I just heard the most awesomely spectacular rumour

In which, I check out a rumour

Earlier today I was checking the referral stats for my website, which, among other things, sometimes tell me the search terms people use to find this blog. Usually, these are predictable and obvious, but the search words that caught my eye today were just the opposite. They were “Wow!”,  “Holy Shit!”, “”Stop the Presses!” search words.

The words formed a full sentence with a subject (a person), a verb and an object (another person). That sentence fell into the outrageous rumour category. (And just for the record, the outrageous rumour in question has nothing whatsoever to do with my book or anyone in it.)

Now, you should know that when it comes to rumours, I almost always err on the “no way” side of things. I am the unfun person in the room who dismisses rumours, who tells the dinner party, “Sorry folks, not true.” And usually, I am right because most rumours — especially rumours like this one — aren’t true. Or only a teeny, tiny uninteresting part of them turns out to be true.

But there are occasions, very rare ones,  when my “no way” stance has led me to be outrageously wrong, when the the crazy rumour turns out to be true. Angelina Jolie, I’m looking at you.

Despite the odds, I felt I should check this rumour out. So I texted a friend who would be in the know about stuff like this. But he hadn’t hear the rumour, which he nevertheless dismissed as impossible. (See text message exchange at the top of this story.)

I told him to google the name of the subject of the rumour and look at Google’s related searches. I wanted to check that he got the same results I did. He did. In its related searches, Google had the name of the subject followed by the name of the object as its top result.

This showed people were googling this rumour. And I am unlikely to be the only media person who has heard it by now.

My friend agreed the google results were weird and then said he had to go. I took the hint.

Now, if I were Buzzfeed, I’d just put this crazy rumour out there and say, “Okay everyone, you decide.” But I’m old school so I’m not saying anything except that if this is true, it’s going to be extremely entertaining. And if it’s not true, well, it amused me for an hour or two and gave me something to blog about.

The Fall Guy by James Lasdun, a fun short read

A fun thriller to read in an evening

I like good short books that you can read in afternoon or evening. And I also like psychological thrillers. The Fall Guy falls into both those categories. I highly recommend it.

But that’s not what this post is about. I wanted to talk a little bit about the reviews for The Fall Guy. In general, the professional reviewers liked it. And although I often find that reviewers over praise a lot of mediocre stuff, especially mediocre, literary-wannabe stuff, I’m totally on board with them in this case. (For the record, here’s one example of egregious over praising in the thriller category.)

For all their flaws, Average Joe reader reviewers at places like Amazon and Goodreads almost always call the critics out for over praising albeit often for what I find to be the wrong reasons.

Average Jane, for example, frequently gets shirty if a book isn’t the type of thing she likes. Such was largely the case for The Fall Guy, which has lower-than-deserved reader reviews.

No, it wouldn’t

Average Jillian provides a classic example. She wants another book from the one that was written. She doesn’t appreciate that The Fall Guy is all about its unreliable narrator and his perspective. The reader has to do the rest of the work and imagine what the two main characters are really like. That’s the whole point. We don’t get to see them from any other perspective than the narrator’s.

This idea that you can and should know everything is one I encounter in the real world. People believe they can know the unknowable and get frustrated when they can’t.

In the case of the The Fall Guy, it’s the mystery and unknowing that makes it so good. And it’s a fun, quick read. Have at it.

Thanks to DNA, an alleged serial killer is arrested 20-plus years later

I first heard about the Claremont serial killer listening to the Casefile True Crime podcast.It’s Australian so they cover a lot of crime from down under including this series of murders in Perth.

The man arrested is 48-year-old Bradley Robert Edwards, who was taken into custody just before Christmas. Aussie news outlets don’t have much information on him at all. It’s pretty much a solid chorus of interviewees saying, “He’s such a great bloke,” “I never suspected anything,mate” and “Went to school with his brother.”

This is precisely the type of case that interests me because Edwards managed to fly under the radar.

After an arrest like this, people almost always come forward to say, “He wasn’t really such a great bloke” or “He was kind of weird.” But that hasn’t happened yet here.

BTW, the Claremont serial killer case was also Australia’s biggest and most expensive criminal investigation and a failure until they did DNA testing on some decades-old evidence.

The Bad Seed, psychopaths, and nature vs. nurture

Eight-year-old psychopath, The Bad Seed

In The Bad Seed, an eight-year-old girl with great parents is a successful serial killer

My new year’s resolution did not include weekend blogging, but there’s something to be said for writing while it’s fresh so here goes.

