B.C. Blues Crime fiction series: Interview with Author R.M. Greenaway

River of Lies: B.C. Blues Crime by R.M. Greenaway
Dundurn (March 14, 2020)

R.M. Greenaway has a hell of a way with words.

She’s firmly situated as the captain of the ship when it comes to stark police procedurals. Her B.C. Blues Crime series takes readers to the criminal underbelly of beautiful British Columbia, into the minds of twisted souls, and those committed to bringing them to justice. At five titles so far, including her newest book “River of Lies” and beginning with the gritty first book “Cold Girl,” it seems Greenaway is just getting warmed up. Each book in the series can be read alone or all together – another great reason to start on this series and slip copies into your home library. And let’s not forget her amazing contribution to the Noir series published by Akashic Press, “Vancouver Noir,” with her story “The Threshold.”

I got a chance to sit down for some virtual coffee with the author and tossed a few questions her way. Read our exchange below!

WHITEHURST: What’s next for you now that you’ve finished River of Lies, which just released this month?

GREENAWAY: Thanks, Patrick! I’m really not sure what’s next. The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted lives worldwide in horrific ways, and just following the news takes up much of my day it seems. Of miniscule importance, it’s also moved my publication date back on the book I’m now working on, “Five Ways to Disappear.” I got the substantive edit report back in early March, and was going full steam when I was told everything’s on hold. So my deadline’s been extended indefinitely.  

I’m still hoping it will be out there in 2021. “Five Ways” is the series finale, and once that’s complete, I’m free to work on a prequel, sequel, a whole new series, a standalone, whatever. I’m thinking of working on short stories for a while. Or maybe I’ll do like Poirot, chuck it all and grow vegetables. More likely I’ll miss my crew enough that I’ll bring them back for another round of abuse in BC Blues II.

WHITEHURST: What led to your first book Cold Girl and subsequent books: “Undertow,” “Creep,” “Flights and Falls,” and book five?

GREENAWAY: Lots of reading. I thank my parents and the mobile library van for first getting me hooked on books. As I got older I read crime series. I think the attraction of crime fiction for me is when bad things are fixed and characters work together to hurdle adversity it gives one hope; also, in a series, a sense of belonging.  

In my younger years I wrote stacks of adventure fiction (on foolscap, if you recall the stuff), then progressed to a Smith-Corona and specialized in angst. Then stopped writing when I had a son, aka responsibility, and moved north for work. 

But something pinged. I was out of town for work, in a hotel room in Prince Rupert with time to kill and an idea circling in my head. Got myself a cheap notebook and got started on what turned into Cold Girl. I still have that notebook with its first handwritten chapters. Neither the prose nor the handwriting are anything to boast about!

Author R.M. Greenaway with her latest B.C. Blues Crime novel River of Lies.

WHITEHURST: You’ve worn a few hats in your past. How did your former jobs, such as court reporter, inform your writing career?

GREENAWAY: As a court reporter I sit very quietly and listen to everything being said, type it all down, and hope to hell nobody asks me to read it back. In one of the first major trials I did, that’s just what happened, and in the worst way: the jury wanted a whole witness’s testimony read back from my steno notes, which took me hours to do. But I did get an ovation afterwards.

That’s beside the point. I think immersion in dialogue via the courtroom setting was good for me as a writer. Getting the two sides to every story was also great. And hearing testimony regarding crime scenes and police procedure, as well as checking out the demeanour of everyone from killers to cops to forensics experts, was of course very helpful. My mind is not hugely retentive, in fact it’s sort of sieve-shaped, but I think the essence of all that crime and punishment sank in.

WHITEHURST: Tell me more about your writing process?

GREENAWAY: Not as structured as I’d like it to be. I write a lot but then edit a million times before I’m satisfied. And then I’m only satisfied until it comes out in print, at which point I’m afraid to look at it. Which is dumb and cowardly, I know. All the same, I’d rather shut the chapter on what I can’t change and move onto the next.

I do count myself incredibly lucky to have five books and three short stories published, and hopefully more to come. I’m happy to receive mail from people who have read the series and enjoyed it. It’s surreal to know that I’ve transmitted emotion to perfect strangers through my own inner confabulations. It really is a blessing and an honour for an introvert like me to make that connection. 

