About Peggy


I am a lawyer, realtor, and author living in Ottawa, Canada. I was a defence lawyer and prosecutor, but most of my legal career was spent in Aboriginal law. (I have an LLM and doctorate in Aboriginal law/legal history).

But my Inspector Ramirez mysteries series is set mostly in Havana.

Why Cuba?

I spent  Christmas in Old Havana in 2006. I saw how bored the young police officers were, slouched against lamp posts, waiting for a crime, any crime to occur. I went to astonishing art museums, the book market (hundreds of thousands of used books), cigar and rum factories, artists’ stalls, and, of course, the Malecon.

I visited most of Hemingway’s favourite bars (no easy task — they’re all over the place) and learned how to make the perfect mojito.

Havana is colourful mimes on stilts, elderly cigar ladies, child beggars, feral cats and homeless dogs. It’s gorgeous, collapsing Spanish colonial architecture, crazy anti-George Bush billboards, one of the most educated populations in the world, and everywhere, music. Cuba is communism, extreme shortages and incredible generosity, corruption, inane bureaucracy and genuine kindness.

It is quite possibly the most interesting place I’ve ever been. How could I resist writing about it?

To my enormous surprise and great joy, my debut novel, The Beggar’s Opera, was shortlisted in 2010 for the prestigious Debut Dagger Award of the (UK) Crime Writers Association.

After that, Penguin Canada picked up the world English-language rights in a two book deal). It is available in bookstores across Canada (and as an ebook on Kindle and Kobo) now and was released in trade paperback in the US market in March. The Beggar’s Opera was  translated and published in Germany, Norway, the Czech Republic, Israel, and the Netherlands. It was published in the UK as Midnight in Havana and in the U.S. as well, to critical acclaim (see reviews page or the pull quotes in the side bar).

I’m happy to say The Beggar’s Opera won the Giller Prize Reader’s Choice in Canada in 2012 as well as the CBC Bookie Award for Best Mystery/Thriller. It was shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Award this year for best first novel.

The  second in the series, The Poisoned Pawn, hit the Canadian market in 2013 and Hungry Ghosts, the third in the Ramirez series, was published by Simon and Schuster last year, followed by Umbrella Man in 2016. Both hit the Canadian bestsellers lists!

I stopped writing for a while (as my real estate business began to pick up – proud to say I’m an award-winning realtor now as well!) but I am picking away at a couple of manuscripts. I’ll keep you posted!

 

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66 Responses to About Peggy

  1. Hey,

    When you write things, how do you know what to do when you have a story, a really great story but ou’ve hit a block, you just can’t figure out how ot comtinue, i’m almost at the end of a story i’m writing and i can’t figure out how to end it, i’m stumped.

    Have you ever had that feeling, been at that point? If you have how did you get beyond that stop? I’m at a block and i just can’t get past it, i’m stuck and i could really use a fellow writer’s advice.

    Like

  2. Peggy Blair says:

    Dear Rachael,

    How about if I do a post on that? Stay tuned! Peggy

    Like

  3. Kathryn says:

    Hi, Peggy!

    I actually studied English at the University of Ottawa! It’s a beautiful city. 🙂

    How do you deal with feelings that your writing isn’t very good and just press on?

    Like

    • Peggy Blair says:

      Hello, Kathryn,

      I found Donald Maas’s book, Writing the Breakout Novel, really helpful. And getting feedback from readers I trusted as to what needed to be changed. That really helped me figure out how to improve my writing and gain more confidence in it. Cheers, Peggy

      Like

  4. harry dunn says:

    Hi Peggy
    What a wonderful picture you describe of Havana – decaying slendours indeed.
    I am not at all surprised at your literary success and will buy ‘The Beggar’s Opera’ through Amazon. I know I will enjoy it.
    I will be in for ‘Debut Dagger’ for the second time this year. Upwards and onwards.
    Persistance is all.
    May I send you my best wishes.
    Harry Dunn
    Berkshire ,England

    Like

  5. Louise says:

    Hi Peggy,
    I’m a native Canuk living in the UK and just came across your site.
    Great information (particularly about the Debut Dagger), presented in a clear, concise manner. Great stuff!
    I’m thinking of submitting for this year’s Debut Dagger, but my novel (while it does have a crime solving and crime element), is definitely more of a psychological thriller with crime. Do you think there is a place for that focus in the competition. Most of the former winners and shortlisters seem to be detective/cop focussed.
    Your thoughts would be grateful appreciated.
    Regards
    Louise
    Plymouth UK

    Like

    • Peggy Blair says:

      Dear Louise,
      Nice to hear from you! The winner in 2009 was a Canadian who wrote a psychological thriller called The Pathologist. I believe that if you go to the Debut Dagger website, you can download her opening chapter and the judges’ comments. So yes, lots of scope for that — they take a broad perspective of the genre. Good luck! Peggy

      Like

  6. Julie says:

    I heard you speak on CBC yesterday and I wanted to congratulate you. I am looking forward to your novel.

