Sunday November 23, 2014

Reading while the fishing is slow

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Welcome to Week CXVIII 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 to a boat, a look at some of the options in the Yorkton area where you can fish from shore, and hopefully catch some fish.

Last week I mentioned taking the book ‘Wash Her Guilt Away’, a new title in the Quill Gordon Mystery series with me to one of my fishing spots, enjoying it as a diversion when still fishing with a pickerel rig became a bit boring as few fish seemed interested in the minnows offered as bait.

The situation is actually somewhat timely since the book by Mike Wallace fits under the rather lose umbrella of the sub-genre ‘fishing mysteries’, which has become a definite interest for me since I love both fishing and reading.

Actually, books, whether themed around fishing or not, are almost a must pack among the gear of a fisherman.

One cannot always expect weather to cooperate, no matter how diehard the fisherman might be.

A thunderstorm is no place to be waving a graphite rod above one’s head.

There are hot afternoons, especially in August, when grabbing some shade with a good book is a very legitimate option to tossing spoons upon the water.

And if you are staying over, whether in a nearby hotel room, in a cabin, or a tent at the lake, it’s never a bad idea to have a book along to read after the sun dips into the west.

It all goes back to the idea of looking at fishing in somewhat broader terms than casting lures and cleaning fish.

There are museums and art galleries in nearby towns to enjoy on trips to fishing holes.

Good restaurants are always a pleasure to find.

And taking time to enjoy wildlife, or reading a book in conjunction with any fishing expedition can add to the joy of the trip.

So by now you probably recognize I enjoy reading, which I suppose as a writer, is not all that surprising.

Now I know this space is dedicated to all things fishing, and in a moment I’ll get back to Wallace’s fine new book, but first I have to put in a plug for anyone liking to read to join

Goodreads is an amazing resource for readers, with an extensive database of book titles, synops of most, information on authors and new book giveaways.

It seems fitting to mention the website since one of its features is a yearly ‘Reading Challenge’. Site members set a goal in terms of the number of books they will read in a year. You can easily track your progress by tagging books you are currently reading, and then marking them read when complete.

Last December I set my 2014 goal at 40 books, modest yes, but given fishing trips, and disc golf and the Yorkton Terriers among other diversions, I wanted a goal I was confident to achieve.

As fate sometimes allows, I hit my goal recently, well ahead of year end. The 40th book just happened to be ‘Wash Her Guilt Away’, which of course was a nice connection to promote reading in this space.

So what about the book, which is the follow-up to ‘The McHenry Inheritance’ a book I read and included in this space a year or so back?

Well let’s start with a taste from the book’s back cover; “There will be no love at Harry’s!” Harry Ezekian’s daughter-in-law, rumored to be a witch, put that curse on his once-venerable riverside lodge, a Mecca for fly fisherman and philandering politicians. For two decades afterward the place went downhill, but a new owner has fixed it up. Expert angler Quill Gordon, who made his debut in the well-reviewed first novel “The McHenry Inheritance” and his friend Peter Delaney have come to check it out. A stretch of bad weather throws the lodge’s visitors too close together for comfort, and sexual tensions simmer, just as the curse predicted. Then the bored and restless young second wife of a middle-aged businessman is found strangled in one of the cabins – locked from the inside and surrounded by snow with no footprints leading in or out. When it turns out that the victim had been flirting, or worse, with all the men at the lodge, everybody’s a suspect, and Gordon finds himself trying to help a baffled detective answer two questions: How which person at Harry’s did love turn murderous, and how could a seemingly impossible crime have been committed?”

‘Wash Her Guilt Away’, as you have read is a pretty straight forward murder mystery, and in general terms I like those. As a straight mystery the story starts a bit slower than some, but as a fisherman, carries well because of that element which supports the lengthy lead-in to the actual murder.

I really like how Wallace weaves fishing into his books. The following passage says so much about our passion for the sport, and is a gem of the book, even if it’s not about the actual mystery.

““It’s complicated, but it really isn’t,” he said. “How can I put this? Maybe the best way is to say that a good day of fly fishing is as close as you can get to escaping completely from the rest of the world. You have to totally concentrate on it. You have to read the water, figure out where and how to cast, follow what the fly is doing on the water. When you’re moving from one spot to another, or taking a break from fishing, you’re completely in the moment, noticing the water, the mountains, the sky, the wind rustling through the trees. You can show up on a trout stream with a world of worries on your shoulders, and for eight hours, they’re gone. It’s like drugs, only without complications”.”

I will also say I would have liked to have read a bit more ‘character development’ for the main character Quill Gordon.

I know with a reoccurring character adding greater background can be difficult, since a writer hates to box themselves in in regards to future books, but Gordon just came across a bit flat in this one. I loved the fishing, the Wiccan element, the overall relaxing read of the book, but there wasn’t a lot to make you really get into the sleuth himself.

So I had to ask Wallace about the new book.

Wallace is a former daily newspaper editor and public relations consultant, living in Central California. According to the book bio, “he is a lifelong fan and student of mystery novels and a long-time fly fisherman” and “he publishes a weekly essay blog Wednesdays at and may be contacted through the author page of his website,”

I can add he has been very accessible in terms of answering question on both this, and his early fishing mystery.

I was first curious if having the same main character made writing easier?

“About the same as before, since only one character (Gordon) appears in both books, but this one took longer (a year versus six-months) to finish the first draft because some large business projects and personal issues took me away from it for long stretches,” he said.

Next as a writer myself, I was interested in the challenges the book may have provided the author?

“Trying to hold the reader’s interest through character and atmosphere, rather than action, at the beginning of the book and developing the complex pattern of the way in which the characters mirror each other throughout,” said Wallace. “The locked-room mystery (a key element in the murder investigation), on the other hand, was not that tough because so many other writers have created a template for it.”

Often the writer is the harshest critic for a book, but in this case Wallace likes the progression from book one to ‘Wash Her Guilt Away’.

“The first book, ‘The McHenry Inheritance’, had a lower bar to clear. If the first in a series can establish a character, a premise, a style, a tone, and a sense of narrative competence, the author has done all right,” he said. “Then you’re supposed to learn from it and get better.

“In the second book I tried to improve specifically in the areas of character development and dialogue, plus making the story more complex.

“Feedback so far has been positive in that regard and matches my own assessment.”

And the best news from Wallace is that Quill Gordon will be back, which pleases me since in my mind you can never have too many fishing mysteries.

“I’m two chapters into the third book, which doesn’t yet have a title, though one of the possibilities is starting to look better as time goes by,” he offered.

“In book three the victim is actually decent (as opposed to books one and two), and Gordon finds himself digging into two things that were happening 25 years earlier in order to solve a present-day mystery.

“At this point, it could be described as a police procedural with no police.”

And of course Wallace has to step away from the keyboard at times for another favoured activity.

“I always make time for fishing, just not as much as I’d like,” he said.

Check out both of Wallace’s book, they are a great option for some too rainy to fish weather reading. His website is



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