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Author has a 'nose' for writing
For Port Moody author Glynis Whiting, the art of storytelling came easily for her first book.
As a writer, director and producer of documentary films for two decades, Whiting used her skills for structuring a narrative — with a strong start, middle and end, plus causal action and character arcs — to build her murder-mystery plot for A Nose for Death.
“It was actually quite a natural process for me to go in and write a novel,” said Whiting, who has a master’s degree in playwriting.
Research is a key component to Whiting’s method. In 2005, she started digging around for A Nose for Death and exploring the characters.
“In making a documentary film, one of the things I love about that is you get to go and meet fascinating people all the time so it was just a shift in meeting fascinating people to making up interesting ones,” she said.
Her protagonist in A Nose for Death is Dr. Joan Parker, a chemist who has a keen sense of smell and has won awards for food flavour and aroma design. Parker is asked by her employer to take a break and, during the leave, she reluctantly heads up to her hometown of Madden, B.C. for a school reunion. There, she not only reunites with friends she hasn’t seen in years but also becomes a prime murder suspect in the sudden death of the graduation class’ rock star.
Whiting said she embarked on the genre of murder-mystery because “CanLit is my steak and potatoes and murder-mysteries are my dark chocolate. There are no calories in them.”
Murder-mystery readers, she contends, are people who like puzzles: the scripts require organizational techniques, are full of intrigue and are always followed with a resolution. It gives the reader a sense of accomplishment by coming full-circle.
Since it was published in April by Thistledown Press, Whiting has been busy promoting her book around Metro Vancouver and in her native Alberta (Athabasca, AB, is the town that is the physical map for Madden).
Locally, she has talked about her writing and done readings and book signings at PechaKucha Night, Volume 10, in Coquitlam and at ArtWalk in Port Moody as well as at book clubs. Next month, she returns to Alberta and will be in the Okanagan in October.
Whiting said she’s happy with the response. “I’m pleased that people are enjoying the humour. A lot of people seem to relate to Joan, at her age. And people are able to relate to the reunion theme,” she said.
As for her next novel, Whiting will stick with her Nosey Parker Mystery series, with the plot set on Pender Island and later at a distillery conference in Edinburgh, Scotland. Whiting anticipates to finish the final draft in the next year or so.
• Signed copies of A Nose for Death are now available at Chapters in Pinetree Village (2991 Lougheed Hwy., Coquitlam). Visit her website at www.glyniswhiting.com.
FROM A NOSE FOR DEATH (printed with permission)
(The following excerpt reveals why Joan is surprised when she receives an invitation to the Madden high school thirtieth reunion)
At eighteen Joan had planned her father’s funeral. His brother, Uncle Nick, came from Waterloo for the service. Her mom’s two sisters and their husbands arrived a day early from Vancouver to fuss over their youngest sibling. Neighbours left casseroles and cakes. Then, after a week, the circus was over and the bomb dropped. Vi had no idea whether or not Leo had insurance. It had been as irrelevant to her as gas bills and house payments. Joan turned the house upside down looking for a policy. She went through boxes, drawers, and his overstuffed, disorganized filing cabinet, but it soon became obvious that her father had made no provisions for this to happen. Leo didn’t expect to die. And he had lived life large, spoiling Vi and the kids to the point where Joan had thought they were well off. When he had a big contract, he’d spend big. But in roofing there are slow times. None of them had known that the house had been mortgaged to their own roof to keep the business going. There was nothing in the bank and Leo owed salaries that would never be paid. Their life had been an illusion.
When the cupboards were down to cream corn and luncheon meat that smelled worse than dog food, Joan found a cashier gig at the gas bar owned by Dan Prychenko. His daughter, Marlena, was one of the popular girls at school. The job started as a part-time position at night, but the bills were mounting quickly. More hours became available, and by Christmas, Joan had stopped going to school altogether. She wasn’t around to pick up her diploma the following June and had often wondered if her photograph had made it into the yearbook.
(In the following excerpt Dr. Joan Parker had reluctantly accepted an unexpected invitation.)
During the week she prepared for her trip. Months in the lab had left Joan looking as though she belonged in the morgue. She made her first trip to a tanning salon. As a fake ‘n’ bake virgin, she got the willies sitting in the waiting room, flipping through a People magazine. It reminded her of the dentist’s office. She sniffed discreetly and was relieved not to smell burning flesh. After the tanning session she broke down and bought a rinse to hide the needles of grey in her hair. She grabbed a box of royal plum henna, later wondering if the choice had been bold or batty. How could a respected, upwardly mobile member of the science community do these things unless she was utterly deranged? A fraud? Those feelings gradually passed when she discovered that she hadn’t been cooked alive on the tanning bed and that the hair colour had turned out quite well. A couple of visits to Tropic Tans and a decent haircut calmed the nagging feeling that the invitation was a ticket to disaster.