I had so much fun talking to Peter Robb, the arts editor for the Ottawa Citizen in and I’m just thrilled by how much he liked The Poisoned Pawn. He wrote an online story about my journey to publication: the profile/review will hit The Ottawa Citizen’s Saturday Books Section.
Wow, it can’t get much better than that. I don’t want to give away all of Peter’s story, but here are some highlights:
Ottawa’s Peggy Blair trod a hard road to detective novel success
OTTAWA — One-hundred-and-fifty-six. That’s how many times Ottawa’s Peggy Blair was rejected in her quest to have her first mystery novel published. How she got to that point and beyond — now that’s a story worth telling.
While the rejection slips arrived, she decided to get serious about earning money and turned to real estate, in part because it is a social activity.
“I decided to put [the novel] into some international competitions, and domestic, for unpublished first novels. I sent it off to the U.S. and to a Canadian competition and one in the U.K.”
Several weeks later, after she had given up hope, she got a letter from England. She opened it up to a ‘Congratulations, you have been shortlisted for the Debut Dagger.’ She was invited to the award ceremony and they offered to send the book to publishers and agents in Britain.
She had no money, but friends rallied around and raised enough to get her to Britain, where she walked into an industry in a state of deep depression over e-books and worried about its future. Wallets were closed everywhere. And the she lost the 2010 Debut Dagger.
Hope was dashed until she had a chance meeting in a bar with Ian Rankin, the well-known Scottish mystery writer.
They struck up a conversation and Rankin asked where she was from. Rankin had been at Bluesfest and was keen to talk about the music, the weather and the city. Then he asked her why she was in Yorkshire. When she told him, he asked if she had a publisher, and when she said no, he gave her the name of his in Canada and told her to use his name.
Blair followed up. The publisher then connected her with Rankin’s literary agent, Peter Robinson (not the mystery writer).
He read the book, emailed her at work and told her he loved it. Robinson took the manuscript to the massive Frankfurt book fair and proceeded to sell the rights in Germany, Norway and Holland. Eventually, she landed a two-book deal with Penguin, of which The Poisoned Pawn is the second.
This second book completes the story of the first. It brings Inspector Ramirez to Canada on orders to bring back to Cuba a perverted pedophile priest. Meanwhile, at home, Ramirez’s colleague, the tiny forensic physician Hector Apiro, searches for clues to the strange deaths of three seemingly unconnected women, including two Canadians.
Blair shows a real flair for character. Ramirez is a unique, exotic and fascinating individual, as is Apiro. So too is the Canadian police officer Charlie Pike, who is a First Nations person, a member of the Anishnabe nation.
Her experience in First Nations law comes shining through in this novel. But it’s the Cuban story that really makes it sing.
For someone who has only been to the island once, she has successfully created a very real vision of the place. She credits the Internet. But it’s more than that. She has research skills honed by years as a talented lawyer and a great eye for detail.
There is a third novel on the way, which will once again take place in Canada and Cuba as Ramirez, Apiro and Pike track a serial killer who kills in both countries.
It is a book to anticipate.