featuring guest authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

Friday, May 6, 2011


Today we welcome Vicki Delany, one of Canada’s most prolific crime writers. Vicki writes everything from standalone novels of psychological suspense such as Scare the Light Away and Burden of Memory, to the Constable Molly Smith books, a traditional village/police procedural series set in the British Columbia Interior, including In the Shadow of the Glacier and Negative Image, to a light-hearted historical series, Gold Digger and Gold Fever, set in the raucous heyday of the Klondike Gold Rush.

Having taken early retirement from her job as a systems analyst in the high-pressure financial world, Vicki is settling down to the rural life in bucolic, Prince Edward County, Ontario where she rarely wears a watch.

Among the Departed, the fifth book in the Constable Molly Smith series has just been released.  Library Journal gave the book a starred review saying, “Her exceptional ability to create characters, both realistic and sometimes creepy, makes this another terrific addition to her outstanding body of work.”

Visit Vicki at her blog and Facebook and follow her on twitter @vickidelany.

Vicki will be giving away a copy of
Among the Departed to one lucky reader who posts a comment to the blog this week. -- AP

Four cops, Two paramedics, One Mystery Writer

That's how many people it took to wake one man up to go to work.

After I’d published two novels of standalone suspense with Poisoned Pen Press, my editor, Barbara Peters, and I decided it was time to try a series.  I knew right away that I wanted to write the type of series I like most to read: the traditional British-type police procedurals.

But first, I had one problem: I have no experience in law enforcement whatsoever.  I used to be a systems analyst at a bank. Not a lot of gun battles or drunk-and-disorderlies in that job. We didn’t even have a jail in the office basement.

I knew that if I was to create a reasonably realistic police series, I would need some help.

I’ve been very lucky, and there are now five novels in the Constable Molly Smith series set in the fictional town of Trafalgar, British Columbia, Canada.

Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve found police officers to be more than helpful in talking to me about the ins and outs of their job.  I have a detective constable who enjoys answering all my questions and will look things up, or ask the department lawyer, if he doesn’t know the answer to any one of them.  I’ve toured police stations, met many officers, been out on ride-alongs and walk-alongs, talked to the dog handler and met his dog, been to watch in-service training, been to the firearms training course (where they didn’t let me touch a weapon, you’ll be pleased to hear).

I’ve had some really boring nights, too.  As I try to explain when the nice officer assigned to take me out apologizes because nothing at all happened, if I want to see a gun battle or a bank robbery in progress, I’ll watch TV.  It’s the everyday details of the ordinary cop’s job that I’m interested in seeing first hand, that I want to give veracity to the books. The protagonist of the Constable Molly Smith series is young, green, a bit naïve.  When the series begins, in In the Shadow of the Glacier, she is still on probation.  She walks the beat on a Saturday afternoon, attends fender-benders, throws drunks into the drunk tank, tells people to empty out their cans of beer, helps confused old ladies cross the street, answers domestic disturbances, and stands outside crime scenes not letting anyone in.   

This is the detail of day-to-day policing I’m trying to get right for my books. That as well as the way the officers relate to each other, the jokes they tell, how they balance families and young children, how they train (or not.) My books are about murder and kidnapping and tragedy, yes, but they are also about people and relationships. 

One thing I'm learning from the ride-alongs I've been on over the past three years, is that there can be a lot of humor in a cop’s job. It's a tough, often unpleasant, job and they put their lives on the line every day. But boy, do they get a good laugh some times.

Recently, the car I was in was called to a home where a man wasn't answering the door to his friend who had come to take him to work. It was the usual time and the usual routine, and the friend was worried because the man had a medical condition. He had hammered on the door, tried to peer in windows, even climbed a tree to get a peek inside. But no answer and no movement.

One of the handsome officers I've had the pleasure of
of meeting while doing my research.
When we got there, the officer banged on the door, and bellowed, and peered in windows, and banged and bellowed again. He called for an ambulance. Reinforcements arrived, including the sergeant. Someone crouched down and yelled into the cat door. (And took a sniff - ug). Eventually there were four cops, two paramedics, and one mystery writer gathered at the top of a rickety set of stairs leading to the upstairs apartment. Permission to knock down the door was given, the door was kicked in, and everyone rushed in. Everyone, that is, save said mystery writer, who hung behind not wanting to see anything yucky. Then I heard a shout, "XX, what are you doing still in bed? Aren't you going to work?"

So I also wandered into the apartment to have a look.

Yup, the guy was tucked up in bed. Didn't feel like going to work, didn't bother phoning in, and didn't particularly want to get up and open the door.  Out we all trooped, one mystery writer, two paramedics, four cops, leaving XX in bed and a broken door swinging on its hinges.

I’ve also learned things I’ve decided not to incorporate into my books.  For example, it is the norm in most U.S. police K9 units for the dog to live in the house with the officer; in Canada they follow the RCMP model in which the dog lives in a kennel outside the house. I decided in this situation I’d go for atmosphere and color rather than veracity and so I let Norman, my RCMP dog, stretch out on the rug beside the fireplace.  Sometimes the story has to come first.

