Max Folsom – Author of the Baker Somerset series of mysteries

Mixing Fact with Fiction

From the cozy mystery story to the hard-boiled detective novel one thing remains true—there’s a dead body. Jessica Fletcher in Cabot Cove, Maine, stumbles across one almost every time she leaves her house in the television series Murder She Wrote. We want our hard-boiled heroes to shoot first or at least beat the bad guy up. So, in fiction how do we portray a culture like Canada’s which has fewer murders and violent crimes, and yet still keep our fictitious villians really awful?

In 2012, the homicide rate in the US was 4.7/100,000 people; in Canada it was 1.6/100,000. One Bad Day After Another takes place during 2016. In 2015 Ottawa saw only seven actual murders and only three of those were from shootings.

One Bad Day After Another

When the police in our story find a dead man on the threshold to Somerset’s office, we begin adding to the body count with two shooting victims (one person shot by police) and one homicide by other means. I have thoughtfully committed one fictional murder in Toronto and another in London, England, to try and keep the body count down in Ottawa.

The background information on the arms industry that Somerset learns in One Bad Day After Another is factual. The companies that she and Joe investigate in Toronto are fictional. The kidnapping and subsequent events are also fictional.

Update to the facts behind ONE BAD DAY AFTER ANOTHER: In August, 2018 (two years after Somerset is involved with the case) the Saudis had just placed an $15 Billion order for Canadian LAVs from General Dynamics Land Systems (GSLS) facility in London, Ontario when Global Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland upset the deal by denouncing Saudi Arabia for human rights violations. The Saudis refused to pay for their order, possibly thinking Canada would back down, but the government stood behind Freeland, bailed out GDLS, and shipped 39 LAVs to Ukraine.

Searching for Peter

In Searching for Peter, the facts that Somerset learns about the Chagossians and Diego Garcia are factual. Also, the tunnel from the brewery existed, but the tunnel Somerset searches is fictional. Senator Wilson is fictional. At the time Peter Griffiths disappeared the responsibility for law enforcement in Ottawa was divided between Parliamentary Security (who took care of all matters inside the Parliament Buildings), the RCMP (who took care of all matters on the Parliament and Government Grounds), and the Ottawa Police Service (who were responsible for all matters in Ottawa not on Parliament Hill). The incident of the shooting of Michael Zehaf-Bibeau is factual. After that incident, an investigation determined that the enforcement responsibilities on the Hill were too disorganized and the RCMP became responsible for all of the Hill’s security.

Update to the facts behind SEARCHING FOR PETER GRIFFITHS:  For anyone interested in learning more about the Diego Garcia situation there are two excellent resources.

ISLAND OF SHAME : The secret history of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia by David Vine is very comprehensive and has 45 pages of notes and sources documenting the books content. It was published by Princeton University Press, 2009, ISBN 978-0-691-14983-7

A bit of history and a recent update on the Chagossians struggle to return to the archipelago is in the July/August issue of The Atlantic magazine.

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