About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Q & A with Robert Rotenberg on Stranglehold

My last post was a review of Stranglehold, the new book by Robert Rotenberg. I appreciate Anneliese Grosfield  at Simon & Schuster providing me with a copy. I thought it an excellent book. I wrote Robert a letter with some questions that with Anneliese’s assistance I was able to get answered from me. My questions and Robert's answers in bold are below.
To: Robert
I have enjoyed reading Stranglehold and will be posting a review on my blog Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan next week.
I have appreciated past email exchanges and would like to ask you a few questions:
            1.) In the book DiPaulo has a sign in his office 
            from Anatomy of a Murder:
A trial was after all a savage and primitive battle for
survival itself.
Do you also view Canadian criminal trials as bloody combat? In my experience in Saskatchewan criminal trials they can be intense but I would not characterize them as “savage”. While sometimes “primitive” I think most trials involve sophisticated work by the lawyers;
Savage might sound a bit extreme, but it is the perfect quote. (Hint, I used it at the front of my second novel, "The Guilty Plea," which in some ways was an homage to that novel and great film.)
But I do it is true. When we strip back all our civility in Canadian courts (and thank goodness for that civility) the core of what we are dealing with are the most basic…savage…of emotions. How else can you describe someone shooting, stabbing, or strangling another human being. (And thank goodness they do, or how would I make a living as a lawyer or a writer!)
2.) When Ari Greene reflects on the murder he thinks there is something about the murder scene that has been arranged to set him up for the murder. He is already suspicious over the timing of the 911 call. I do not recall reading about anything being done in the room to compromise him. Was there something I missed suggesting he was set up beyond the timing of the phone call?
I just emailed Ari a copy of your email. He's tough to get a hold of. So if you don't hear back from him about this, don't be offended. Half the time he never returns my calls either!
3.) Has it become perilous to be the Head Crown Prosecutor in your books with Ralphie Armitage going to jail and Raglan being murdered? Or is it perhaps a defence counsel author exacting a subtle revenge upon the Crown?
Crowns have a good life. No client calls in the middle of the night. Paid vacation. Pensions. Sick days. (I haven't had a sick day or a paid vacation ever.) So if one gets killed and another ends up in jail, I say: "suck it up."  
4.) The book has an interesting bail hearing but no preliminary inquiry. Have you decided to avoid prelims in your books? If so, I would be interested in knowing why the prelim, often held in most major criminal proceedings, is not in the books.
I try to switch things around. If I wrote a book with a bail hearing, a preliminary inquiry, a trial, an appeal, another appeal to the Supreme Court, a retrial…well you get the idea. Damn boring. 
Indeed, in "Old City Hall" the prelminary hearing is about to take place.
But the bottom line is a "prelim" as we call them is usually deadly dull. A judge once told me it was like baby-sitting a sleeping child.  
5.) On some websites it is now the Ari Greene series. How did that happen? I still think of it as a unique series with equally powerful police and lawyers.
Thanks. I agree. This is a marketing thing I guess that I have no control over. Note, none of the books use this phrase.
I have never thought of this as an "Ari Greene Series." I'd say for example, that the third novel "Stray Bullets" is really Nancy Parish's book. 
I've always been interested in writing about a whole cast of characters. In fact, Ari kind of appeared on the scene a bit by accident in Book One, "Old City Hall" and just kept hanging around.
But I do see him as the moral centre of the series. And knowing Ari as well as I do, I'm sure he wouldn't want his name on it. That's for sure. 
6.) There were issues raised in the story that received little attention during the book but were featured in the resolution. As an example, there was a letter received by Greene but never acted upon him. Were there subplots cut from the book?
Afraid I can't agree with you that Greene never acted on the letter. I think that's the whole point of how he handled himself. And the novel.
Beyond that I'd rather not say. I think it's pretentious when authors talk about the deeper meaning or real themes of their books. 
Suggestion: re-read the letter again. Then perhaps re-read the last chapter.
As for the plot and subplot. In this book they are extremely complicated. (That seems to be my way.). But in the end, I think they all fit together. That's the struggle of writing and the real fun of making it work. 
Thank you for considering my questions.
Best wishes.
Bill Selnes
Thank you. You are a very careful and interested reader.
Hey, get me invited to a literary festival out there some time.
Best and a safe summer.
On Thursday I will have a post with Thoughts on the Q & A.



  1. Fantastic Q&A session. Robert Rotenberg has a great sense of humor.

    I must get this book although the library doesn't have it. Think I'll go back to the second book, which they have and I haven't yet read.

    Thanks for such an interesting discussion.

  2. Kathy D.: Thanks for the kind words. Robert is a spirited guy. I appreciate his candour.

  3. Bill - Thanks for sharing this interview, and thanks to Robert Rotenberg for the interview. It was really interesting. One of the things I really thought was interesting was the 'branding' of the series as the Ari Greene series when there are other featured characters who 'take the lead' in the different novels. Interesting marketing strategy. A terrific interview that I appreciate!

  4. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I think Rotenberg needs a description for the series comparable to Ed McBain's 87th precinct series which also featured an ensemble cast. I do not have a name but it should be something with Toronto in the title.