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PRAISE FOR UMBRELLA MAN!
Winnipeg Free Press"Ramirez is an appealing character who uses his Canadian connections to augment his sleuthing..."
Ottawa Citizen"Crisply written, the characters are real ... Blair enters the world of the thriller."
Margaret Cannon, The Globe and Mail
"Peggy Blair’s Inspector Ramirez series gets better with every book. An Ottawa lawyer, Blair has a real knack for using her Havana setting, with its eccentricities born of necessity, as both a charming backdrop and a real guide to plot lines.
"This time out, Ramirez begins with a confrontation with Mama Loa. The witch doctor says people in the sky are going to die. Ramirez isn’t convinced. There hasn’t been a murder in Havana in weeks and who cares about clouds in the sky?
"When the prophecy kicks in (expertly done) there’s not just one, but several connected killings and yes, the sky is there, too. But this is no local curse or a shot of voodoo. This is plain old-fashioned KGB-CIA hit man-style killing. That makes it political, not personal, and Ramirez knows he’s on borrowed time."
Jack Batten, Toronto Star
"Marvellously accomplished ... Cuba is a small triumph of evocation.
"Blair manipulates the new characters in the book with the finesse of a card dealer dealing a hand from the bottom of the deck."
The Indextrious Reader
"Blair's mastery of intricate plotlines means that I didn't even guess at the extent of the machinations until the very end.
"And yet it all seemed to make sense once it was explained -- the very different storylines all connected in a great ending -- which was very cinematic in scope, and again, quite spy thrillerish.
"All in all, you'll find warmth, friendship, terror, clandestine plots, violence, explosions, and true love in this story. The perfect summer read."
PRAISE FOR HUNGRY GHOSTS!
National Post"An exciting procedural."
Chronicle Herald"Blair's thriller never disappoints ...This series, with its study of seemingly disparate cultures that actually have a lot in common, continues to be a delight."
The Chronicle Herald"A charming and funny, but also poignant, series. "
A Bookworms World"Blair's plotting is meticulous, inventive and oh so well played ... an excellent addition to a wonderful series. Absolutely recommended."
Globe and Mail"Heavy on atmosphere and style, the two places Blair shines." Margaret Cannon
Ottawa Citizen"Top-notch mystery ... A new level of sophistication. Hungry Ghosts is one of the best mysteries to come out of Ottawa this or any year. "
Winnipeg Free Press"Terrific cop characters Ricardo Ramirez and Charlie Pike -- intrepid, quietly anti-authoritarian investigators relentlessly sleuthing in their isolated corners of the world--and locations in non-touristy Cuba and the impoverished Canadian Shield make for a cracking good read."
"Blair grows more assured with each novel ... she shapes all the elements in each of the three plots into coherent and related whodunits.
"As a bonus, Blair rewards readers with enlightenment about the perils of ordinary life both in Cuba and on Canadian aboriginal reserves."
Mass paperback (Canada and the US)!
Mass paperback (Canada and US)!
REVIEWED BY THE NEW YORK TIMES!!!!"The Beggar's Opera is a well-crafted procedural with a detective who is haunted by the victims in his homicide cases. Inspector Ricardo Ramirez of the Cuban National Revolutionary Police returns in The Poisoned Pawn. Ramirez is a wonderful guide — hiding nothing but hoping we’ll look past the poverty, hardship and political corruption to see the beauty and humanity of his battered city."
Trade paperback (Canada)
Second in the series!
REVIEWS OF MIDNIGHT IN HAVANA!
Neville Moir, Publisher, Polygon
"I am a bit of a sucker for the weird and unusual and a taste of the exotic, so when I saw this script I sat up and took notice.
"Set in contemporary Havana, we are introduced to the major crime unit of the Cuban National Revolutionary Police led by an inspector who sees the ghosts of unsolved murder victims who in turn is assisted by a dwarf pathologist who needs a stepladder to be able to conduct his autopsies.
"Although handicapped by a creaking bureaucracy, intermittent internet and a lack of pencils, the policemen’s resourcefulness, dark subversive wit and profound intelligence more than compensate for these shortcomings.
"A compelling mystery with brilliant characters and a fantastic setting this is a spellbinding whodunnit. But above all a book of immense humanity."
Scotland on Sunday“All the ingredients of the best detective novels."
Bookbag (UK)“A thrilling and engrossing mystery that uses the intrigue of a communist Cuba setting to add not only an interesting backdrop but real jeopardy to the investigation. A fantastic start to what I hope will be a long series.”
