Happy New Year Readers!
I waited until after Orthodox Christmas to put away the decorations. This is always a difficult exercise, I imagine for any family. There’s so many memories we box away. There’s the kids ornaments they made in school, except they’re no longer in school, they’re off on their own adventures. There’s the family heirlooms. Some of these things, we don’t even know why we still keep them. Maybe because it’s easier to say goodbye for one more year than to toss them in the trash forever.
A January house is an empty home after everyone’s left post-holiday. It’s bitter cold. It gets dark too early. Now there’s not even the warmth of colored lights, just the cathode lamp of a computer screen. Someone left behind a Terry’s chocolate orange as a sort of cruel reminder of the fun we all had in December. The house is still.
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When I first set up this account, I inadvertently subscribed every single person in my email account. I mean everyone; old girlfriends, former employers, doctors and kids’ teachers. Whoops. I got a lot of nasty responses before things settled down.
But when they did, something quite special happened. I found that a lot of the people with whom I had made contact where old friends of my parents. Slowly, they came forward to identify themselves, and express appreciation for my writing. A lot of these people were former business associates of my father’s. Old-school guys, now in the back-end of life who had lived in that era I write so much about. It’s really quite touching to hear from an 88-year-old man, “I worked with your father. I have enjoyed what you write.”
This was never intended to be my target audience. Maybe it should be. These are people with first-hand knowledge of what I’m talking about. Folks who lived in Quebec when it was rough, tough and glorious. I don’t think we have to fight to survive quite like they did, trying to keep ahead of the game in the ‘60s and ‘70s. I certainly have a romance with that period, despite having been deeply scared, then shaped and influenced by it.
And you all have been a very engaged audience. A good Substack account is when 40% of your subscribers actually open your emails. 70% of you open my posts when I email you - that’s really good, and I thank you.
Where we’re going for the next little while is Quebec in the 1970s… ish. As I said recently, we’ll swirl in that toilet for a while before approaching our destination. We’ll be looking a lot at crime in the Eastern Townships. This is by no means a plug for the book, but that’s the subject I’ll be writing about, if you want more information you should purchase Wish You Were Here at this link. ( I would always prefer, of course, if you purchased at your local, independent bookstore - I know, a crummy commercial). And if I haven’t already said it, WYWH will be published in the United States this spring - if I’m reaching you in the States, you can wait until May.
This approach is intentional. When the book first came out in 2020 I was instructed by my publishers to discontinue writing about murder in the late 1970s. They were the experts, but that turned out to be very bad advice. Now I’m taking a different approach. It turns out some information has come forward post-publication that sheds new light on my sister’s unsolved murder. Both the Quebec police and myself agree this is really good information, and we should act upon it. So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to swirl in that toilet with intention. Call me old fashion, but I think actually writing about the thing you are trying to sell just might help to sell it more.
I’ll also draw your attention to my website. We’ve done considerable work over the holiday giving the place a facelift, it’s now less of a blog, and more an archive of Quebec crime. If you go to the topics tab, you can search any number of cases, possible offenders, police jurisdictions, and eras.
And my podcast is now published weekly. You can check it out here, or simply continue to read your email for the narrative complement to each episode.
It’s January - I couldn’t get away with this message being something of a downer. I’ll make it up to you next time.
Until then, may your fire always have a log!
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