    What made you decide to leave your legal career and delve into the world of writing? And how did you do it? Was the transition difficult? It is not an easy decision to leave a profession where you are well-respected, employed and in which you have devoted much of your time and energy (PhD).

    I am curious as I too am a lawyer and am thinking of leaving the profession for a more creative one. I am always interested in stories such as yours where talent, courage, determination and persistence have paid off.

    I am very happy for you and I wish you all the best.

    Julie

    Like

    • Peggy Blair says:

      Thanks, Julie. The PhD (LLD) was something I did towards the end of my career, so that I could leave what I had learned about Aboriginal law behind for others.

      I wasn’t actually ’employed’ as a lawyer; I did legal consulting for the last ten or so years (self-employed, which means no job security whatsoever) with lots of down time. I was training negotiators, working on some Aboriginal negotiations files etc. I’ll probably still do some of that; looks like one of my files may be resurrected.

      But I’ve always loved real estate and after years of working in a home office (since 1987) I was starting to feel like a slightly over-kennelled dog. I’m quite happy with the choices I’ve made. You never really stop being a lawyer, so that part of the transition is easy (the study of law is brain-altering, after all); I think you just add some new skills and experiences to who you are.

      Like

  7. Julie says:

    Thank you for your reply. I am impressed by all you have accomplished but also by your creative side. What made you decide to write? From my own experience, it is an all consuming profession. I am not quite at the end of my career, but am willing to travel a road less traveled for a while. You are certainly an inspiration to many of us. Thank you for sharing your story, your advice and your thoughts.

    Julie

    Like

    • Peggy Blair says:

      Not sure, Julie. I think I wanted to see if I could write creatively, after all those years of legal/formulaic legal analyses. But I also paint, so it’s not like my creative side was unused or atrophying. (I reno houses, too, using my own designs.) If I hadn’t been shortlisted for the Debut Dagger, I might have e-published or I might have given up. Probably the latter. I’ve tried other risky ventures from time to time (eg. owning and running an antique/art store) and I’m quite willing to concede defeat, when I think it’s deserved :-).

      Like

  8. Steve Johnson says:

    Hello Miss Blair, my name is Steve Johnson and I work at the Ottawa Public Library – Main Branch. We would be interested in holding an author reading with you at the Main Branch. If you are interested, could you please contact me via email at the address I provided.

    Regards,

    Steve Johnson

    Like

  9. Vivian says:

    Congratulations on selling your book. I wish you all the success. I know you used to be a lawyer but I was wondering if you had a lawyer read over your publishing contract. I live in rural SW ON. What kind of lawyer should I be looking for? What do you think the advantages and disadvantages of getting a two-book are? Thank you so much for taking time to answer these questions.

    Like

    • Peggy Blair says:

      Thanks! I didn’t have a lawyer look over my contract because my agents took care of that. Most lawyers won’t have a clue what should be in a publishing contract — they’re entirely different from the contracts most lawyers usually deal with, given the issues around reversion of publishing rights, exclusivity, foreign rights etc. You’d probably have to find someone who specializes in publishing or entertainment law. (A good agent is invaluable for taking care of that stuff. I certainly read through mine, but I left the negotiations to my agents.) A two book deal provides some security and a platform for the debut author. Not sure I see a downside, other than it means having a second book ready to go in much less time than was likely spent on the first. Cheers, Peggy

      Like

  10. Pingback: Kick up your heels and party! | Rosemary McCracken

  11. I’m glad I stumbled on your blog. I’m currently trying to “get published”!

    Like

  12. Seba Pezzani says:

    Dear Peggy, I am an Italian literary translator and journalist and I have just finished reading your wonderful novel “Beggar’s Opera” for an Italian publisher which seems interesting in publishing it over here. Just felt like congratulating you for your book, one of the best noirs I’ve read over the last few years (and I read many…). I also organize a nice music and literature festival in Northern Italy. We’ve had the likes of Stanley Péan and Linwood Barclay appear. Please, stay in touch with me. You never know. And congratulations, once again. Seba Pezzani

    Like

    • Peggy Blair says:

      Thank you so much for getting in touch! I am very happy that you liked the book and of course delighted that we may have an Italian publisher as well. Please do keep in touch! I will be in southern France for a week soon and you never know when I may show up in Italy! Thanks again, very kind of you to contact me. Cheers, Peggy

      Like

  13. l have a couple of manuscripts and l would like to find out from you if you can sell them for me.
    Thank you.