WHITEHURST: What writers influenced you?

GREENAWAY: I grew up on British crime fiction like Ruth Rendell, but Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct is probably my biggest influence.

WHITEHURST: What advice would you give those interested in writing?

GREENAWAY: Try to figure out what lies within the books you read that makes you want to read on. For me it’s simple. In no particular order: interesting characters, grit, unpredictability, humour, and a dose of pathos.

The approach I think works best is to write for yourself first. Find your voice and don’t worry about getting it perfect. Or write for someone you admire, dead or alive. But at the same time, do a lot of reading and learning about the craft. And be open to criticism, internal or external. When you feel yourself improving, start putting the reader first. That last bit is some advice I received that seems obvious enough, but it made me sit back and think. And If you’re writing a series, like I am, envision the overall arc so you don’t introduce a bunch of subplots that you’ll have trouble tying up. The more work you put into the planning, the less you’ll have to put into rewriting and hair-pulling. See above, my million edits? That’s because I’m not a good planner. Maybe that’s because I’ve found that the story will often go where it wants to go, and the plan goes out the window.

Be sure to grab a copy of Vancouver Noir, edited by Sam Wiebe, while you’re collecting Greenaway’s other titles.

On the housekeeping side, get your virtual filing cabinet in order sooner than later. You’re going to end up with dozens of folders, some hard to classify; i.e. it’s handy to keep group photos from events in one place, maybe separated from photos of “now just me”, then there’s your blurbs and bios and all their incarnations, correspondence with readers, resource material collected, character studies…. no end to the folders it’s good to have ready so you can find items when needed.

And then have faith.

More about R.M. Greenaway:

R.M. began writing crime fiction on a Greyhound while northbound to Prince Rupert, in a blizzard. Street names became character names as the bus passed through towns and villages, and the blizzard became the setting for her first book. Cold Girl won the 2014 Arthur Ellis Award for best unpublished novel, which led to her ongoing B.C. Blues Crime series, published by Dundurn Press. Fifth in the series, River of Lies, was released in March 2020 in the midst of a pandemic. In 2018 two of her short stories were also published: The Threshold and Rozotica. If you’d like to know more or get in touch, drop by www.rmgreenaway.com. She’d love to hear from you!

Visit her online here.

Top Five Washington D.C. Sights

Washington D.C. happens to be where decisions are made that effect every one of us. It’s where our elected leaders hold court and its where our country first began official business after the Revolutionary War. As such, most Americans make the pilgrimage at least once in their lives to soak in the framework of our day-to-day existence and perhaps come away with a better knowledge of our home country than we had before.

Emoting my views of the White House

It can also be a rough place if you don’t watch yourself, but hey, that’s any city. Below are five of my picks for the hottest spots in town, each with an array of pics, which you might want to visit on your American pilgrimage.

Museums

There are so many D.C. museums that it’s virtually impossible to visit them all in a week. It can take half a day to absorb each one. The National Gallery of Art is high on my list. They have a Leonardo da Vinci after all, and seeing the Genevra de Benci was simply unforgettable. The U.S. Botanic Garden is also a treasure to see, particularly the sinister Devil’s Tongue. But for the pulse of that American heart beat, visit the National Archives to drink in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and other documents that feed our country’s lifeblood. Beat feet to the Capitol Building and take a tour of democracy in action or trek along the outdoor museum that is the National Mall. To feel history tug at your mind and heart, always visit the Holocaust Museum and listen to the lesson it’s begging to teach.

One bummer was the Newseum. As a former reporter, it sat high on my list of places to visit, but it closed for good back in January, which is another scary indicator the war on the freedom of the press is not going the way of free speech. Another thing to remember is no pictures at the National Archives, so there’s only the gift shop to remember viewing those indelible documents.

Books

People read like fiends on the right coast, not that they don’t on the left, but in D.C. people brought books with them into bars. That speaks volumes. I visited three of D.C.’s literary hubs on my trip: East City Book Shop, Solid State Books, and Capitol Hill Books. All cooler than Hell. While there I was sure to pick up books by George Pelecanos, D.C.’s staple crime writer, among other tomes to heft back as carry-on luggage. Capitol Hill also coughed up the Constitution for my library, not to mention a Declaration of Independence from the National Archives, since I’m a nerd and wanted them from the nexus.

