Sunday, October 26, 2008

Guest blogger: Anthony Bidulka

Loyal readers will remember that one of my top five recommendations for must read Canadian books, ( was the Russell Quant series by Anthony Bidulka. Today I’ve been fortunate enough to get Tony to be our guest blogger. Russell’s adventures take him all over the world, and then back to his hometown of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He fits right in with our discussion, initiated by Rick, about using travel as a research tool. I love Russell because he’s funny, a bit hapless, but kind and well meaning. The series is a wonderful blend of funny and frothy adventure and then a rough jerk back to earth when you’re not expecting it. Read more about Tony and Russell at

Hello everyone at Type M for Murder. It’s a thrill to be here as a guest blogger for the day.

First of all, my name is Anthony Bidulka, author of the Russell Quant mystery series, which I like to say features the first and perhaps only half-Irish, half-Ukrainian, gay, ex-cop, ex-farmboy, prairie-living, Saskatchewan, Canadian, world-travelling, wine-swilling, private detective being written about today!

I was invited here by one of my favourite (wine-swilling) authors, Vicki Delany. Her recent travels to Africa led me to consider how some of us tie our writing to our travels. (Yes, Rick, your arms must be very tired after flying in from Paris – see Oct 8 blog entry – an oldie but a goodie – still, I hate to admit it, the line made me chuckle).

One of the hallmarks of my series, is that in every book, although Russell begins and ends in his hometown of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, during the course of his investigations he always manages to end up in some foreign location chasing bad guys or whatever, and of course, drinking wine and trying local cuisine. Thus, the titles of the books range from such seeming inanity like Amuse Bouche to Tapas on the Ramblas. Each of these adventures is based, in part, on a trip I have taken. And it raises the chicken-and-egg question: does travel influence writing, or writing influence travel? My answer is the former.

For instance, I’ve never thought, “I think Russell should go to Yemen, so that will be my next holiday”. Generally, when I’m travelling, there will be some thing – it can be the place itself, or a smell, some morsel of food, a cultural experience, or just a feeling – that will make me think I would like to share this with my readers, and that Russell would fit in here. I guess that’s what you call inspiration. For me, inspiration is something you must be open to; I do not actively seek it, but am actively prepared to accept it when it finds me.

All this being said, in the five books of the series to date, there is one instance where Russell boldly goes where I have never been. In that case, it was a nice meeting of storyline requirement and a rather unique location I’d heard about. A well-heeled friend of ours is invited once a year to a private luxury getaway home in the arctic. The place is so remote that it is only reachable and livable for several short weeks each year. They fly in their guests and all the necessities, including a full wine cellar and a chef. (Now that’s crazy rich, right?) The idea of it interested me and fit in nicely with a pseudo-abduction I’d planned for my main character. After writing about trips I’d been on, the challenge of penning a place I’d never been to appealed to me. It gave my writing and research muscles a little bit of exercise—we all know changing up your exercise routine now and again is a good thing—and I think it worked out okay.

Still, my preference remains to write of places I’ve seen, smelled, breathed the air and tasted the food of. Not only does it help me get the small details right and hopefully infuse the writing with realism, personally it is a lovely way of marrying two of my favourite activities: writing and travel.

Not long ago I spent a couple of weeks in the Middle East. At the time I was conceptualizing the next book in my series, and it only seemed natural that it include this vivid and awesome experience. Yet, when it came down to telling the story, the story ruled. It didn’t need Oman or Saudi Arabia, it needed someplace lighter, airier, sweeter, to match the plot. The previous book dealt with the serious African humanist philosophy of ubuntu (something I’m sure Vicki experienced in her recent travels), but the new book is about love and lost love and uncertain love (as well as some good old fashioned M for Murder!). It needed a location to match. The Middle East wasn’t it. So, I guess what I’m saying, is that as much as I tie together my travels and my writing, they both very much, stand on their own.

Enough blabbering from me. It was a pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me.


Anonymous said...

I am a huge fan of yours. Keep up the good work.

Neil Plakcy said...

You tease! You dangle the idea that next in your series will be about love... and then make us wait forever to find out about Russell's love life!

Love the series and can't wait to see where Russell ends up next.

Anthony said...

Thanks for the comments anonymous and to tease!

Anonymous said...

Nice blog~

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Anonymous said...

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Always yours,
miss MW