Two murder cases I covered for the Toronto Star quite early in my career were the inspiration for the plot of The Dead Times, my new mystery thriller. There was heartbreak and mystery in both killings and I wondered: what if these crimes were linked? What would be a reason to commit these seemingly random murders? This is the mystery I charged my creation, Jack Temple, with solving. Temple is a homicide cop turned reporter, struggling to live a life on the other side of the yellow police tape. In my thirty years as an investigative reporter I have had my share of scrapes, failures and victories. I have been shot at, punched, yelled at and threatened with death. I have dined with killers and royalty, tracked an axe murderer and stray wolves through the bush. I have been woken up in the middle of the night by tipsters, broken hundreds of stories and yes, convinced a drug and gun dealer to show me the video of a certain mayor smoking crack cocaine. They say ‘write about what you know,’ and The Dead Times is filled with the action and excitement I have been blessed to experience over three decades.
I carry two notebooks, whether probing Mayor Rob Ford of Toronto, bad charities, crooked lawyers, corrupt governments, covering wars in Afghanistan or Iraq, or chasing drug dealers across Caribbean Islands. One notebook is for the Star and the story at hand, the other is for the detail and “neat bits” that make fiction come to life.
Jack Temple is not a settled man. There are women in his life but it never seems to go exactly the way he wants it to go. He has enemies, including his old nemesis Larry Fisk at the Garden City Police Department. Jack has friends, more than a few of them, and because he has old friends and has the charm to make new ones he catches a few breaks along the way.
In writing this book I have tried to use the same device I use in writing investigative news stories. The end of each chapter in The Dead Times has something to propel you to the next one, the definition for me of a “page turner.” Here is the end of the first chapter, after Jack has schmoozed his way into a snowy crime scene in a park. Ferguson is an old pal of his from the forensics department. The Stalker is one of those blood and guts reporters we used to have a lot of when I started reporting in the 80s.
Temple looked over at The Stalker, who had moved off to talk to a group of cops. This sort of information would titillate him. Ferguson’s panic and disgust would be a mystery.
“You planning on being anywhere in particular later tonight?” Temple asked. Ferguson looked like he wanted to say more.
“I might take a break at Copperfields for dinner.” A few seconds ticked by. Ferguson dragged the back of his hand over the stubble on his neck. The fiery red cheeks were subsiding, giving away to the normal pink of a man with high blood pressure. “You just be careful how you use this stuff, Jack.”
The sun broke over the east ridge and raced across the valley. Temple watched it reach the spot in the snow where the body had lain. Television crews were moving into the park. Temple could see Fisk talking to a camera, probably saying nothing and taking a lot of time to do it. Ferguson put his car into gear. Temple leaned back into the window.
“What are you not telling me?”
“We got the mask off,” Ferguson replied, beginning to roll up the window. “Look Jack, it’s not just how she was killed.” The car was moving forward now. “It’s who was killed.”
Kevin Donovan talks about his novel The Dead Times with Global Morning News http://bit.ly/1EMvNc7
Kevin Donovan talks about his novel The Dead Times in the Toronto StarMediaGroup http://on.thestar.com/1pQaEIn