Faith Can Move Mountains... But Dynamite Works Better

Monday, September 27, 2010

What's In A Location?

I've started reading Carla Neggers' The Angel, which opens up with a murder in Boston. A man winds up apparently drowning in what's called the Public Gardens. Carla is a New Englander, and it seems she knows Boston very well indeed, what with calling it her town, and setting some of her books there. She describes the place and the events, drawing us in.... and then commits murder.

As writers we can find creative ways of killing our characters. I was thinking, after reading that, about my own city, and the notion of incorporating the area at least briefly in a book down the line.

My primary characters, of course, are an American and a British agent, so at least for the first two books, we're not going to see Canadian content. I guess that'll leave me out of the running for the Governor Generals' awards, but that's okay. I always found Margaret Atwood tedious to begin with. There will, of course, be Canadian content in the third (or fourth, depending on when I write which one), featuring a sequence set in the Nahanni wilderness, but as usual I'm getting ahead of myself.

I was thinking of locations. Places where one could, for example, feature the death of a diplomat. The York steps are one such place. They descend from Major's Hill into the Byward Market, offering a dramatic backdrop. Though would you want to commit murder there? It's also right beside the American embassy. I'm assuming lots of security cameras are on hand. So that's out.

By the same token, so is the underpass seen here:

This is close to Parliament Hill and the War Memorial, alongside the Rideau Canal. It's a nice spot, opened up in recent years, and personally appealing. The problem, though, is that given its proximity, there must be security cameras about. So this is out too.

Then I thought of the Mackenzie King estate, up in Gatineau Park. Have a look about:

Our former Prime Minister left the estate to the nation upon his death, and it's a beautiful spot. He had an appreciation for building ruins, so the estate has a number of these items spread about, taken from old banks, buildings, and the damage from the fire that destroyed the Parliament buildings back in 1916. Hence you find things that look like very old ruins. They've got a great appeal to me.

Now, given that place, it might be possible to write in a death taking place there, something late at night. I'm not quite sure at this point where I'd write it in, but it's an idea that appeals to me. I'm not sure what Mr. King would have to say about staging a murder around his garden though. He might haunt me from beyond the grave. Don't laugh. There actually is a ghost story featuring the late Prime Minister....

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