Giles Blunt was new to me when I read his novel, By The Time You Read This, but it’s so good I’m going to start reading all of his novels, no small feat if you know how much I already read. He's earned his credentials. He wrote for Law & Order, Night Heat and Street Legal before writing novels full-time. This is his fourth book focusing on main character Detective John Cardinal. The works of Blunt, a Canadian writer, have been compared to those of Ian Rankin.
How long have you been writing fiction?
My first attempt was when I was 8 years old, heavily influenced by Enid Blyton. I only got to page two, if I remember rightly, before I ran into plot problems. It’s still on the shelf. I wrote short stories in college, and my first novel at 24, which was heavily influenced by Samuel Beckett. It was followed by a twelve-year period of readjustment while I wrote screenplays and TV scripts, mostly for no money whatsoever.
What was your goal with this book? Did you succeed?
I wanted to write a thriller that deals with the real emotions of the crimes involved: murder and child molestation. I hope I succeeded, but you can never be sure. I do get some lovely letters from people about it — people whose lives have been touched by depression or suicide — and that’s very gratifying.
How did this particular story develop? By that I mean some authors have the characters come first, some the plot – what came first on this book?
All I knew at the start was that John Cardinal’s wife was going to die in chapter one. Because of the manner of her death and her history of hospitalization for manic-depression, it would be natural for everyone to assume it’s suicide — especially as they find a suicide note in her handwriting. Cardinal himself believes it’s suicide, until he starts receiving vicious “sympathy” cards in the mail. The characters developed out of the need for him to investigate on his own. I had a clear idea of the major ones before I embarked on a draft. I got a little way into it and realized it needed another investigation—it was just too heavy to stay with Cardinal’s grief on every page—so I got Lise Delorme involved on the trail of a child pornographer.
That sent me back into outline mode. The character for the girl came at that stage; I knew pretty much what she would be like: she’s eighteen years old, horribly depressed, and trying to work out why, with a very able psychiatrist. The character for the perpetrator emerged in the actual writing. That’s usually how it is with me: the major characters are in mind before I begin, and the smaller ones take shape as I’m writing.