Saturday, May 12, 2012

Then and Now: Two women fight for their lives

This weekend we welcome back a founding member of Type M, Vicki Delany, who has been very busy lately. I’m sure you’ll all enjoy this piece. —Rick

“Look out,” someone shouted. “He’s got a knife.” Everyone scrambled to get out of the way.

She pivoted on her heels, came around to face him. He charged, blade held high. Light from the lamp on the far side of the street glistened on steel. She stepped to one side, out of his path. Her right hand struck his arm, shoving him aside. He stumbled and she stepped back, moving her body out of his reach. Without conscious thought, her Glock was in her hand and she shouted, “Drop it, now.”

He looked at the knife. He looked at Molly Smith. She knew she could stand here all day, waiting. If he came towards her, or moved towards the onlookers, she’d have no compulsion about shooting him. She kept her breath steady and controlled.
Among the Departed, a Constable Molly Smith novel

He swung around and lifted the rifle. I raised the knife high and brought it down, slicing it across his arm, wrist to elbow. The blade was very sharp, and it cut deeply. Bright red blood spurted. Sheridan said not a word, but threw the rifle to the ground and faced me. His mouth was set, his eyes so round, the surface so white, I wouldn’t have recognized them. He moved fast, sending a fist towards my jaw. I pulled back in time and thrust the knife forward but he also moved and my blade sliced cold mountain air. We circled each other, eyes fixed, hearts pounding, hands up.

I ducked down and slipped under his arm. I was aiming for the centre of his belly, but he slid to one side at the last second and the knife cut only his jacket. His fist crashed into my face and I fell. I landed hard, once again, but kept my grip on the knife and the blade pointing up and out. Sheridan swung his foot at my face, and I brought my weapon up. It sliced into the calf, just above his boot.

He stepped backwards. Blood was pouring down his arm and now his leg. He stared at me through those crazed eyes. His chest heaved and his breathing was ragged, but he’d not said a word.

He came towards me, and I braced myself for another attack. Instead he dodged and ran around me. He took one step, and then another, and disappeared.

I staggered to my feet, thrust the knife behind a boulder, gathered up the rifle and dashed a few yards down the path. Whereupon I fell to the ground and arranged myself so I was draped across the trail in a dainty swoon.

Gold Mountain: A Klondike Mystery

These two novels are set 110 years apart. Among the Departed is a contemporary novel, about the adventures of Constable Molly Smith, a young policewoman in small town British Columbia. Gold Mountain is set in the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898, the adventures of Fiona MacGillivray, a dance hall owner.

Both books are intended to be entertainment first and foremost. But it’s impossible to write anything without capturing the mood, attitudes, milieu of the times, whether historical or contemporary.

I have come to realize that my books reveal a lot about the changing role of women over the past hundred years.

Molly Smith decides she wants to be a police officer. She applies for the job, is accepted, gets the training, and is given a gun and a badge and a patrol car. She does the job for which she is trained – protecting the citizens of her town.

Fiona MacGillivray is smart, resourceful, entirely unscrupulous. By necessity she leads a life of subterfuge. Forbidden by law from earning a living legally (as most occupations were closed to women), she spends her youth as a pickpocket and second story woman. Now that she is the owner of a dance hall and saloon, she is still often unable to simply take or ask for what she wants, but has to manipulate others: I’ve always found it so easy to convince men they should do things the way I wanted while leaving them to believe it was their idea all along. Was I getting soft, losing some of my skill at manipulation?

In the above two scenes we can see the sharp contrast between two tough, entirely capable women.
Molly Smith is a police officer. Uniformed, armed, trained, with the weight of the law behind her. She is confronted by an assailant, and she deals with him.

But Fiona MacGillivray, even more capable, far more ruthless, a woman who can, as she says, fight like a man, must pretend to her ‘rescuers’ that she needs their rescuing. Thus the dainty swoon once her attacker has been efficiently dealt with.

Corporal Richard Sterling of the NWMP is in pursuit of Fiona and her kidnapper. When he hears a shot, he thinks: No doubt she lay cowed in the shelter of a boulder, shocked at the sudden display of man’s violence.

Constable Dave Evans, on the other hand, has no illusions that Molly Smith can’t handle herself in a dangerous situation: They stood on either side of the door, and Smith reached for the knob. She turned it shouting, “Police.” The door swung open. Smith went in first. Evans followed.

Only a hundred years, but what a difference in attitudes and behaviour.

“It’s a crime not to read Delany,” so says the London Free Press.

Vicki Delany is one of Canada’s most varied and prolific crime writers. Her popular Constable Molly Smith series (including In the Shadow of the Glacier and Among the Departed) from Poisoned Pen Press have been optioned for TV by Brightlight Pictures. She writes standalone novels of modern gothic suspense such as Burden of Memory and More than Sorrow (Sept 2012), as well as a light-hearted historical series, (Gold Digger, Gold Mountain), set in the raucous heyday of the Klondike Gold Rush, published by Dundurn. She is also the author of a novel for reluctant readers, titled A Winter Kill, part of the Rapid Reads series.

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.

Visit Vicki at,, and twitter: @vickidelany. She blogs about the writing life at One Woman Crime Wave (


Aline Templeton said...

Good to see you back, Vicki!


Charlotte Hinger said...

Vicki, welcome back! One of the biggest changes I've noticed in women's roles is how often they save themselves. Not that many years ago, women in fiction waited for the masculine rescuer and a lot of the tension was based on whether the gentleman would arrive in time. Usually, he did, just in the nick of, of course. Not the case now, and he's not a gentleman either.