Book Noir"A poignant yet pacy mystery. The major, and the minor characters, leave the reader wanting more - in the best possible way."
The Killing Time"Canadian author Peggy Blair's debut novel (originally published in Canada under the title The Beggars Opera) is a treat. It's a fast-moving, original and atmospheric mystery."
REVIEWS OF THE BEGGAR’S OPERA!
Booklist (starred review)“A fine novel and the launch of what looks to be a superb series.”
Publishers Weekly“Decaying but beautiful Havana provides the atmospheric backdrop for Blair’s absorbing debut.”
New York Post“For mystery fans who need a break from both our winter weather and the proliferation of Nordic crime tales, here’s a first-time novelist introducing Inspector Ricardo Ramirez of the Major Crimes Unit of the Cuban National Police. Havana is as much a character as the people in Canadian author Blair’s fast-paced story.”
Mystery Tribune“We highly recommend this book to the readers who love mysteries in exotic locales.”
Fresh Fiction, Texas“A compelling mystery with flawed, haunted characters that reach beyond stereotypes. Poignant, carefully crafted, and hopeful, Peggy Blair has created a new series that is worth reading.”
Richmond Times Dispatch“Readers will find themselves gripped by this smart novel as Blair combines a surprise-filled plot with well-drawn characters and lush details of Cuban life. A heady mix of deprivation and depravity, The Beggar’s Opera marks a promising start to a projected series.”
The National Post“Compelling and convincing, a genuinely mysterious mystery that manages to both surprise and maintain its internal integrity.”
Quill and Quire“An impressive police procedural, one that is as much about a detective facing his own dementia-induced demons as a country in the midst of political turmoil. The Beggar’s Opera was shortlisted for the Crime Writers Association’s Debut Dagger Award, and it’s easy to see why.”
Toronto Star“Quirky leads, an exotic setting, and not one, not two, but at least three twists at the end (saving the best for last). It’s a great start for the series.”
Winnipeg Free Press“There are enough strong characters, dazzling locations and subplots in Blair’s book to sustain more than one season of thrillers.”
Vancouver Sun“A fast-paced, well-plotted mystery set in Havana... One can only hope Blair, a lawyer for 30 years and former member of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, continues her career as a crime writer as well as she has begun.”
The Chronicle-Journal“The Beggar’s Opera sets the tone for a style that includes rapid plot developments and unexpected twists, with a dollop of social conscience thrown in for good measure.”
The Ottawa Citizen“The Beggar’s Opera does not disappoint. It’s fast-paced, atmospheric, has unusual characters and delivers surprises right to the final pages.”
The Sherbrooke Record“Blair nicely strings the reader along, casting doubt on what’s real and what’s imaginary, while serving up a tale that combines a penetrating commentary on Cuban life with a whodunit full of twists and turns.”
The Hamilton Spectator“Full of atmosphere. The Beggar’s Opera is a debut novel with a twisted climax, revealing dialogue and astute social observation on how far apart we are from Cuba and yet how close.”
The Chronicle Herald“A splendid fictional debut with the first in the Ramirez series…. Blair’s riveting, gritty tale is so realistic, it may give readers nightmares about landing in legal trouble while in another country.”
REVIEWS OF THE POISONED PAWN!
The National Post“The story treads dark and nasty territory, but Blair sidesteps the impulse to wallow in graphic violence by sticking to her characters’ actions and motivations… The Poisoned Pawn shows there is a way to hold onto decency and humanity in the face of the worst criminality.”
Margaret Cannon, Globe and Mail“If you, like me, somehow managed to miss Peggy Blair’s debut novel, The Beggar’s Opera, then you should read this second book and then run to get the first. Let’s hope there’s a third in the works.”
Chronicle-Journal“The plot comes together nicely in a Hollywood-style ending, which extends from ordinary people with murderous intent to international conspiracies at the highest level.”
The Ottawa Citizen“Blair’s experience in First Nations law comes shining through in this novel. But it’s the Cuban story that really makes it sing.”
Vancouver Sun“Two crime novels. Two resounding successes. Canadian writer and lawyer Peggy Blair proves her debut novel, The Beggar’s Opera, acclaimed by readers and critics alike, was much, much more than beginner’s luck. Blair’s prose is evocative, nary a word amiss.”