It is, in fact, precisely while Norman is snoozing on the carpet at the beginning of Among the Departed, the fifth book in the series, that he gets a call to search for a little boy lost in the mountain wilderness.

Thanks for joining us today, Vicki! Readers, don't forget to post a comment to be entered in the drawing for a copy of Among the Departed. Check back Sunday to see if you're the lucky winner. -- AP


Liz V. said...

You are right about that handsome officer. My pup would love him to be part of the prize, or perhaps not. She not good at sharing or working.

Jeffrey Barbieri said...

This must have been an amazing experience! I am wondering how long it took to write the book? And let's be honest, how many boxes of doughnuts did it take to get a ride in the patrol car? Just surprised that they would even allow that. Good for you!

Vicki Delany said...

Thlanks Jeffrey. It was great fun. It takes me about 6 months to write a book.

Kathleen Kaska said...

I enjoyed reading about your experience with law enforcement. Thanks for bringing your dog indoors. I look forward to reading your series.

Elizabeth said...

Sounds interesting and I do like established series. I don't remember ever reading a mystery series set in Canada, though I have seen a number of recommendations on the DorothyL list. I too prefer to see the dog indoors, rather than a kennel!

The Cat From Hell said...

I will definately have to go look for these books! Living in the BC interior and having worked for a police department, these will be one good read!

Lee Lofland said...

I had the pleasure of working with two police canines. The lab, a narcotics dog, thoroughly enjoyed sleeping in my bed with the covers pulled to his chin. The rottweiler, on the other hand, preferred to sleep on top of the covers. Me? Well, the couch was pretty comfortable.

Funny thing...the lab, when searching a suspect's home, never failed to jump on the beds and pull down the covers so he could root around and roll over and over on the sheets. Why, I don't have a clue. But he liked it and he was, after all, the one on the smart end of the leash.

Patricia said...

I have always been interested in the field of law enforcement and enjoyed your post. I had the opportunity to talk with an attorney about kidnapping because my third novel centers around that topic. He then referred me to people in law enforcement who dealt only with child stealing and man - everyone was sooo nice and helpful to me. I was amazed. And it made me feel so good that people who had never met me were interested in helping me with my book. It sound like you had the same type of positive experiences. Fun!

petite said...

I enjoyed your interesting post. I have read all of your wonderful novels and they are unique, special and compelling. The setting, characters and emotions are beautifully depicted. Thanks for this great feature and much success.

Vicki Delany said...

Thanks, Petite, and thanks everyone. Where do you live, Cat from Hell? I will be in Nelson, Castlegar, and Salmo at the end of the month.

traveler said...

I was riveted to your captivating novel which introduced me to your writing and hooked me forever. The British war bride who moved to Ontario was memorable and incredible. I look forward greatly to reading this series set in B.C. which is my favorite place and the ultimate in beauty. I miss iy very much and my heart aches to return.

Vicki Delany said...

Ah, Traveler. I feel for you. I set my books in the BC INterior because if I can't be there myself, I can at least be there metaphysically speaking. However, I am going next week!!! Yeah.

Prentiss Garner said...

I can hardly wait to read you new book, Vicki. Enjoyed meeting you in North Carolina.

Prentiss Garner

Zulema Seligsohn said...

Vicky, your characters are always interesting and are never stereotypes, and I love that handsome four-footed officer. I would have felt funny if you had your K9 sleeping out in a kennel so I'm happy he is not, and he is happy he is not. You always hit the right notes.

shirley said...

Seven people = 1 alarm clock. How funny! Among the Departed sounds like a great read.


Vicki, thanks so much for being the Book Club Friday guest today at Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers.

For those of you who haven't posted a comment yet, there's still time to do so to enter the drawing for a copy of Vicki's latest release. Don't forget to check back on Sunday to see if you're the lucky winner.

Coco Ihle said...

Vicki, your post was so entertaining. I can relate a bit. I took the Citizen's Police Academy here in my county in Florida and found it fascinating. I now work as a volunteer for the sheriff's department and love the job. I have also had the opportunity to go on ride alongs and agree that police officers are most helpful. Now i just have to figure out how to use those experiences in a book. :-)It was great seeing you at Malice!!! Can't wait to read Winter of Secrets and more of your books!!!

Vicki Delany said...

Thanks everyone and thanks to Anastasia for hosting me. Prentiss, it was so nice to meet you in NC. Nice to see Coco at Malice too.

Anonymous said...

Another book for my TBR pile... and the fact the dog isn't outside, just gives you one more reader in my case. LOL

Great post.

Kari Wainwright said...

Since my dog sleeps in bed with us and is currently sitting next to me on my chair, I like the idea of an indoor family dog.

gkw9000 [at] gmail.com

Vicki Delany said...

I'm very pleased that everyone agrees with my decision re giving Norman a place in the house.

Vicki Delany said...

Lee, One thing I have learned - never forget who is at the smart end of the leash! And it's unlikely to be the guy with only two legs.

J K Maze said...

I am so glad I read the email and clicked the link to read this. I'm always looking for good mystery series, and this one has to be a winner. I just finished a police procedural/thriller and had experience getting help from my local police department - a very interesting experience. I look forward to reading your series.

Joan K. Maze