses, professionally and personally. When Cammon is sent to the Jurassic Coast (Dorset and Devon) to look into the killing of a woman by her mechanic husband, who then disappears by walking into the English Channel, the case seems routine. But Cammon has to employ all his skills and honed instincts to figure out what really happened, and how this ordinary crime might be connected to a serial killer who haunts the cliffs.

CB: It goes without saying your previous life as Counsel in the Department of Justice has informed your career as a writer; but how did you come to choose England and Scotland Yard as settings and themes?

DW: There’s a bit of Sherlock and George Smiley in my main character, and for the first book I needed not only an ocean to walk into (okay, the English Channel is almost an ocean) but also cliffs from which to throw bodies (see Chapter 1 of book). The south of England fit the bill.

CB: Who are your greatest writing influences?

DW: I like tough-minded writers, unsentimental. Most mysteries – hundreds are published every year – involve a murder and a motive, so what new spin can a writer offer? He can explore in detail the reactions of his detective, witnesses and victims to death and perversion. I am interested in the psychology of trauma and crime. My detective has seen everything (he thinks) but then the criminals find ways to challenge his complacency. As for writers, I like John O’Hara (who published more short stories in The New Yorker than anyone) and John LeCarré. Apparently I like authors named John, but I like Chandler and Cain (James. M., not Herman) as well.

CB: Thanks for clarifying re the Cains, as one is the architect of a literary masterpiece and the other is the architect of his own circus-like downfall on national TV. Speaking of the classics, have you seen what Guy Ritchie has done with Sherlock and Watson?

DW: The Robert Downey films opt for pyrotechnics. There is also a very good new TV series “Sherlock” that modernizes the original stories (Holmes maintains a web site). Just shows that the stories were so good in the first place that they continue to inspire new takes.

CB: Speaking of dead writers. Jeffery Deaver was selected (or won the bid) to write a new James Bond novel. How do you feel about that, the idea of someone perpetuating a character (or a brand) long after the author's death?

DW: Even Conan Doyle wasn’t permitted to kill off Holmes. My guy, Peter Cammon, starts off at age 67. In the sequel (Lonely Killers) he is 71. The final book will have him solving crimes from the Elysian Fields. You can’t keep a good man, or a bad man, down. I have read the Deaver revival and it shakes (not stirs) fresh life into Bond.

CB: Biggest mistake made by new writers?

DW: That’s an easy one. The biggest novice mistake is: not finishing you first draft in one go. Too many new writers pause and rewrite as they go. Don’t do it. You are second-guessing yourself at precisely the wrong point in the process. Finish your entire first draft fast and then write the second draft slowly. Why? Because you won’t know how the first 95 per cent plays until you firm up the last 5 per cent, i.e. the resolution to your mystery. To liberally paraphrase Joni Mitchell: You don’t won’t know what you’ve got til it’s done.

There you have it. And they put up a parking lot.


The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

C.B. Forrest

C.B. Forrest is the author of the literary crime novels The Weight of Stones and Slow Recoil.

Go to C.B. Forrest’s Author Page