Historic buildings

Where to begin with the architecture? It’s a trip in and of itself to visit the famous homes, the institutions, the churches, and everything in between. What I found most interesting were the row homes, some of which are jammed between high rises. They’re all over, some nicer in appearance than others, but all insanely expensive said the cab drivers. Also, churches are everywhere. Every. Where. D.C. has its own Chinatown, which is worth a visit, though it is smaller than Los Angeles or San Francisco’s. For a touristy nerd who doesn’t get out much, visual stimulation in architecture literally called out to you from every street corner.

Food

There’s some sexy eating to be had in Washington D.C. from the hot dog sellers on the corners to the finer, cattle cart dining found around the National Mall. I recommend a few places when you pay a visit. First off is Tortino Restaurant. They had the best Italian dishes around. Second, and within a leisurely stroll of Tortino, is Phillips Seafood and Steak. Great steak, great ambience, though it can get a bit noisy, so be ready for the din. For a real D.C. taste, also swing into Po Boy Jim. The joint had great hot sausage, an upstairs bar, and a good time.

Scary Stairs

There’s a famous scene in the film adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s book “The Exorcist” in which Father Damien Karras tumbles down seventy-some stairs to his death. Those steps where the scene was filmed can be found in the Georgetown neighborhood of D.C. For a fan of horror literature, director William Friedkin’s 1973 movie adaptation is a classic, which makes a visit to the Exorcist Steps a must on any vacation to the area. Just be sure to catch your breath since those stairs are steep mothers.

Oddly enough there were no copies of The Exorcist to be found at any of the local book sellers. Coincidence? Well, yeah, probably.

Whitehurst’s Top Reads of 2019

The roaring twenties are upon us. And I am already tired of the Gatsby references. Luckily there are plenty of books to take us away from those things. And there will be some awesome books in the New Year likely to make us forget all about Fitzgerald. Maybe.
There were some damn good stories in 2019 and killer short reads that don’t necessarily count as books. This includes S.W. Lauden’s fantastic “Power Pop” novella. The memoir “Resurrections in the Dark” by Janice Blaze Rocke provided a living, breathing tale that’s hard to forget as well. I’d recommend checking both out, not to mention “All the Way Down” by Eric Beetner.
I did a terrible job of tracking my reading over the last year. By my estimate I read about 21 books, down from last year’s count, but not bad for a slow page turner like me. Here’s the usual disclaimer – I read these books in 2019, but that doesn’t mean they came out this year. Some did, of course, but I choose my annual favorites from the stack and not by publication date.

Wonton Terror by Vivien Chien

“Wonton Terror” is the latest installment of Vivien Chien’s wonderful cozy mystery series and pits our series hero Lana Lee against a murderer who knows a thing or two about blowing things up. Lana is nearly killed by a bomb blast in Ohio’s Asian Night Market. While she makes it through with minor injuries, a family friend isn’t so lucky. Lana is determined to know why he was killed.
Having discovered Chien’s Noodle Shop Mystery series just this year, I have endeavored to consume them all. Fun, fast reads, and she’s already got at least two more in the literary pipeline.
Visit the Noodle Shop here.

101 by Tom Pitts

Thank God for friends. Young Jerry Bertram finds himself in deadly peril after snatching cash from a biker gang in northern California. When they come gunning for him, his mother steps in to help, enlisting the aid of a pot grower and all-around tough guy Vic. But even their aid may not be enough to kill what’s coming for them.
Pitts takes the silencer off the barrel and comes in guns blazing with his latest book. It’s always a thrill to read this guy’s stuff.
Take a trip on the 101 here.

Spine of the Dragon by Kevin J. Anderson

Kevin J. Anderson hits one out of the fantasy ball park in his latest book, “Spine of the Dragon.” We’re given some truly creative characters and fantastic fantasy elements, ones readers will be daydreaming about well after turning the last page. Here we meet King Adan Starfall, the disgraced Brava Elliel, King Kollanan, the ancient Wreths; we explore the Commonwealth, and of course wake the dragon! I totally enjoyed this read and look forward to book two in this new series.
Grab your sword and read the book here.