    Like

  14. Pingback: Peggy Blair: The path to publication | Afterword | Arts | National Post

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  16. Amber Dane says:

    Congrats on your success. Had to comment again when I saw the ‘I’m a Realtor too’. I am too. Gives me the flex time I need to write. 🙂

    Like

  17. Anonymous says:

    Hi Peggy, I am an author and I am trying to get published. May I send my work to you and see if you can help me get published. I read that you worked with Nathan Bransford. Do you know if he is still an agent? My email address is:marybpatterson@verizon.net. Thank you!
    Mary B. Patterson

    Like

    • Peggy Blair says:

      Hi Mary,
      I’m afraid I can’t help you get published, but good luck with it! No, Nathan isn’t an agent anymore, and I didn’t work with him — he was an agent at Curtis Brown. All the best! Peggy

      Like

  18. NPK says:

    I just saw your name in the “Citizen” today and will purchase your two Havana-based novels ASAP. I’m an addicted Havanaphile, soon embarking on my 13th annual escape-winter-blues visit to that captivating, sinking jewel. There’s a lot to be said for renting an apartment and getting to know the locals. I met Leonardo Padura Fuentes, author of the Mario Conde series of detective novels, at his home in 2009 and have remained fascinated with your shared genre ever since. Buena suerte y gracias! Neil

    Like

  19. Pingback: Blog Tour Review AND GIVEAWAY: The Poisoned Pawn by Peggy Blair | Samantha Ball

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  21. Yvonne (Toronto, ON, CANADA) says:

    Dear Ms. Blair,
    My book club will be reading your book for our coming July meeting. I was wondering if you can provide me with some interesting anecdotes and/or book / reading guide for my book club to discuss. Thank you for your help in this matter in advance.

    Like

    • Peggy Blair says:

      Hi Yvonne,
      I have a ton of anecdotes on this blog. Just go to the archives and take a browse through. Key wording “Ian Rankin” in the search for archives will get you further details about how I met him and got published but there are over 500 blog posts on this blog, and lots of material for you and your club. Thanks for reading the book, and have a great meeting! Cheers, Peggy

      Like

  22. Ryan Stead says:

    Dear Ms. Blair,
    My first novel has just been published, it’s called “Nation Man”. It’s about a boxer from Ottawa during WWI. I’m a big fan of your show and would love it if you would consider having me on. Please check out my website at
    http://www.ryanstead.com

    Thanks!

    Like

    • Peggy Blair says:

      Hi Ryan,
      We taped the entire show in three days during the Ottawa International Writers Festival so we’re done, but thanks for the feedback and best of luck with your book! Cheers, Peggy

      Like

  23. Chris B. says:

    Hi Peggy, I found your blog through the Absolute Write forum for blog reviews. I haven’t had a chance to look at any posts yet, but I first wanted to let you know I will be following.

    Like

  24. Pingback: Peggy Blair: Die Geister von Havanna » CULTurMAG

  25. Robert Groves says:

    Love your work Peggy. I only wish Aboriginal rights was as intriguing as Inspector Ramirez. Even with Tsihlqot’in, its still a hard slog.

    Best, Bob

    Like

  26. Robert Groves says:

    That’s great Peggy. Look forward to it, will buy it. What more can I say?

    Like

  27. Kate MacQuarrie says:

    Has your creative side extended to artwork? I recently came across a beautiful carved teal duck decoy dated 1991 and signed Peggy J. Blair and wondering if it is your work. If so, anything you could share about this aspect of your talent would be appreciated!

    Like

    • Peggy Blair says:

      I wonder where you came across it? I used to give them away. Yes, I draw and paint and many years ago, I carved duck decoys. Maybe I’ll do a blog post later this week with some pictures!

      Like

      • Kate MacQuarrie says:

        Beautiful work! A friend received it from a relative in the Ottawa area, and it now has a good home in PEI. I’ll watch for a future blog post and pictures, should you find the time. Thanks!

        Like

        • Peggy Blair says:

          Will post tomorrow. Interesting — I wonder which one it was…..

          Like

          • Dale says:

            Hi There, I am the owner of the decoy Kate contacted you about. It previously belonged to my wife’s step dad, Robbie Robertson. Not sure if the name rigs a bell for you or not, he was a very good land scape artist.

            Like

            • Peggy Blair says:

              I don’t know him, so I wonder where he got it from. It was the first one of that size that I made — I’d made some little wee ones, but that was the first big one. I remember it quite well, now that Kate has sent me the picture — it’s a bit flat on top and the body’s a little small; the feathers are a little rough. I learned as I kept doing them to round the top of the form and the decoys became quite a lot more animated: I’ll put up a post tomorrow with a couple of photos. I always gave them away to friends; I just can’t remember who I gave that one too. Maybe someone traded it to him for a painting? Hmmm… quite the mystery!

