Sunday, November 15, 2009
Gabi's Question for Vicki Delany
I'm from a small town (population 596). I can't imagine a major crime being committed much less the criminal remaining unknown for very long since everyone is in everyone's business full-time even with the Internet at their fingertips. How have you tailored your police procedures and your cops themselves to convey that small town sensibility while keeping your police force professional and your crimes believable?
Gabi, your town really is small. I live just outside a town with a population of 4,000. The population of my fictional Trafalgar is around 10,000. That can be a problem in many ways as you point out. With these books I’m trying hard not to get into the Cabot Cove syndrome, where every time Jessica Fletcher says hello to someone they end up murdered. It helps in that the area I am writing about is a popular tourist destination as well as a place where lots of transients drift in and then out. The plot of Winter of Secrets circles around a bunch of rich college students who come to Trafalgar from Toronto on a ski vacation and run into trouble with the locals, flashing their money around, taking up with local girls. Negative Image, next year’s book, is about a photographer for a travel magazine who brings trouble with him.
Rather than the small town where everyone knows everyone’s business being limiting I find it give me a lot of scope to keep the characters all involved without stretching the limits of coincidence. Molly Smith’s mother, Lucky, is an important character in the series. She knows everyone in town and is of the opinion that people need her help. If they don’t want her help, then something is wrong and she needs to help them. I have hinted that the Chief of Police is in love with Lucky, and will be exploring the complications of that further on down the line.
Similarly John Winters’ wife, Eliza, has a role to play in the books. In Valley of the Lost she is conflicted about accepting a job offer from the Grizzly resort, a development in the wilderness that has torn the town apart. She wants the job, but worries how it will affect her position in the community. Passions in small communities can flare red hot and I’ve tried to take advantage of that.
As for the police, like the real police in Nelson, most of them (if not all, excepting Molly Smith) are not long-time residents. They have transferred in from jobs in big cities all across Canada, and bring a totally professional demeanor to the job. Canadian police chiefs are never elected or even appointed; they don't need local contacts. They are hired, more often than not from other police forces.
Is crime rare in small towns? Remember the immortal words of Sherlock Holmes in the Adventure of the Copper Beeches: ’The lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside.’
That’s it for my stint at Criminal Minds. I’ve had an absolutely fabulous time, and really enjoyed answering these fantastic questions. You are all welcome any time at Type M for Murder to be a guest blogger. We’d love to have you.
Vicki Delany’s newest novel, Winter of Secrets, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, which said, “she uses…artistry as sturdy and restrained as a Shaker chair.” Vicki writes everything from standalone novels of suspense (Burden of Memory) to the Constable Molly Smith series, a traditional village/police procedural series set in the B.C. Interior (In the Shadow of the Glacier, Winter of Secrets), to a light-hearted historical series (Gold Digger) set in the raucous heyday of the Klondike Gold Rush. Vicki lives in rural Prince Edward County, Ontario, where she rarely wears a watch. Visit Vicki at www.vickidelany.com. She blogs with five other mystery writers at http://typem4murder.blogspot.com and about the writing life, as she lives it, at http://klondikeandtrafalgar.blogspot.com