Last night I watched The Bad Seed, the screenplay of which was written by Maxwell Anderson, who wrote Anne of the Thousand Days.

I am extremely interested in the nature vs. nurture debate, and have been for a long time. I remember when my high school biology teacher told us about twin studies involving identical twins separated at birth, I found it strange that there would be enough identical twins separated at birth to conduct this type of study, but back then I only questioned that type of stuff in my head. I couldn’t take to Twitter to express my skepticism and Mrs. Marks was not a huge fan of mine so I didn’t bring it up in class.

Years later when I was living in Germany, however, I heard a report on the BBC World Service about how most of those twin studies were, if not bogus, severely flawed. I kicked myself for having never having looked into it further but I digress.

The pendulum swings regularly in the nature/nurture debate. Back in the seventies, it was all about environment. It wasn’t unusual for women to choose to be gay so they wouldn’t have to deal with men. Nowadays, you’re supposed to be born gay and that’s that.

The proverbial pendulum is now way over in the nature zone. Everything’s brain chemistry, brain wiring and genes and DNA. The media credulously gobbles up nonsense about a neuroscientist diagnosing himself as psychopath based on MRI scans.

The Bad Seed by William March was kind of a precursor to this current phase. It even uses the words “brain chemistry” at one point. Its basic thesis is that murderous tendencies are inherited and can skip generations so that even an eight-year-old girl with wonderful parents can be a successful serial killer. It’s beyond ridiculous, but it’s fiction so let’s give it a pass.

What isn’t fiction, however, is Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us by Robert D. Hare, considered one of the world’s leading experts on psychopathy. In his non-fiction book, he uses the fictional little girl from The Bad Seed as an example of a child psychopath with good parents, presumably because he couldn’t find such a person in real life where psychopaths are invariably bred in dysfunctional homes.



About those New Year’s Resolutions

January 6th is about the time my New Year’s resolutions start to die. At lunch today, I ate a giant Italian cream puff, or more accurately cream horn, from the new branch of Forno Cultura in First Canadian Place.

You should definitely go there unless you have New Year’s resolutions that would make it a bad idea. The coffee is delicious. They have amazing breads and the mini ricotta turnovers and petits palmiers are a healthier option to the cream horn.

What else? I’m still listening to the audio book of Wolf Hall, and it is fantastic. I’ve always been fascinated by the story of Anne Boleyn. As a kid, I remember watching a PBS series on Henry’s wives and then going to see the movie, Anne of the Thousand Days. Genevieve Bujold and Anne’s tower soliloquy made a big impression on me. (Watch the soliloquy starting at 1:57)

For some reason though, I never researched it until today. I learned the movie was based on a play by a guy called Maxwell Anderson, who seems to have led quite the life. Now, I’m reading all about him.

No, Christina Noudga does not carry a torch for Dellen Millard

Christina Noudga (2015)

Earlier today, I read a comment on Facebook about how Christina Noudga is still carrying a torch for Dellen Millard. (If you don’t know who these people are, I recommend my book, Dark Ambition.)

I don’t understand this type of thinking at all. It seems reductive and sexist. All women can think about is looove type thing.

It also flies in the face of what happened at Millard’s trial. Sure, there were times when Noudga’s evidence played in Millard’s favour, but only when it worked in Noudga’s favour as well. Her infamous blow job testimony is a good example of this. By claiming that Millard seemed sad that night, and that she was in no position to talk because her mouth was full, Noudga bolstered her story that she and Millard didn’t discuss why they were moving giant trailers and livestock incinerators in the middle of the night. That helped both of them.

In contrast, Noudga never had anything helpful to say about Millard that went against her own interests. And she had some pretty damning evidence to give about him when it didn’t hurt her own case.

For example, Noudga said her ex-BF bought the incinerator to burn materials from his aviation company. This did not help Millard, whose stated position at trial was that he was planning on getting into the pet carcass disposal business. If she were truly out to help Millard, the love of her life, she would have told the pet story. She didn’t

Noudga also stated in court that she loathed Millard, and that “he had (her) arrested.” While she couldn’t muster up any remorse or empathy for the Bosma family, it was crystal clear that she felt pretty sorry for herself and was furious about the four months she had spent in jail and the humiliation she had endured after her arrest.

It wasn’t much fun for Noudga to learn about her boyfriend’s infidelities either. She had long been suspicious he was cheating on her, but the evidence at trial confirmed it. Texts showed him arranging dates with his ex-fiancee and flirting with his realtor side chick.

All these things considered, there really are zero grounds for claiming Noudga’s still in love with Millard other than a general belief that women can never let go.