              Like

  28. Robert says:

    No it wasn’t me. The only craft-wise person in the house is my wife, Irene, who is quilt and other oriented. I’m a newish, with few talents outside of advising Aboriginal groups how to get in and out of trouble.

    Best, Bob

    Like

  29. Peggy Blair says:

    Err, I think she was asking if I carved it, Bob. Unless you’ve changed your name to Peggy J. Blair, LOL!

    Like

  30. Kate MacQuarrie says:

    A lovely Blue-winged Teal. I tried to post a picture here, but no luck.

    Like

  31. It’s okay, I’ve let the black ugly stain of LAWYER pass on and forgiven you. Not ALL lawyers are creepy, at least a few breathe the same air as us mere mortals. Thirty six years as a cop and detective have skewed my opinion though, and now that I’m retired and trying to write, I find all those “misunderstandings” I had with young prosecutors and the defense attorney’s in it only for the fee to be great fodder for my fiction.

    But today is Saturday and what else do you have to do today? Why not be a part of the “777 Writer’s Challenge”? See

    http://mikefullerauthor.com/2015/07/18/the-777-writers-challenge/

    and come be part of the fun. Jump in and share with the rest of our WP group!

    Like

    • Peggy Blair says:

      I’m not a lawyer anymore; haven’t been for years. But if it helps. I was a prosecutor for years before I started acting on behalf of First Nations in resource matters. Thanks for the invite! Cheers, Peggy

      Liked by 1 person

      • Over my carer I had several honest and bright young lawyers that helped me get my cases through the courts. The sad thing is the glaring gap of how hard these dedicated prosecutors worked compared to some with many more years of “experience” and attitudes reeking of indifference. Mostly they were afraid of their own failings and often took it out on those around them. But that is true of any profession.

        Liked by 1 person

  32. Carol Merrill says:

    In 2008 you wrote a paper “Lament for a First Nation” regarding the Williams Treaties of Southern Ontario. You made reference to “an exhaustive report by Tara Smock of Joan Holmes and Associates”. I am trying to get a copy of that report. Are you able to help me?

    Like

  33. Shayna says:

    Hello Peggy,
    I’m a college student studying Denonville’s raid and my group and I are very interested in your map that you made. If you could email me, I have a few questions about it, if you’re willing! Thank you!

    Like

  34. Marjorie Stewart McCarthy says:

    I m wondering why I could not buy “Umbrella Man ” on Amazon in the USA? That is where I bought all your previous books, three of them on Kindle.
    They flat out did not even list it so I signed up for Amazon Canada and bought it from them.I could also have bought it in the UK. I was unsure if I could download to Kindle from .Canada. If you have some osteo arthritis as I do these days a Kindle is more comfortable to hold and it’s easier to turn the pages.
    Do Amazon have some kind of feud with Simon and Schuster?
    Anyway, Peggy I have signed up for email notifications from your website and know where to get them in future. I have very much enjoyed the Ramirez mysteries. Twenty years ago I visited Cuba on one of these sanctioned trips Americans are limited to and very much enjoyed it

    We were not staying in tourist hotels but in government guest houses where a shower was a three minute trickle at best and we ate more or less what the Cubans ate. These US restrictions really did us a favor as were always with Cubans and saw life there as it really was for most people. Loved the people, the music, the culture and the ambiance of Havana. Hope to go back one day.

    I lived in Ottawa briefly in the late seventies and I still make the pecan burger recipe from the then very popular Daphne and Victors in the market.

    Like

    • Peggy Blair says:

      Hi Marjorie – I’m surprised you were able to buy Hungry Ghosts in the US; Simon and Schuster Canada has the Canadian rights only, so it’s not supposed to be available there (I wasn’t able to find a US publisher, unfortunately, for the final two books in the series.) The first two books were published by Penguin Canada which held World English rights and had a distribution agreement with Pintail to sell the books in the US. I’m sorry to say that because of that split-publishing situation, there won’t be any more Ramirez books, as I can’t sell the series to an American publisher when Penguin holds rights to the first two. But I am happy to hear from you and glad to hear you enjoyed the series! Thanks for dropping by!

      Like

  35. Marjorie Stewart McCarthy says:

    Thank you, Peggy. That’s too bad. Perhaps I bought “Hungry Ghosts” from Amazon UK after all.

    Like

    • Peggy Blair says:

      I’m surprised by that — as I say, the only rights to those books are in Canada, so they aren’t supposed to be sold outside Canada, not even in the UK. But I’m glad you found one!

      Like

  36. Neutral Maya says:

    Have you completed the Jigonsaseh story?

    Like

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