Leo Desroches, the reporter who covers the mean streets of Edmonton in Wayne Arthurson's books is back this month with A Killing Winter, (look for last year's series debut Fall from Grace too). Leo's passions for justice for Native Canadians who tend to slip through society's grates unnoticed, take him dark places - not to mention cold - (A Killing Winter finds him undercover - figuratively -and homeless on the streets - literally). Along the way he's beset with appropriately hard personal problems that include troubled familial relations and (my favorite) a gambling addiction (that, kids is a great flaw - alcohol's been done and done and done).
Wayne was kind enough to answer a few questions for me. Thanks, Wayne.
What's the appeal of crime/mystery fiction to you as a writer?
I really love the fact that crime fiction is actually quite flexible in many ways. The fans of the genre are very open to a wide variety of styles, characters, settings and themes. In crime fiction, you're also able to entertain people while discussing deep social issues at the same time, if you want. Several months ago, I was on a panel with Ian Rankin (shameless name-dropping) and he said that when he wants to learn about a different culture, city or country, he reads their crime fiction, not their literary works, to learn how things really work in those places. And he was right about that.
Who are your biggest influences?
One of my biggest influences in writing my Leo Desroches series is Walter Mosely and his Easy Rawlins series. His writing is so seamless yet it kicks you in the head every time. I also really love the fact that though these are crime novels, they are essentially books about something bigger, they're books about race. And that's what I hope to accomplish with my Leo Desroches series.
Are any of your stories inspired by true events?
Of course. My first crime novel, Fall from Grace, was "inspired" for the lack of a better word, by the fact that in Canada, there are between 500-800 unsolved cases of missing or murdered aboriginal women. And no one has really done much about it. And the second book in the series, A Killing Winter, was partly inspired by the fact that high school drop out rates for aboriginal peoples is four times higher than the national average. And many of these young men do join native gangs. I also pepper my books with plots and settings that are based on actual events and locations.
What was the last book you read that you wish you'd written?
I recently read Summer of the Big Bachi by Naomi Hirahami and was quite impressed with it. It reminded me a lot of Mosely's work in which the mystery aspect of the novel was almost secondary while the cultural parts were more key. I also read outside the mystery genre and have just reread Anathem by Neal Stephenson. That guy's talent is scary and quite exciting to experience.
What's next from you?
Right now I'm working on the third book in the Leo Desroches series, tentatively titled A Troubling Summer. At the moment, I don't have a contract for that book yet. I'm also working on a completely new series set in a German POW camp in southern region of my home province of Alberta. It's an interesting part of Canadian history that's never been really explored that much in fiction. Most of my research in that area is complete and I've created my main character and worked on many plot idea.
Find out more about Wayne and Leo Desroches right here.
Jedidiah Ayres writes fiction and keeps the blog Hardboiled Wonderland.
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