I had the great pleasure of participating in Indie Author Day on October 10, 2016. The downtown branch of the Vancouver Public Library hosted 30 authors in the promenade area. Photos from left to right: Reading from Horse With No Name With my friend and fellow author Joel Mark Harris Indie authors on the VPL …
Setting in mystery novels is so important to me. My favorite mystery novels always feature a strong element of setting – Robert B. Parker’s Boston, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles’ Shepherd’s Bush area of London, and Lawrence Block’s New York City, just to name a few. Former journalist Joel Mark Harris joins me today to talk about setting in his wonderful John Webster series of noir mystery thrillers.
Joel and I both live in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and Vancouver is also the setting for Joel’s novels. On today’s podcast we discuss how important setting is to Joel, as well as the research he does for his main character, John Webster, who is a soldier back from Afghanistan, who is struggling with PTSD and substance abuse problems.
Joel’s cat Phantom also make a special guest appearance!
Transcript of Interview with Joel Mark Harris
Alexandra: Hi, everyone. I’m Alexandra Amor and I’m here today with Joel Mark Harris. Hi, Joel!
Joel: Hello. How are you?
Alexandra: Very well, how are you?
Joel: Good, thank you. Thanks for having me.
Alexandra: Oh you’re so welcome, my pleasure. It’s nice to have another Vancouver writer on the show.
Joel: Yes. Yeah.
Alexandra: That’s pretty exciting. I’ve had writers from Thailand so far, the eastern United States and U.K., so finally someone from my hometown. So by way of an introduction I’ll just let everyone know, Joel Mark Harris is an award-nominated journalist, novelist, screenwriter, and producer. Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, he graduated from the Langara Journalism School in 2007. After working various jobs in the journalism and PR fields, Harris wrote and produced the award-winning feature-length film “Neutral Territory,” which we’ll have to talk about. I’d love to know more about that.
Joel is also the author of the “John Webster” mystery thriller series of books, which is primarily what we’re here to talk about today. So, tell us a little bit about John, Joel. He’s an investigative journalist and he’s back from the war in Afghanistan.
I had a great time a couple of weeks ago at the Vancouver Police Museum.
My upcoming series of mystery novels, set in 1890 in the North Okanagan, involve a character who is a member of what was then called the British Columbia Constabulary. I’ve been reading Policing a Pioneer Province by Lynne Stonier-Newman to gain more understanding of policing during this time, but seeing the collections and artifacts at the Vancouver Police Museum added depth to that understanding.
For instance, the type of sidearm that a provincial or municipal officer carried wasn’t standardized until the 1950s. And female police officers were called ‘police women’ until the 1970s.
I’m becoming more enamored of book research the more I do it. The world is a fascinating place and the past is filled with details and events we never think of in our modern age of ease an comfort. I plan to head back to the Vernon Museum and Archives in the summer of 2016 to bring more life and character to my novels.
For more photos from my day at the Vancouver Police Museum, please visit my Flickr page.
And then there’s riding on a stagecoach research.
Come on! SO fun.
In the summer of 2014 I spent a day at Hat Creek Ranch, which is near Cache Creek in central British Columbia. I’m writing a series of mystery novels set in 1890, so becoming familiar with life in that time is important to me. The shot above was taken from the driver’s seat of a stagecoach. I took dozens of photos that day and absorbed as much information as I could about life in BC’s interior in the late 19th century.
On my list for my next research trips are:
- Roedde House Museum in Vancouver’s West End; and