This is it from me this year. In addition to a look at what’s coming in 2022, here are a couple of reflections, and a thank you.
Speaking of pre-ordering, Vancouver Noir
contributor Naben Ruthnum has a new novel coming out next month, A Hero of Our Time
. He’s a brutally funny and perceptive writer, and I think you’ll like it.
On December 13th Mickey Finn Volume 2
comes out, an anthology of detective stories edited by Michael Bracken. My story, “Next Up,” is about a pair of violent and doomed lovers who meet at karaoke night and go on a spree.
I have a bunch of things in the words, including a thriller about a group of grown-up survivors of a Columbine-style shooting, a couple of TV things, a collection of crime stories from the last decade that were published in Thuglit and Spinetingler and all those much missed indie noir magazines. And a collection of Wakeland stories, too.
But what I’m working on right now is the fourth Wakeland novel, and that is entirely thanks to you.
I was writing the first draft in early 2018, when my father died. At the time I was under the assumption that book 3 would come out in 2020 or so, and I’d be writing these novels forever.
For a host of reasons, things changed. New agent, new publisher, a full-time day job which I’m finally quit of. The pandemic…the book industry…supply chain…it’s been a weird few years.
Where was I going with this?
When my dad died I was pretty shook up, but there was so much to do—paperwork, de-cluttering, a lousy day job I took to qualify as a co-signer, book promo events I must have walked through in a dazed…but through all that, I just kept working on book 4.
Why keep writing as if nothing had happened? And how could one do that in such a time of crisis?
How was easier to answer. Because I was already doing it, so I just kept doing it.
Well, because those few hours of concentrating on writing were a reprieve from the bullshit.
And because, as much as we tout realism and verisimilitude and social import, fiction is always ultimately escapist. It’s a different world you can climb into and hang out.
And mostly because writing is what I like to do.
Three years pass, and the third book is finally out. It’s spent a couple weeks on the BC Bestseller list, and it’s garnered some good press. I’m not out of the weeds yet, but there’s a good chance I’ll get to do another of these, in some fashion or other.
So now I had to open up book 4 for the first time since I typed it up.
I was mildly concerned with what shape it would be in. It was written during a time when nothing made sense and I felt really awful. Would that show in the work? Was it a nonsensical howl? Or a muddle of unusable scenes, all with the same sad sack subtext?
What if it was a work of genius? The capital-A Artist, mad with grief, turning out a one-take masterpiece?
I was going to put off opening the file until January. New year and all that. Take a month off. But I decided not to put it off. At least read the thing now. So first week of December, that’s what I did. I printed it off and read through it.
(To conserve paper I printed it single spaced, which was dumb. I’ve since flipped those pages and re-printed the whole thing double-spaced. The Lord’s Spacing.)
So I read through it.
And it is not a complete mess.
Nor is it a work of unfathomable genius.
What it is, it’s a first draft, with some stuff that’s great, and some stuff that sucks, and a lot of rough edges.
And I’m thankful for that, because now I get to work on it and make it better. Which is what I love to do, and the whole point. Grief, publishing, whatever’s going on doesn’t much matter.
Writing a private eye series set in Canada is misguided, Quixotic, goofy, and commercially dubious. But writing these stories makes me very happy. Thank you for supporting me in this.
(Would’ve been great if that first draft was perfect, though.)
I won’t do a best-of list until next month, because there’s a lot of stuff I haven’t gotten to yet. Like the new Le Carré and the new Rankin, and Seconds Out: Women and Fighting by Alison Dean, and The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen, and Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead, and Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby, and Family Law by Gin Phillips, and Five Decembers by James Kestrel, and Bath Haus by PJ Vernon, and Clark and Division by Naomi Hirahara…
I will say that if you liked the biographical sections of Stephen King’s On Writing—and who doesn’t—you’d probably like A Writer Prepares by Lawrence Block, whose Matthew Scudder novels were very formative for me.
And speaking of Scudder…
For the US release of Hell and Gone, I got a blurb from Reed Farrel Coleman, bestselling author of several great detective series, including Jesse Stone.
"Wakeland is to Vancouver what Scudder is to New York, and Hell and Gone cements Wiebe's place alongside Penny, Barclay, and Atwood."
Pretty nice way to end the year.