Thursday, March 31, 2011

R.J. Harlick & Vicki Delany for Authors @ The Teague

Left to Right - Vicki Delany, R.J. Harlick
It was a pleasure to welcome Vicki Delany back to Velma Teague, and to introduce author R.J. Harlick to the audience. Both authors are Canadian residents who are on book tour.

R. J. kicked off the program by saying she actually goes by Robin, and doesn't know why she picked R.J. Maybe she wanted to give the impression she was a man. She writes the Meg Harris mystery series, books with a wilderness setting. It's an area in Canada where lakes outnumber people 1,000 to 1, and trees outnumber people 1 million to one. This part of West Quebec is a two hour drive from Ottawa. Meg Harris lives there on 1500 acres called Three Deer Point. She inherited a turn of the 19th century cottage from her aunt, a cottage with turrets. She lives there by herself, except for a black standard poodle, the only character based on a real character since the poodle was based on one that Harlick owned.

Harlick's character, Meg Harris, is from Toronto. Her family is based there, but Meg tired of the city, and left an abusive marriage to move to the peace of Three Deer Point. It's a peaceful paradise. There are four books in the series. In the first one, Death's Golden Whisper, Meg joins forces with a leader from the Algonquin First Nations Preserve. Red Ice for a Shroud, the second book, deals with police prejudice when an Algonquin becomes the suspect in a murder. Harlick did not originally intend to deal with the First Nations in all of her books, but once she started researching, she decided to tell some of their stories. All of her books have been about the Algonquins. This second mystery has an ice storm in it, similar to the dramatic one that hit Ottawa in 1998, when trees broke because they couldn't bear the weight of the ice. Robin said we should read that book if we want a feeling of cold.

When she said The River Runs Orange was her third book, she said we may have noticed a theme of colors in her titles. But, she said she wasn't the first to do it. She admired John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee books, all of which had colors in the titles. The River Runs Orange begins with a mad paddle down a white water river, based on a trip Harlick took. Meg dumps over, and while she's waiting to be rescued she uncovers bones and a skull. When investigated, they prove to be 12,000 year old ancient remains. That starts a controversy since archaeologists want to investigate the remains, while the Algonquins want to leave them undisturbed. Meg is in the middle, because she understands both sides.

Harlick decided Meg needed to travel in the fourth book,  Arctic Blue Death. It's difficult to have so many murders in a land with just lakes and trees. Robin wanted to send her to the Arctic, a desolate, fascinating place. When Harlick went there to do research, she spent time with a woman, an Inuit constable with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who are the police there. She talked to her about her cold case files, and Harlick had been trying to decide what would take Meg Harris to the Arctic. She knew it would have something to do with her father's death. In talking to the constable, she learned about planes that went missing there. Often crash sites are never found. And, Harlick liked Inuit art. So, she combined that background into a story in which Inuit art suggests that Meg's father survived a plane crash in the Arctic. It's a book in which she could also discuss Inuit fine art and counterfeiting.

The fifth book in the series, A Green Place for Dying, will be out in February 2012. Instead of going out of business, fortunately, Harlick's publisher was purchased,  Meg is back home in this book, where she learns a neighbor's daughter is missing. When she investigates, she learns there are sixteen Aboriginal women missing. Robin said she took this idea from a major issue in Canada right now. There are over 560 missing Native women in Canada. Harlick uses the issue to focus on police prejudice again.

The latest book in Vicki Delany's series set in British Columbia, Among the Departed, wasn't due out until May 3. But, she just appeared at Poisoned Pen Bookstore for a book signing, and Poisoned Pen Press pushed out copies of the book so they could be signed at the bookstore. Delany saw it that night for the first time.

Delany said she writes in three different styles. Orca Publishing is a Canadian publisher that specializes in juvenile and children's books. But, they've come out with books that are designed for adults with high interest/love vocabulary. Many adults lack literacy skills, so the books are at a second or third grade level with adult themes. Vicki has written some books for them.

She also writes standalones. Scare the Night Away is set north of Ontario.  A woman returns to her hometown after thirty years. While she's there for her mother's funeral, she finds a diary that reveals family secrets, including facts about her brother. When he's arrested for a crime, she doesn't know if she can believe him. In Burden of Memory, a Canadian woman who had been an army nurse in World War II hires a writer to write her biography. Then the biographer learns there was a previous biographer who died. Someone in the family might want to keep that biography from being written. Vicki said Barbara Peters at Poisoned Pen had discussed the fact that the traditional British Gothic is new again. Those are books in which most of the story takes place in one house, sometimes with a suspected malevolent presence. Delany's book is Ontario Gothic.

Vicki's contemporary series is set in Trafalgar, British Columbia. Trafalgar is based on Nelson, the town two hours from Spokane where one of Vicki's daughters lives. Nelson is deep in the mountains. There are a number of transients there, along with neo-hippies, and people that were Vietnam draft dodgers. Then, there are the well-to-do retirees and developers wanting to build ski resorts. Constable Molly Smith is the main character in this series. She's a new police officer in the first book. Her mother is the local troublemaker, and her father was a draft dodger, so it causes some conflict with her job.

The first book in the series, In the Shadow of the Glacier, is based on a real incident. It was controversial when someone wanted to donate a statue in memory of the Vietnam draft dodgers. The town turned it down. But, in the book, the town did consider a Memorial Garden. It made for passionate feelings, and Molly's mother was involved in the issue. Delany said this is a unique series because it's a fairly traditional British mystery, but Molly's a new police officer. Sergeant John Winters is Chief of Detectives, and he actually doesn't like Molly in the beginning of the series. Vicki is hoping to make this a long running series that will show the growth and changes in Molly.

