BOOKS Blunt gets steamy, but it’s no Grey area

Sixth in se­ries of mys­tery thrillers is out

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Weekend Life - Satur­day, Au­gust 25, 2012 JAMIE PORT­MAN

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.”

Ran­dom House

Giles Blunt is pur­su­ing a six-part adaptation of Forty Words Of Sor­row for CTV net­work.

Un­til the Night

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