Thursday, September 14, 2006

Always a Bridesmaid - and glad of it!

Okay, maybe that should be “best man,” but it doesn’t have quite the same ring (sorry). When I was twenty-one or so, I had a girlfriend who worked in a bank in downtown Montreal. The bank she worked in had set some kind of record as the most robbed bank in the city. I had just become interested in writing mysteries and thought it would be cool to be in a bank robbery. She didn’t think being in a bank robbery was cool at all.

A few years later my former wife was briefly taken hostage in a bank robbery – or at least that’s what she thought would happen when she was the only customer in the bank during a robbery. By this time I was more deeply involved in writing mysteries, and thought, “Why her?” My former spouse concurred: “Why her?”

A couple of years later, the same former spouse, who was afraid to fly, had to go to Quebec City from Montreal on business. Her train derailed just outside of Quebec. In February. The passengers were evacuated by snowmobile to the local funeral home.

When I started working for CN, a colleague was on the “Gimly Glider”, the Air Canada flight that ran out of gas over Manitoba as a result of confusion over kilograms and pounds.

Are you starting to see the point of the title? Interesting things kept happening to people I knew, but I, the writer, had to make it up.

Yesterday, at about 12:30 p.m., a young man wearing a long black trench coat and combat boots and sporting a Mohawk haircut, walked into Dawson College with three guns, one of them a semi-automatic rifle, and started shooting people. Less than twenty minutes into his rampage the police shot him dead, but by then he’d killed one student and wounded twenty others, five of which are still in critical condition at the Montreal General Hospital. The police finally removed the bodies of the gunman and his victim at 6:00 a.m. this morning.

Dawson College is less than two hundred metres from where I live. If you watched the video footage taken from the TVA news helicopter, you would have seen my apartment building on Atwater Avenue, police cars and ambulances parked out front.

I watched the drama unfold on television. Classic fog of war. No one really knew what the hell was going on. There was one shooter. There were four. One was loose in Alexis Nihon plaza, where I do my grocery shopping, armed with a machine gun. Semi-hysterical witnesses reported hundreds of gun shots. As usual, the media did its best, and its worst. There were the usual bunch of self-proclaimed experts in love with the sound of their own voices.

I thought to myself, as I sat in front of the TV, that I could go out, walk fifty metres down the road, and be in the thick of the action. Real life. First hand experience. Cops running around with their guns drawn. Bloody bodies in the streets. I’m a mystery writer, after all.

Thanks. I’d rather make it up.

Some good news. I’m signing Overexposed in Quebec City on Thursday, September 28, 7:30 to 9:00 p.m., at La Maison Anglaise, 2600 Laurier Boulevard. La Maison Anglaise is an indy English bookstore – in Quebec City!

Michael Blair
Montreal, Quebec

1 comment:

Tami said...

Wow Michael, talk about always being in the thick of things. That's incredible and should be a good material for writing even if you didn't go to the scenes. Glad you are now all safe in Montreal!