A writer whose gamble paid off
Linwood Barclay ruling the bestseller list
Although Linwood Barclay’s dreams of writing novels date back as early as Grade 3, most people in Toronto still knew him first — and for those unaccustomed to reading crime fiction, best — for his long-running humour column in the Toronto Star. But since ditching his day job and making his way as a full-time novelist, Barclay has become a bona fide star of the literary world, selling truckloads of books across the planet. His sixth novel, No Safe House, is out now.
At various intervals, over the course of a 30-year journalistic career, Barclay has reported, edited and written columns. In spite of putting out three humour books (all column inspired), as well as a memoir, the itch to write fiction did not quite disappear. So he finally put pen to paper and published his first novel in 2004. For four gruelling years he wrote three columns a week and one novel a year.
His fifth novel, No Time for Goodbye, changed the course of his career.
Not only was it the first one to be released overseas, but it went on to become a number one bestseller in the United Kingdom for 2008.
At this point, Barclay took a gamble by taking a leave of absence from his day job to focus on writing his next novel. Fate struck again as his absence became permanent due to the buy-out options the Toronto Star was offering to reduce in-house staff.
“I had been there 27 years and could leave with a year and a half ’s salary, and I was thinking about leaving anyway because the books had started to take off,” he says, “so I felt I could take a chance of just doing books full-time instead of doing columns.”
His latest, No Safe House, is actually the sequel to that fifth pivotal novel. It takes place seven years after the end of No Time
for Goodbye and allowed him to do two things. Firstly, there were two minor characters in No Time
for Goodbye that many readers liked: a thug named Vince and his stepdaughter Jane. The new novel gave Barclay the opportunity to develop and build a story around them.
He also wanted to challenge the common crime fiction notion that, once the mystery is solved, everyone lives happily ever after. “I thought what happened to the characters in No
Time for Goodbye was so traumatic that, even knowing what happened, it would not necessarily be something that they could recover from,” he says. “There would be these shock waves that went on for a long time.”
Barclay has also experimented with points of view in this latest story. The novel oscillates between Terry in first person and all the other characters in third.
“As the reader, if you know people are planning very bad things, then you can connect to the narrator,” he says. “You want to say, ‘ Hey there’s something you should be aware of,’ but you can’t tell them, so I think to bring in those other points of view is helpful.”
If you barrel through No Safe House and are eagerly awaiting Barclay’s next book, you will not be disappointed. A Broken Promise, the first in a trilogy, is slated for release next summer.
Bonus: if you’ve read and enjoyed his previous work, you may stumble across a few old familiar faces.
Barclay’s success is a testament to hard work, a little bit of luck and most importantly a willingness to keep going despite all obstacles.
For more information on Linwood Barclay check out his website at www.linwoodbarclay.com.
Linwood Barclay was a journalist for 30 years before fate helped him become a full-time novelist