Tag Archives: Beach Strip

One Book One Burlington (OBOB) 2103

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The Burlington (Ontario) Public Library has chosen Beach Strip written by local–Hamilton resident–author John Lawrence Reynolds for their annual One Book One Burlington event this Fall. This is a crime novel. A series of events and talks have been organized around it, such as meet the author, history of the Beach Strip and Burlington Light House, forensic sciences, crime authors panel and film noir, are taking place this month. Naturally, extra copies of the book has been made available to promote readership. Imagine, one can find a copy of the book on the local transit! I tip my hat to this marketing ploy.

I had read the book and discussed it with a book club earlier. I was there at the kick-off event, Meet the Author John Lawrence Reynolds, two-time winner of the Arthur Ellis Award for Mystery, to find out more. There were at least three hundred people at the hall of Port Nelson Church for the talk.

John Lawrence Reynold was forthright and entertaining in his talk. He lived in Burlington and knew the Beach Strip well. He said that it was his wife’s idea to use the Burlington Beach Trail as the setting for his book. He began jokingly by saying that as a male, the word “strip” has another meaning, but with his strict Christian upbringing, he did not feel comfortable placing the dead body of a naked woman on the beach; hence the victim was a man.

He spent a lot of time explaining his use of a woman’s voice. He revealed that his publishing team from agent to editor were women, plus his wife. They were giving him suggestions along the way. Besides, he justified his decision by adapting a Jane Austen quote, and Reynolds said, “A man must realize that he does not know any more about women than women know about men.”

Reynolds mentioned that many of his fictional characters were derived from people in his own experience, like the self-centred, manipulative Tina (Josie’s–the heroine–sister), who flirted with the taxi driver, Josie’s mother who was perceptive, and the shy Glynnis. He built Josie’s character to be the same as his male detectives in giving her persistence, courage and perseverance. He recognized that Josie’s had critics, likely because female and male characters were being judged differently. He believed that he had given her female qualities by her need for relationship and her sexuality.

The same applied to events from his own experience. Josie’s recollection of waiting at the canal for ships to pass came from a person he had known who enjoyed doing the same and waving at the boats that passed.  Josie’s blocking out her father’s death was related to Reynold’s experience of the Defasco (a big Hamilton steel factory) industrial accident many years ago.

Reynolds did not intend to send any message from his book. He just wanted a page-turner; a story well told was his goal. As a writer, he spent time on his characters and put them before his plot. He put them through the scene and trusted that the rest would follow. In this connection, he compared this approach to that of Ray Bradbury, who said that the plot was the foothold for the characters to launch.

There had not been any offers for a TV movie, and Reynolds spoke in a tongue-in-cheek manner that two more sequels may be in the pipeline, and the titles would be Beach Blonde and Beach Balls.

The audience seemed happy with the talk.  For me, it was educational to go into the process of  the creation of a fictional novel and the workings of an author’s mind.

Book Club Review: Beach Strip, John Lawrence Reynolds

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POSSIBLE SPOILER

I have a chance to read Beach Strip by John Lawrence Reynolds through the book club of my local library branch, which is in support of the One Book One Burlington Event this Fall.  Our discussion surrounds some of the questions prepared by the librarians, with insight from a member who has taken part in the initial shortlisting of the book.

Most of us know where the Beach Strip is as a local landmark in Burlington and some of us have walked along it, including myself. (This is another reason why I read this book, because of the familiarity of the setting.) If you have been following my blog, you may wonder if I have an obsession about this area–the beach walk, the waves and the lift bridge. I tell my group that as I am reading the book, the scenery appears vividly in my mind’s eyes, even though I walk along the strip only in daylight and the crime in the book takes place at night. I figure out roughly where the author refers to as the first crime scene, and know exactly the location of an unexpected twist in the plot in which Josie Marshall walks on the lift bridge, looks at the guard on duty in the tower and throws the ashes of her husband in the canal. After that she walks on to discover a dead body, whose head is missing! I have not gone back to Beach Trail and the Burlington Canal Lift Bridge by myself since reading the gory details. Honestly, I need some company here.

When it comes to the plot, we have a perceptive remark that every ingredient one wants for a crime story is here. There is more than one murder, and the cops play a key role. There is more: Sex, flirtation, violence, a gangster boss, a suspected pervert, filial piety, sibling rivalry, extra-marital relationship and police corruption. Reynolds must be having fun with his canvas of the book, and puts a dab of this character and that character, as well as the various themes, viola! We are wondering whether with all these catchy ingredients the film right of a TV movie may be forthcoming.

The biggest misgiving we all have is the characterization of Josie Marshall, whose husband Gabe, a police detective, is found dead on the Beach Strip outside their house.  Josie does not believe that Gabe has committed suicide, as the police has told her. She takes it upon herself to find the murderer. There are too many inconsistencies. One moment Josie is grieving her loss and crying that she is feeling weak, but the next moment she is charging around talking to people and functioning like a cool and balanced-headed detective. Then she is in Vancouver with her sister, spent after all her experience. Next she is on a flight, calling and emailing all the people she wants to see to expose the murderer. This is all within three weeks of losing her husband. Mind you, she has seen at least two dead bodies in this short time. She appears like Super Woman.

The most upsetting part for us, all being female readers, is the stereotype of a woman’s strength to be her sexual appeal. It is only too superficial to see Josie deliberately wearing a tight top and a short pencil skirt when she visits the gangster boss. Reynolds says that he is experimenting with a female protagonist in this novel and when he tries to get into the head of the Josie Marshall,  it seems that it still comes from a male perspective. Anyhow, Reynolds will be appearing in an event to talk about his book. It will be interesting to see what he has to say.

The book is an interesting read, but likely not Reynold’s best. We think that it is selected for One Book One Burlington more because the setting is a local attraction, and Reynolds is a Burlington resident.  It is also easy to fit in other activities for this “one book one community” event which is gaining popular support in  the province.