Cold Girl by R.M. Greenaway

Talk about creeping dread. That’s what readers can expect when they enter the world of R.M. Greenaway’s “Cold Girl,” the first in her B.C. Blues Crime series. The novel centers on the disappearance of a local musician and the realization she may be in the hands of the notorious Pickup Killer. Called a police procedural, but damn hot for us readers who like chilling scenes and frozen climates in our killer crime fiction.
Lay your cold hands on a copy here.

Call Down the Thunder by Dietrich Kalteis

Author Dietrich Kalteis brings reader into the thick of the 1930s Dust Bowl in his 2019 novel “Call Down the Thunder.” In it we meet the tough as leather Sonny Myers, who happens to be a bit down on his luck, and his vibrant wife Clara, who wants a little more than Sonny can offer. Not that anyone else was doing much better in Kansas at the time, anyone except the crooks. Sonny comes to realize this sad fact and decides to help himself to a bit of the loot the same way the crooks do.
This is a fantastic historical crime thriller, which takes readers into a desperate chapter of American life, and adds a touch of sweetness only Kalteis can create.
Get your thunder on here.

INTERVIEW: Haunted Monterey County featured in Carmel Magazine

Carmel Magazine – Holiday 2019

Be sure to pick up the Holiday 2019 issue of Carmel Magazine, found everywhere along the California Central Coast and abroad. Writer Renee Brincks did a fantastic writeup for the book and it was awesome to be included once again in such an illustrious publication. Can’t find a print copy? Read it online here: https://www.e-digitaleditions.com/i/1182230-cm-sm-ho19-nov/66

And get your copy of the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Haunted-Monterey-County-America/dp/1467142352/ref=sr_1_1?crid=4SX1Q5J4N617&keywords=haunted+monterey+county&qid=1573163908&sprefix=Haunted+Monterey+County%2Caps%2C193&sr=8-1

BOOK REVIEW: The Crowns of Croswald by D.E. Night

The Crowns of Croswald by D.E. Night – pictured with Fido the Saguaro.

There are times when you start reading a book without knowing what to expect. Such was the case with D.E. Night’s young adult (YA) fantasy book, The Crowns of Croswald. It was familiar yet wholly new at the same time – and it turned into an energetic, comfortable reading experience.

This review comes from a writer and reader who rarely dip his toes into the genre. When it comes to fantasy and YA fiction, my experiences primarily orbit Lord of the Rings, Narnia, The Kingkiller Chronicles, and the Harry Potter series.

It’s the latter I felt largely influenced The Crowns of Croswald and in the beginning those similarities were strong, even for someone who has not read the Harry Potter (HP) adventures for years. I found myself feeling as though I’d been transported back to those days of Hogwarts, to that memorable era when I read the first three HP books to my daughter. And this was not a bad feeling at all.

In fact, the more I read, the more I was engrossed in Night’s tale, told simply and elegantly, and found myself absorbed by it. This is not HP at all, but an original story told in that cozy YA style (imagine HP as a genre), and done quite well. The author’s world-building game is top notch.

Lovely illustrations adorn each chapter title.

The book’s chapters are dotted at the outset with charming illustrations also reminiscent of the small drawings seen at the top of each HP chapter. Only these illustrations are done to enhance the story of Ivy Lovely, a young woman who has no idea how exciting her life is about to become.  When we first meet her she’s hidden under a magic-killing screen, little realizing her potential as she toils in Castle Plum’s kitchen ensuring each dragon-cooked meal is as tasty as possible. Her only real friend at this point is the woods dwarf, Rimbrick, who offers her hints to her own destiny, not to mention all the books she can handle. It’s when she’s kicked out of Castle Plum that her life begins to change, particularly when she lands in the magical Halls of Ivy, a school where anything can happen and usually does thanks to the scrivenists – sort of like wizards but here the wands are quills – sort of. At school she befriends the witty Fyn Greeley, gets into a bit of trouble, and more importantly seeks to unlock the mysteries of her past, why she was brought to the school, and deal with the nefarious Dark Queen. More happens, a lot more, but readers will have to discover those gems for themselves.