Usually Delany outlines her books. But, the third book, Winter of Secrets was a surprise to her. She didn't know what was happening. She was in Nelson, and the snow was different than it was elsewhere because it just fell straight down without blowing. So, she set this book at Christmas Eve during the snowstorm of the decade in Trafalgar. Vicki had to sift through the clues herself to find out what happened.

Negative Image, the fourth book, is set in springtime. It features John Winters and his wife, Eliza. A high-profile photographer is shot, and evidence points to Eliza. This is a story of trust and betrayal. What would you do if you suspected the person you trusted most in the world had betrayed you? What would you do if someone you trusted thought you had betrayed them?

The new book, Among the Departed, goes back to Molly's childhood, when she was known as Moonlight Smith. (The daughter of hippies is named Moonlight, but it's hard to be a cop called by that name.) When Molly was thirteen, her best friend's father disappeared, and Molly was the last one to see him. Fifteen years later a boy is lost in the wilderness. The Royal Canadian Police work with the local police, and Norman, a police dog handled by Molly's boyfriend, is called out. The boy is found, but Norman digs out something else. And, since he doesn't want to say it's a dead boy, her boyfriend says he's "Among the departed."

Vicki Delany also had the Klondike series. These books are comedies, madcap romps. They're historically accurate, set around 1898. The first two books are Gold Digger and Gold Fever. They feature a woman who owns a dance hall, and has pretensions, but she has a murky past. Vicki said she has a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman with a big white dog. She hit all the stereotypes to make the stories fun.

After both authors read from their books, they took questions from the audience. Vicki said police contacts helped her a lot, including with police dog techniques. Asked if they had both always lived in Canada, Harlick said she had, while Delany said she lived in South Africa for eleven years as an adult before moving back to Canada.

When she was asked about the women who disappeared in A Green Place for Dying, Harlick said Native women have disappeared all over Canada. Some were alcoholics or prostitutes, so their disappearances were based on their lifestyles. But, two girls disappeared from the reserve in Ottawa, and they were only eighteen or nineteen. Delany mentioned the Pig Farm murders in British Columbia, saying the victims were predominantly Native women. Ending the program on a somber note, the authors admitted there was police prejudice against the Natives, which doesn't help the investigation into the disappearances.

Vicki Delany and R.J. Harlick are welcome back anytime to appear for Authors @ The Teague.

Vicki Delany's website is

R.J. Harlick's website is

Left to right - Vicki Delany, Lesa Holstine and R.J. Harlick


Anonymous said...

Lesa, thanks for sharing about this event. I would have loved to have been there. Vicki Delany is one of my favorite authors. I've enjoyed her standalones and also the Molly Smith books. I've yet to read the Klondike series, but I'll get to it eventually. Looking forward to picking up a copy of Vicki's new one when I'm in Scottsdale.

I had heard of R.J. Harlick before, but haven't read any of her books. They sound like ones I would enjoy as well. I'll put her on my "Poisoned Pen" list for shopping in May. I'm getting excited!!

Lesa said...


I'm looking forward to your visit, too! I agree with you. I love Vicki's Molly Smith books. I haven't read the standalones. The Klondike series is fun.

I bought all the recent books from both authors for the library since we didn't have them.

See you sooner than you think!

Donis Casey said...

Two very lovely women who make me badly want to visit Canada again.

Lesa said...

And, I've been invited should I ever get there, Donis. I hope you had the chance to hear them the night before at Poisoned Pen.

kathy d. said...

I have not read Vicki Delany's books, but I have read "The River Runs Orange," by R.J. Harlick.

I liked it, and I learned some interesting points about Native culture, customs and philosophy.

Her latest book, which will be out in 2012 sounds like it's up my alley, and I'll learn something from that one, I'd think.

Thanks so much for this post about these two authors.

Lesa said...

My pleasure, Kathy. I haven't read Robin's books, yet. I had a hard time getting them ahead of time for the library. I bought several that day, put them in the library, and I'll read them soon.

Big fan of Vicki Delany's books, though.

RJ Harlick said...

Thanks again, Lesa, for inviting me to your wonderful library. I had a great time meeting you and your patrons. And now that I am back in the frozen woods of Quebec, remember wistfully the heat of Arizona.

Take care.


Lesa said...

You're welcome, Robin. Well, two days ago, we hit 100 degrees, so you might not have appreciated that. But, we're only going to be in the 80s today, with a light breeze. Very nice now. And, I wouldn't want to be in the frozen woods of Quebec!

Thank you for visiting Velma Teague. We loved having you here!

Inside A Book said...

Terrific review and introductions to two new authors for me. I love how you keep expanding my horizons!! (Thank heavens you can't expand my hips any more than they are!!) I think I'll try some Canadian books as the days heat up...wait, that would have been on Friday! Yikes.

kathy d. said...

Should Vicki Delany's books be read in order, or can one pick up any of them?

I found that R.J. Harlick's bcok could be read without my having read the prior book(s).

And do you recommend one I should begin with of Delany's?

Lesa said...

You're right, Inside a Book. That was Friday, wasn't it? First day to hit 100 here. You might as well get those Canadian books now.

Lesa said...


I think you should read both series in order, to better get to know the characters. Start with In the Shadow of the Glacier for the Molly Smith books. You could read either book in the Klondike series, but if you want to go with the first one, it's Gold Digger. It isn't quite as important to read that one in order. I haven't read her standalones, but, then, that's no problem.