BOOKS Blunt gets steamy, but it’s no Grey area
Sixth in series of mystery thrillers is out
There are a couple of things that awardwinning Canadian crime writer Giles Blunt wants to make clear.
First of all, he did not do personal research in an Ottawa sex club for some of the steamiest chapters in his new thriller, Until The Night. Definitely not.
“There’s one here in Toronto that I ride my bike by, and I’ve often wondered about it,” Blunt concedes over an iced coffee in Toronto’s Annex district. “And I did look at their website — but all the rest is imagination.
“I hope I’m not too far off the mark, but I’m not going to visit one to find out!”
Second, he really isn’t attempting to introduce the sex-drenched world of 50 Shades Of Grey into his bestselling crime fiction.
“Oh lord!” he laughs. “I don’t think so! I’m a thriller writer.” In fact, he hasn’t even read E.L. James’ erotic bestseller.
Still, he does admit to an unusual amount of explicit sex in the novel just published by Random House. Indeed, while writing this latest account of sinister doings in the Northern Ontario city of Algonquin Bay, he actually wondered whether he should rein himself in, especially with scenes involving one of his most popular characters — that intrepid cop, Lise Delorme.
“So I spoke to my editor and my agent, both women. I was a little worried about taking it too far, so I ran it past them and they were both fine with it — much to my relief. I felt it was the right direction to go with her because Lise is having a kind of mid-life, mid-career crisis and reacting to it in an unusual way.”
The adjective “unusual” is putting it mildly. Nothing in contemporary crime fiction matches the erotically charged circumstances of the scene in which Delorme nabs a homicidal villain.
The Fatal Night is the sixth in a series of elegantly crafted mystery thrillers set in Blunt’s fictional counterpart to his home town of North Bay, and featuring police detectives John Cardinal and Lise Delorme. The first — Forty Words For Sorrow, published in 2001 — prompted The New York Times to describe him as a writer “with the flashing grace of an ice skater skimming over a frozen pond.”
Blunt considers this latest one of the best things he’s ever done and is confident it will do well in Canada, but he also acknowledges he is feeling the chill from turbulence in the international publishing industry.
Despite past endorsements from The New York Times, Blunt’s American publisher turned down this latest novel. In Britain, where he is a past winner of the British Crime Writers Association’s coveted Silver Dagger, his last two Cardinal books have been rejected by his UK publisher.
Blunt trenchantly suggests that the publishing industry has perfected a “unique document” which embattled authors refer to as the “rave” rejection.
“How sincere they are, I don’t know,” Blunt says. “But the message is ‘Love, love, love this book — but we can’t publish it!’ ”
To add insult to injury, Blunt claims that hundreds of copies of the electronic edition of Until The Night have already been illegally downloaded in the U.S.
Meanwhile, the 59-yearold novelist stoically soldiers on, sustained by his growing reputation in Canada. As a former television writer who has created scripts for Law & Order and Street Legal, he is happily pursuing a new assignment — a six-part adaptation of Forty Words Of Sorrow for the CTV network.
As a teenager growing up in North Bay, Blunt couldn’t wait to leave. But now whenever he writes a
by Giles Blunt (Random House Canada, 320 pages, $29.99)
is in stores now. Cardinal-Delorme novel, it re-emerges as the centre of his universe. He has also become something of a favourite son up there.
“They treat me like John Grisham,” he told Postmedia a few years ago. “So it’s really quite a unique experience for me. I go to the bookstore and there’s a wall of my books.”
Both locals and visitors enjoy seeking out places mentioned in the stories. “I had no idea people would get such a kick out of them,” he marvels.
Blunt likes his thrillers to be character-driven — especially when it comes to the complicated relationship between the middleaged, widowed Cardinal and Delorme, the female colleague who is his closest friend. The latest book sees that relationship facing unexpected stresses as the two cops also face tough professional challenges.
There are a pair of puzzling homicides — the senator’s wife found frozen to death in a remote ruin deep in the woods, and the corpse of a man found in the parking lot of an Algonquin Bay motel with a boot print on his neck.
There is Delorme’s obsessive determination to pin a gruesome sex crime on Leonard Priest, a charismatic and predatory ex-rocker who flaunts his sexuality like a porn star and inhabits a murky erotic underworld.
Running tantalizing counterpoint to the present day are excerpts from a decades-old private journal about a doomed scientific research team on a floating ice island in Canada’s high Arctic. And what does the appalling fate of a Northern expedition have to do with today? A great deal, as it turns out.
Intertwining these narratives is the highly personal story of the two cops.
“Are Delorme and Cardinal going to get together this time or not? They’ve been having close encounters for a lot of books now, and it looks here like they’re getting warmer and warmer. But then Cardinal pulls away and she doesn’t know what to make about it. Plus she’s having a severe crisis of confidence, so she wants to go and make a big case, and that psychological need forces her to push limits you wouldn’t expect her to push.”
Giles Blunt is pursuing a six-part adaptation of Forty Words Of Sorrow for CTV network.
Until the Night