Another point I enjoyed was the use of the name D.E. Night, which readers of Croswald will discover is a name used in the book itself. Early on, in fact, Rimbrick hands off three books for Ivy to read. Each is written by Derwin Edgar Night.  The subtle inclusion of the author into the work reminded me of Doyle’s inclusion of Watson into the classic Sherlock Holmes stories, a trick I can get behind with ease. It’s a great way to supercharge the imagination for readers.

Those looking for a well-paced read in the vein of authors J.K. Rowling and Patrick Rothfuss (without the adult-level syllabus) look no further than D.E. Night’s plucky Croswald series, now at two books and counting.

Check out Night’s website here.

Halloween ghost stories with Haunted Monterey County

Featured in the news

KAZU 90.3

Those looking for all things spooky during the Halloween 2019 season need look no further than the pages of Haunted Monterey County. Local NPR public radio 90.3 KAZU featured the book on Halloween day.

Take a listen or read it here.

Monterey County Weekly

For a look at even more haunted sites in Monterey County, read Weekly Reporter Marielle Argueza‘s story, which featured a number of the paranormal locales found in the book.

Read her story here.

Thank you to Marielle with the Weekly and Dylan with KAZU for making it a haunted Halloween!

Tucson’s bookstore bonanza

The skinny on the town’s literary landscape

Collect those stickers and bookmarks.

Arizona’s biggest close-to-the-border city, Tucson, is a literary oasis.

Driving down the streets one might see cowboy hats, MAGA hats, and camouflage hats, but you might also see bookstores dotting the landscape behind them, a lot of bookstores. And some damn good ones. Book lovers visiting Tucson, or those new to town, will find oodles of retail to fit their reading needs.

(Click the header to visit each bookstore’s website)

Barnes and Noble

There are two in Tucson, with one right smack in the middle of town and another to the north. Coffee shops inside a bookstore always make the trip more fun, as do aisles and aisles of books. Those who have gone to B&N know they also have print magazines, collectibles, stationary, and way more. It’s great to see them humming with activity after dark.

Bookmans

Bookmans Midtown location.

Bookmans is something of an Arizona tradition. There are stores in Flagstaff, Phoenix, and in Tucson, the birthplace of the chain, there are three locations. Here one can find used books in every genre, graphic novels and comics, merchandise from jewelry to toys, musical instruments, video games, and all in between. They even sell new books. Not just that, but bring in your old books (and other stuff) and you might just get store credit to spend there. Visits are like a trip to a literary Disneyland. You never know where to look first.

Antigone Books

Be kind at Antigone Books

Smack dab downtown, this local hotspot is one of the biggest independent bookstores in the area. Full of helpful staff, the bookstore offers new books, mugs, bookmarks, stuffed animals, and more. The vibe is alive with bookish charm. Here you can find any number of book groups to join, author events to attend, and even learn about how they power the store with solar energy. The place is simply a must-go Tucson experience.

Mostly Books

Mostly Books is a place readers can get lost in. The store is long with reading nooks and rooms filled floor to ceiling with stories of all genres. Here it’s easy to find books written by local talent, attend book signings, and join in with monthly book groups. Nicely located on Speedway, the relaxed and friendly atmosphere makes stopping here a definite addition to your bibliophile checklist.

Clues Unlimited

You don’t need a magnifying glass to find it.

You like your library with some sleuthing, some killing, and some crime? That would be Clues Unlimited. They’ve got paperback cozies, local crime and mystery authors, hardback noir, and more – all packed into a cute little spot. Be sure to take the time and browse around and say hi to that cute dog that hangs out there.

Book Stop

Is that the smell of old books in the Book Stop, cigars, or what? Either way you’ll get that book jones satisfied at this place, which carries a ton of used, ultra-rare, and out of print titles for your reading pleasure, not to mention a chunk of scholarly tomes to peruse. Grab a chair and pony up to this reading mecca.

Tucson in action (in a readerly way)

These are just a taste of what the community offers those who carry books or e-readers around with them, or anyone who likes to shop. There’s also the bookstore for the University of Arizona and other sellers around town. Not just confined to stores, many of the bookstores represent at local events and festivals with their own tables.

To top it all off, Tucson is home to one of the biggest literary festivals in the nation. The Tucson Festival of Books is held each March and is one hell of an affair. Check their website to get a taste of what you’ll see – between trips to bookstores naturally.