I'm still in the midst of writing Heaven & Hell, and I'm already thinking of future books. The third book I have in mind will start close to home, with a sequence set in the Gatineau Hills (if you're ever in the area, visit it!). And later in the book, a game of cat and mouse will ensue, between hunter and hunted, in the wild landscapes of the Nahanni, deep in the Northwest Territories.
The North and South Nahanni Rivers make their way towards the Mackenzie River via the Liard, passing through what's now Nahanni National Park and its surroundings. It's a place of myth, legend, unforgiving landscapes, incredible scale, and exceptional beauty. I have not walked its ridges or paddled its rivers (yet), but it's a place I intend to get to, and a place that'll feature strongly down the line in writing.
My first real exposure to the Nahanni has been in the photography books of Pat and Rosemarie Keough, a husband and wife team of photographers who have used the Nahanni, the Ottawa Valley, Sable Island, and the Niagara Escarpment as their subject. Their skills with a camera astonish me to this day.
The Nahanni has a long and colourful history, home to native tribes since the last ice age ended, and it's a place that seems obvious for tall tales and dark foreboding warnings. Some of the tall tales tell of fierce mountain tribes, white warrior women, gold deposits, or hot springs that hint at a mystical shangri-la. Well, there are hot springs.
As for the dark foreboding warnings? What do you think when you hear of place names like Death Canyon, Death Lake, Headless Creek, or Deadman Valley? One tale has two brothers a century or so ago, their skeletons found side by side, their heads gone. Another story tells of a man who was found in the spring by a friend, kneeling by a campfire, frozen solid. So of course the place is fertile ground for a book's setting.
Where to place those scenes, that's the question. One, I suspect, that can only be answered by visiting the place first.
In the meantime, have a look and see what the Nahanni is all about...