Welcome to Week XXXIX of 'Fishing Parkland Shorelines'. Like most of us I am a novice fisherman, loving to fish, but far from an expert. In the following weeks I'll attempt to give those anglers who love to fish but just don't have access a boat a look at some of the options in the Yorkton area where you can fish from shore, and hopefully catch some fish.
I have to say in lieu of time casting a lure at fish, reading a good 'fishing mystery' on a blustery winter day is a pretty good option.
One of the better titles of the genre so far is The McHenry Inheritance: A Quill Gordon Mystery by Michael Wallace.
Of course Quill Gordon is not just a random character name. In this case it connects the story to the rich history surrounding fly fishing since the Quill Gordon is a wet fly version of a fly design by Theodore Gordon. Dating to the 1890's, the Quill Gordon has been a standard in many fly boxes. A generic mayfly imitation, it is productive on any water that has mayfly activity.
The book's back cover does a nice job of encapsulating the story.
"On a fly-fishing vacation in California's High Sierra, San Francisco stockbroker Quill Gordon finds more than he bargained for. A menacing "citizen militia," led by former radio talk show host, has taken over an alpine meadow and is stock-piling far more guns than it needs for target practice. Ellen McHenry, a rancher's daughter whose straightforward charms Gordon finds hard to resist, is in serious legal trouble as a trial over a contested will tears her family apart and threatens her father's legacy. When these combustible factors lead to murder in cold blood and broad daylight, Ellen becomes a prime suspect, the militia ramps up its suspicious activities, and Gordon is drawn deeper into the case – whether he wants to be or not."
Wallace manages to weave a solid mystery with the murder from the opening pages not fully solved until near the final page of the book, and without being so glaringly obvious that the culprit's guilt is anticlimactic.
What is compelling about The McHenry Inheritance is that this is Wallace's first mystery effort. "It's the first book I've finished and published. There were several false starts on other books before I wrote it and said, after looking it over, that this one's good enough to put out there," he told me via email.
And the better news is that Wallace is back at the computer writing.
"I'm on the first chapter of the second Quill Gordon mystery, which is tentatively titled Wash Her Guilt Away, from the poem by Oliver Goldsmith. I should point out that it won't be a sequel to The McHenry Inheritance, just another book featuring Quill Gordon on a fishing trip to a new locale, and with a new sidekick," he said.
"… As soon as I had the idea for the book, I realized it would make a series. The notion of a vacationing angler coming into a community as an outsider — which is what a detective does anyway — and getting caught up in its drama and crime lends itself to limitless possibilities. I'll never be able to explore more than a small fraction of them."
That Wallace sees a series is encouraging since The McHenry Inheritance was such a fine read.
Now it's not perfect. The scene at the cave, set up as a sort of penultimate moment in the story goes off a bit quickly, and lacked the tension you might have hoped for, although the twist at the end saves it.
Wallace said he sees his work as a good 'cabin read'.
"Absolutely. I tried writing serious novels and got nowhere, but the structure of the mystery allowed me to finish a book that I'd like to think is worth reading," he said. "If it helps someone pass a rainy afternoon or a plane flight more pleasurably than they otherwise might have, that's all the reward I ask."
As for fishing, Quill Gordon likes to cast for trout. It's not the heart of the story at all, but it is an element which will further endear the character and story to fishermen.
"I tried to write the book for a general audience, but put in enough fishing and nature detail that a fisherman, or woman, would get a little extra from it," Wallace told me. "Most of the people who have read it don't fly fish, and a number of them have told me they enjoyed learning more about it through a fast-reading mystery story."
Wallace said a 'fishing mystery' was not his initial goal, but admitted The McHenry Inheritance fits the sub genre nicely.
"I didn't, but mysteries have been around for so long and have had so many variations that nothing would surprise me," he said. "I wasn't planning to fit it into any particular category. From the beginning, I've regarded the fly fishing backdrop as a hook, if you'll pardon the pun."
And Wallace said fishing has long been a personal interest, so using it in the book came naturally.
"My father took me fishing for the first time when I was 7, and the first fish I caught was a bluegill at Lake Legg, east of Los Angeles," he said.
"Ever since I discovered fly fishing 30-years ago, that's about all I've done — fly fishing for trout. I have a number of favorite places in the mountains of California and some places elsewhere in the West that I'd like to get back to someday.
"Also a world of places I wouldn't mind trying for the first time."
And his love of going after fish remains strong.
"Very much so. Owing to a back injury about a decade ago, I don't do aggressive wading in fast-moving water the way I used to, but I still enjoy getting out, especially with my son, who is now 22," he said. "I expect to keep fishing for as long as I'm healthy enough to walk fifty feet from the car to the water."
As for The McHenry Inheritance, Wallace said the germ of an idea came from a personal experience.
"The initial inspiration was an unsettling encounter I had in a remote mountain meadow, which I talk about in the book's video trailer ( http://youtu.be/qeUj3R4mf_Y )," he said.
"After that encounter it took a while to add in all the other elements that make it a complete story and to weave them together so they worked."
The McHenry Inheritance is a must for mystery readers who love to fish, and certainly has my recommendation.
"I do appreciate hearing from readers and will reply if at all possible. I can be contacted through the author section of my website, www.quillgordonmystery.com, and you can also connect with me on Facebook and Twitter through the website," said Wallace.
And now it's off to the kitchen for something that is really unusual; Coffee/Cola Poached Pike served with Pecan/Raisin Fried Rice.
The recipe here is actually easier than it might sound.
I started by steaming brown basmati rice, then leaving it overnight in the fridge, since that makes frying it easier.
In this case use a flavoured oil, my choice was sesame and stir fry the cold rice.
In a separate pan mix some oyster sauce, Sriracha hot sauce, soy sauce, and ginger powder. Bring up the heat and toss in a big handful of chopped pecans, and an equal amount of plump raisins. Heat thoroughly and add to rice, stir over heat and it's ready.
The pike is just as easy.
Mix equal parts strong coffee and a name brand cola (for the added fizz). You need enough to cover the pike fillets once added. Add a tablespoon of dark molasses, and Sriracha hot sauce to taste.
Put the liquid mixture in a fry pan, add the pike, and cook on medium/high heat.
Once the pike is flaky and cooked, remove from the liquid. Taste the remaining liquid. If it needs salt add a dash of soy sauce.
Place a helping of the Pecan/Raisin Fried Rice on a plate, with a piece of Coffee/Cola Poached Pike. Sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds over both the pike and rice and serve.
I might suggest for added flavour for the pike simply thicken the liquid after removing the pike using a cornstarch/water mixture. You want the liquid the consistency of pancake syrup. Drizzle a bit of the thickened liquid over the pike.
Now I realize this sounds a bit unusual, and I knew that as the idea formulated over a few weeks, but the taste, while bold, is actually quite good, the stronger flavours of the pike complimenting the sweeter, nutty flavours of the rice.