L’Affaire Joseph Boyden

The Joseph Boyden affair broke just before Christmas, which is probably why it hasn’t blown up into mega-controversy deserves to be be. APTN found pretty indisputable evidence that Boyden, the country’s number one indigenous author, isn’t indigenous at all.

This provoked all sorts of nonsensical responses about blood and DNA, which might have made sense had Joseph Boyden been brought up aboriginal. But he hadn’t. According to Boyden, his childhood was spent in suburban Toronto, where his father was doctor, who had been awarded the Distinguished Service Order and was the most highly decorated medical officer of World War II.

Under the circumstances, someone should probably look into that story about Boyden Sr. There are a few things about it that set my spidey senses tingling. I feel bad writing that but checking out people who aren’t who and what they say they are is a big part of my work as a private investigator. And I am regularly reminded how easy it is to create a false persona and have others fall for it.

Here’s what initially strikes me as strange about Dr. Raymond Wilfrid Boyden. This obit says he was born in 1906 and graduated medical school in 1924, which would have made him a doctor at 18. Of course, that could just be a typo, but then Dr. Boyden’s medical career history is also out of the ordinary. He was supposedly a Toronto gynaecologist and obstetrician before joining the armed forces at the start of World War II. That doesn’t seem like a medical specialty, which would have been particularly in demand on the battlefields, but maybe he retrained. And then there’s Dad’s brother, Erl Boyden, who posed as “Injun Joe” in the fifties.

At the very least, it would be worth taking a more detailed look into Dr. Boyden’s background as his son Joseph tried to do in 2004. It may be that it’s fabulism that runs in the Boyden blood, and there’s no DNA test for that.

Update: I have done some further research which shows there definitely was a Dr. Raymond Boyden with the Canadian Army Medical Corps.

Here is his medical school graduation photo and blurb, giving his birth date as 1899, which would make him 66 or 67 when Joseph was born. That’s an older father, even by today’s standards, so it makes sense some of the details got blurred along the way.

Dr. Raymond Boyden

Dr. Raymond Boyden


A 2017 New Year’s Resolution

Crime Writers On discusses Someone Knows Something

The Crime Writers On episode about Someone Knows Something features an epic rant

I’m not a New year’s Resolution person. And I hadn’t made any for 2017 — until I read this New Year’s Blogging Resolution from Elizabeth Spiers.

“Hey,” I thought. “I can do that. I should do that. I will do that.”

So I’m starting today with some of the crime podcasts I’ve been listening to, most of which I’ve written about before.

For me, the Accused podcast was the hit of 2016. If you haven’t listened, do it now. We can talk about it later. That’s the beauty of my New Year’s Resolution. I don’t have to do everything in one blog post. I’m really, really hoping the police finally make a breakthrough in the Beth Andes case in 2017. I’m also debating whether it would be ethical to pose the question about the suspects I really want to pose on this blog.

When I did my original podcast reviews, I was very keen on Up and Vanished but I’m far less enamoured of it now. The story seems to be going in circles while all those Georgia accents have lost their novelty.

Until this morning, the second season of Someone Knows Something was proving a lot better than the first, which I found useless, but, like Up and Vanished, SKS too seems to have stalled. I hope it get its mojo back.

While we’re on the subject of SKS, I want to mention a discussion about it that took place on the Crime Writers On podcast, where, among other things, the writers critique other podcasts. The Crime Writers accurately dubbed the first season of SKS No one Knows Anything and were wary about diving into season 2.

Kevin Flynn went on an epic rant about what he hated about SKS. Basically it was Dave Ridgen’s writing style, which I also loathe. It’s cliche laden and feels like it’s just trying way too hard to be noir. The only thing I hate more is when people call this kind of writing literary or poetic, wrongly equating purple prose with “literary.”

Bad flowery descriptive passages and wannabe noir does not equal good writing, folks. And I think I’ll stop here.

Tweets from the Tim Bosma murder trial

This spreadsheet of all the tweets from three journalists covering the 2016 trial of Dellen Millard and Mark Smich is an incredibly valuable resource.

Hamilton Spectator columnist Susan Clairmont’s tweets provide an excellent narrative overview of the trial while CBC reporter Adam Carter gives the most transcript-like coverage. Molly Hayes of the Spec often catches fascinating details that others missed.

Big thanks to Ron Verbeek, a “civilian” who followed the trial and pulled it all together.

Since the Bosma trial, I’ve followed some high profile U.S. trials on Twitter and the tweet coverage was nowhere near as good as that provided by these three journalists.

It was an invaluable resource to me as I wrote my book, Dark Ambition.