Jack Batten, Whodunit, Sunday Star“An affecting series … Even if impoverished and politically oppressed Havana presents unique burdens, Ramirez is not without a sense of humour as he goes about his clever sleuthing.”
New Brunswick Telegraph Journal“The plot is intricate, intriguing and surprising. There is plenty of death – innocent, inadvertent, coolly calculated, retributive – and there is plenty of subtle strategizing as the stakes mount for both countries. We haven’t seen the last of Ramirez.”
Owen Sound Sun Times“Blair has found a winner in crumbling old Havana with Ramirez, a man haunted both by his country and unsolved crimes."
My first advance from Penguin!
- More on Ottawa Book Awards Shortlist! #UmbrellaMan November 6, 2017
- Ottawa Book Awards October 19, 2017
- City of Ottawa Book Award #Shortlist! September 18, 2017
- Nice ….. July 7, 2017
- Agent Rejections – Here are some samples. Read ’em and weep. March 21, 2017
Yes, I’m a realtor, too!
Peggy Blair, Sales Representative
Royal LePage Team Realty
200, 1335 Carling Avenue
Ottawa, Ontario K1Z 8N8
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I have a few minutes to spare and thought I’d respond to a question posted on the ‘About’ page of this blog about writer’s block and how to get over it. This comes from a reader who has a great story to tell but just can’t seem to get it out.
I ran into writer’s block this year, big-time. I had maybe four months in a row where I struggled with telling my story. For that matter, any story.
I had an idea for a sequel. Bring my Cuban detective to Canada (that door is open at the end of the first book, The Beggar’s Opera) and let him see it through the eyes of a visitor, with all its peculiarities and idiosyncrasies.I just couldn’t get going. After twenty pages or thirty pages, I had bored myself to tears.
I put that manuscript aside and tried writing a different story. I had also had an idea for an Aboriginal detective who was kind of an anti-hero. I’ve worked for over twenty years in Aboriginal land claim and resource negotiations, so I know First Nations communities and issues inside-out. I thought I’d set him up in a situation where he had to reluctantly head back to the rez to investigate the death of one of the many missing Anishnabe women who keep disappearing on the highways. Sort of like The Trail of Tears in British Columbia.
Forty pages in, I was stuck again. Worse than stuck: set in concrete. I really liked the character, I just couldn’t quite figure out what to do with him once he got there.I kept going back and forth between the two stories, trying to make at least one of them work. I’d tease out a page or two, and then give up. Try again. Wander off to do the dishes. Sit down. Type. Delete. Start over. And start to wonder if I was a one-trick wonder.
Finally, I put them both away and began to write a third story. And it bored me, too. The plot was too thin to carry a whole book.
I was in Europe this summer, when I finally realized what I’d done wrong. My most interesting setting — where I’d placed the entire plot of The Beggar’s Opera — was Cuba. And I’d completely left it out. So I added a Cuban subplot. And I started to shift the dialogue and the scenery back where it belonged. I went back to the story involving the Aboriginal detective. I liked him, and particularly his backstory. I realized that I could bring him into the same story as the others; that he didn’t have to be a standalone, but could be part of the ensemble. Why save your best stuff for a book you may never write?
I pulled some of the chapters I had written about him from that manuscript into this one. Suddenly, the story clicked. I wrote 16,000 words one weekend at the lake. It’s the most I’ve ever written. It didn’t take long to finish writing the book.
I’m waiting for my agent’s detailed comments. But so far, he’s really enjoyed it. And it helped him deal with a concern he had, namely, that I might be writing a sequel instead of a stand-alone story in the series. (A sequel is harder to sell, because people buy books in random order. Unlike movies.)
So what can you do when you have writer’s block?
I think it helps to keep your most interesting character in mind. Try making him even more interesting: add some complications to his life, some internal obstacle he needs to deal with. Then try writing a few more sentences from his perspective. You want readers to pick up the book looking for that character. Don’t disappoint.
I find it helpful sometime to write random chapters that I think are interesting and just store them away in a ‘basket’ file, meaning I don’t know how they’ll fit in. That takes the pressure off, and so far, I’ve ended up using all of them. It’s like your subconscious knows what you want to write long before you do.
If the setting you’re using isn’t working, try a new one. Find some way to transport your character there. And if your characters are getting stale, introduce them to another great character and watch the sparks fly.
After all, what do we do in our own lives when we’re bored? We go out. We try new things. We travel. We meet new people. We spice things up.When our characters have a chance to do the same, they start to tell their stories. And that gets us over the blocks.