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.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Exchanging Emails with Sam Wiebe on Dave Wakeland

After reading Cut You Down by Sam Wiebe I exchanged emails with Sam about his tough guy sleuth, Dave Wakeland. I appreciate his willingness to respond and the cantor of his reply.

I just finished reading Cut You Down and enjoyed the book.

I find Dave a fascinating character. The mixture of erudition and brawn are intriguing.

I do find myself a little discouraged by the number of violent confrontations experienced by Dave. In both Invisible Dead and Cut You Down Dave is badly beaten on more than one occasion.

While I admire his toughness it is starting to challenge my credibility that he could endure such violence without apparent permanent consequences.

I appreciate he has a persona that reminded me of famous American crime fiction characters, Travis McGee and Spenser, and in Canada Howard Shrier’s sleuth, Jonah Geller. All are big strong men with above average intelligence.

What I remember of the McGee series is that he might suffer injury once in a book but not on multiple occasions.

Spenser was hurt more often, including an assassination attempt where he was shot by a rifle and endured a long recovery lasting months. There were times later in the series when I thought the physical punishment he endured was stretching belief.

I acknowledge Dave is a hard boiled detective but he also has a wit and level of intelligence that would allow him to advance investigations with his brains rather than his fists. Dave’s love of literature reflects a thinking man

I understand his psyche leads him into dangerous situations but I am hoping he will turn from regular righteous violence to a more cerebral approach to investigations. He can keep the violence in reserve for special situations.

It is uncommon in the world of crime fiction to emphasize thinking. Violence with high body counts have become the preferred method of solving crimes.

When I read Shrier’s books Buffalo Jump and High Chicago I was discouraged by the level of violence in each book. I was glad to see in Miss Montreal an increase in the thinking and a decrease in the violence.

Yet I ask might it be possible Dave will adjust his approach to investigations?

I set out in my review that I thought you were continuing to mature as a writer and each of your books is better than the previous book.

If you are able to reply, and are willing, I would include your reply in a post with this letter.


Bill Selnes
Hi, Bill

Thanks so much for the kind words! I appreciate the comments and your knowledge and love of the genre. You raise some good points. I'll try to answer as best I can.

Speaking generally, I want the violence in the Wakeland novels to be visceral and uncomfortable. I don't want to trivialize violence. What happens has consequences for both the perpetrator and recipient.

Bear in mind Dave Wakeland is considerably younger than most other PIs. He's 29 in Invisible Dead, 30 in Cut You Down. In the Big Sleep, Phillip Marlowe is in his mid-thirties. Kinsey Milhone is in her early thirties in A is for Alibi. Wakeland is still learning, still making mistakes, and still slightly unformed in his investigative approach. Also, he's still in the age range where the body is more resilient. The violence in the Wakeland novels is much, much less than a boxer or MMA fighter endures.

John D MacDonald and Robert B Parker were both very formative authors for me.There are usually scenes in those books where McGee or Spenser dispatch multiple assailants with ease, which to me strains more credibility than enduring a few punches and slaps. I'd rather err on showing the brutality than brushing it off or making the character superhuman.

Your point about using brains rather than fists to solve cases is well taken. I feel, from my research into real-life investigative work, that while both have a role, it's actually determination and persistence that solve cases. Dave might not be the smartest or toughest guy on the block, but he's the one that won't quit. Sometimes that's unhealthy, verging into obsession, and again, there will be consequences to that.

To sum up, I think violence is an intrinsic part of the detective novel, and I take great pains to make the violence in the books realistic, and to show its consequences. If you think the events of Invisible Dead and Cut You Down haven't fully registered on Dave Wakeland and company...well, just wait for book three!

Thanks again for the review, and feel free to publish this on the blog. 


Sam Wiebe
Wiebe, Sam - (2015) - Last of the Independents and The Unhanged Arthur Award; (2016) - Invisible Dead and Sam Wiebe on His Sleuths; (2018) - Cut You Down


  1. This is really interesting. Thank you, both. The question of how much violence is 'too much' is a fascinating one, and I think it depends in part on the character, as is clear here. But it also depends on the reader's individual perception. For me, the essential question is: does the violence (or anything else, really) serve the story?

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I can almost accept Sam's presence that violence is inherent in detective crime fiction. My caveat is there are detectives such as Nero Wolfe for whom violence is not inherent to the story beyond the murder at the heart of the mystery.

  2. And whether or not you were on the cruise, the Edgar Best Novel award was given to Attica Locke for Bluebird, Bluebird.

    I am so glad to see that. That is such a well-written book.

    1. Kathy D.: Thanks for the comment. It was not a surprise to me Bluebird, Bluebird was the winner. It would have taken an exceptional book to have won in place of it.

  3. Very interesting exchange, with good points from both of you.

    1. Moira: Thanks for the comment. Sam is as thoughtful in his email as he is in his books.