Saturday, May 5, 2007

Fact to Fiction to Fact

Lou Allain (guest blogger)
Lou with her two pals. Friday, aka Strudel, age six, is an apricot mini-poodle. Shogun, originally Hogan, then Logan, is border collie, saved by a British Columbia collie rescue association. He's two.“Life imitates art far more than art imitates Life,” Oscar said, but I’m not sure I agree. Life came first, after all. As a writer with five books in my Belle Palmer series set in the Nickel Capital, a standalone in a Michigan university, and a forthcoming series set where I now live, in the quiet fishing-tourist village of Sooke on Vancouver Island, I’ve seen that cycle evolve many times.

I took the image of the Lady of the Lake handing Arthur his Excalibur and froze her hand sticking through the ice for Northern Winters Are Murder, then leaned on the residential school scandal for Blackflies Are Murder. Bush Poodles Are Murder included a scam man similar to a local figure who bilked seniors out of a few million dollars. Just as he left jail, the book appeared. So much for art imitating life.

But the process turned, and turned again. When I was writing Murder, Eh? three years ago, I was addicted to CourtTV and fascinated by the trial of a prominent rabbi in New Jersey, who hired a hitman to murder his wife, then hired the same man as a private investigator. Sounds wildly improbable, but the nefarious plan almost worked. The hitman, supposedly ex-Mossad, probably merely delusional, decided when flattered by a nubile female reporter, that if he spilled the beans on the charismatic rabbi (who had so far skated free), he’d be pardoned and enjoy the spoils of the tabloid sales. The reporter contacted the police, who set a wire, and now both men, and a more feeble minded accomplice who actually struck the woman, are spending life sentences in jail. The rabbi still pleads his innocence. Sometimes I believe the silver-haired and golden-tongued devil.

I confess to using the concept of this crime as well as the brilliant conversion of a former Molson brewery in Barrie to a thriving grow-op (the criminals roasted coffee in their alleged business, which hid the smell of pot in the copper vats). I’d passed the old plant en route to Toronto many times and laughed when I read about the bust.

About nine months before Murder, Eh? appeared, fiction would turn to fact in Sudbury. The wife of a prominent businessman and devoted mother of two teenaged girls disappeared in the dead of winter. In the initial search, her empty van was found nearby their upscale home. Due to the heavy snowfall and severe weather conditions, searches were difficult. Eventually, all water courses in the area were combed. As the months passed, hope faded that she would be found alive.

Fast forward to March and the fifth book, Memories are Murder. This time I arranged a killing in the dense bush about forty miles south of town in an area called Burwash, site of a former prison, from which no one ever escaped. Now the plots start linking. Guess whose body turned up in that very area, just across Highway 69, only a few hundred yards from the main highway to Toronto? Rabbit hunters discovered the mutilated corpse of the missing wife and mother, wrapped in a rug and dumped in the bush months before. And like the rabbi, the husband, first to suspect, had an unbreakable alibi. Rumours in the coffee shops abound about his mistress, his wife’s supposed lover, and the scenario that a relative of his flew in from a distant country, did the deed, and flew out again. A small community of around 100,000, Sudbury has only three or four murders a year, mostly alcohol or drug-related. To this date, the murder is unsolved, and unless someone talks to the tabloids, the perfect crime has been committed.

In my new community, where the rain forest meets the sea, a young girl went missing a few years ago. Heartbreaking pictures of her still curl and fade in store windows and a descanso with flowers and toys stands across from the bus stop from which she vanished. Her classmates have had the same dream about her body lying near a creek beside a woodland pool. In my next book, half completed and tentatively titled And on the Surface Die, a teenager is murdered on a deserted beach, and later another goes missing. By the time it’s published in 2008, will the girl have been found, or will she remain a ghostly mystery swirling in the fog while the lighthouses blow their eerie horns?

Lou Allin’s website is and she welcomes mail at

1 comment:

Carol said...

I'm SO in love with Shogun -- he reminds me of my wonderful Molly, a border collie/husky/German shepard mix (my vet's best guess). I lost her to cancer about eight years ago and I still miss her.

Murder, Eh? Great title.

I think the underwear industry would agree with Oscar. Apparently so many men stopped wearing undershirts after Clark Gable took his off in It Happened One Night that the industry almost lost its shirt (bad pun alert).