This is the website of Sam Wiebe. Sam writes fiction and nonfiction and screenplays. He plays the drums. He rarely refers to himself in the third person, as this is an unnatural way to express oneself. Occasionally, though, he is called upon to use the third person, in situations such as developing content for his website. Which this is.
Email: wiebesam (at) gmail dot com
4/8/13: LAST OF THE INDEPENDENTS has a tentative release date of August 2014. Exciting!
The response to "Gallows Point" has been very flattering. Thanks to everyone who emailed me or reviewed the issue on Amazon. If you haven't picked it up yet, there's still time...
I hope to have news about another story of mine, "The Third Echo," very soon. And I'll be updating the website about my second novel, CHELSEA LOAM, within the week.
3/5/13: The March/April issue of THUGLIT is out now, and my story "Gallows Point" is included. You can pick it up from Amazon in print version or kindle e-book. The cover alone is worth the price.
"Gallows Point" is about two old men who fight an apocalyptic duel on an unpopulated island in Nanaimo Harbour. Thuglit is a good publication run by a square-dealing editor/publisher, and I'm happy to be included.
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1/29/13: A productive and goal-oriented New Year to everyone who checks this page on a regular basis. All three of you.
On Saturday I finished the second draft of my new novel. I'm hoping to have it done by February. Teaching is grueling this semester--I've got five courses, around a hundred and fifty students--but I'm making time to get the writing done.
East Vanguard, Mel Yap's music project which I had the pleasure of playing drums on, has been featured in a number of promotional videos for Landyachtz longboards. Some of these videos have upwards of a hundred thousand hits. I'm glad that Mel's music is getting the exposure it deserves. I do find it funny that the most corporate thing I've done with my life so far involves playing the drums.
There will be more news soon. Thanks for checking in.
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12/7/12: Rather than clogging up my home page, I've added a blog to this website. You can read it here. I've added the last two years' updates as two long posts, and stripped down the verbiage on this page.
Writing projects going into the New Year include revising the sequel to LAST OF THE INDEPENDENTS, another novel to research and write, and a script to finish off. Then there's THE FALLS, and the editing and sound effects for FRANKENSTEIN. Plus I'd love to do another radio play.
2012 has been a hell of a year.
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11/30/12: I'm not a prolific short story writer. Even when the idea springs fully-formed, like Athena from the brow of Zeus, it takes me a long time to hew it down to an appropriate size, work out the kinks, and revise it to the point of readability.
That said, in between novel drafts I've had three halfway-decent story ideas. Two of those are ready for submission. The third has been unceremoniously scrapped.
“Heel Turn” takes place in the world of small-time professional wrestling. It concerns a mixed-race jobber (bottom-of-the-card attraction) whose career begins to take off when his promotor changes his gimmick to an offensive racial caricature. While initially thrilled to be drawing a crowd, he soon has to grapple with his conscience, as the crowd’s response becomes both more enthusiastic and more disturbing.
"Gallows Point" is about two retired espionage agents who agree to fight a duel on a remote island in the Pacific Northwest. It's influenced by the Musashi Miyamoto film "Duel at Ganryu Island," Conrad's "The Secret Agent" and Robert E Howard's Weird Tales fiction.
I have two other stories making the rounds. "The Third Echo" involves an entertainment lawyer who flies to Glasgow to identify the body of his star client's sister. "August in the Pines" is an epistolary story which I'd describe as 'a geriatric "Badlands."'
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11/19/12: I've been tagged by Robin Spano in the Next Big Thing Writers Questionnaire. Robin's first novel DEAD POLITICIANS SOCIETY was really good, and she's a cool force in Canadian crime writing. So here goes. I've posted my answers, and I've tagged five other writers.
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Ten Interview Questions for the Next Big Thing:
Q. What is the working title of your book?
LAST OF THE INDEPENDENTS, forthcoming from Dundurn in 2013.
Q. Where did the idea come from for the book?
I had a couple of goals in writing LAST OF THE INDEPENDENTS. I wanted to write a private eye novel that would avoid some of the cliches of private eye fiction, and get back to the essential nature of the PI novel, which is one person searching for truth in a corrupt society. I envisioned PI Mike Drayton as being young, mid-to late twenties, and influenced by the DIY ethic. Sort of a Henry Rollins of private detection, running his business on the fly, with minimal support and interference. A lo-fi, analog private eye agency struggling to do business against corrupt or compromised competitors with more money and less soul. I also wanted to write about Vancouver.
Q. What genre does your book fall under?
It's a crime novel set in Vancouver.
Q. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Ian Rankin said he avoided the TV versions of Rebus because he didn't want his characterizations influenced by the actors. At the beginning, I based aspects of the characters off of real people, but they've now taken on their own reality, and I wouldn't want to compromise that.
The exception is Mike's grandfather, who I describe as looking like Victor McLaglen. McLaglen was an old-time actor who often played John Wayne's rival or sidekick in John Ford movies. He was an ex-boxer who once fought Jack Johnson for the heavyweight championship (in Vancouver, no less). McLaglen had that weird combination of danger and sentimentality that certain members of the Greatest Generation had. It made for a nice analog to the feelings Mike has for his policeman grandfather's legacy.
I also describe one person as belonging to the West Coast chapter of Dennis Franz Lookalikes.
Q. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
An iconoclastic PI searches for a missing child, while trying to keep his business from being subsumed by unscrupulous competitors.
Q. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Neither, actually. Dundurn picked up LAST OF THE INDEPENDENTS after the book won the 2012 Arthur Ellis Award for Best Unpublished First Novel, the "Unhanged Arthur." I don't have an agent at the moment.
Q. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
A first draft takes a few months. LAST OF THE INDEPENDENTS took longer, since I was working on my Master's at the time.
Q. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
There is a Chandler and Hammett influence, as with all North American crime fiction, but also Josephine Tey, Walter Mosely, Dennis Lehane, Arnaldur Indridason, Ian Rankin, Charles Portis and Elmore Leonard.
Q. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My friends inspired aspects of the characters. My friend Andrew Nicholls runs his own audio recording business on Vancouver Island. Some of the struggles he's gone through in keeping his doors open and remaining competitive inspired the business aspects of Michael Drayton's private eye agency. My fellow grad student Michael Stachura sprang for more than his share of pitchers while I was struggling to get through my first draft, keep up with school and find gainful employment. My friends Mel Yap, Mercedes Eng and Jess Driscoll all helped or inspired me at various stages. And my family, of course.
Q. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The Crime Writers of Canada judges called LAST OF THE INDEPENDENTS "A thoroughly satisfying read. An opening that grabs you, fast-moving and at times very funny with snappy dialogue, nice writing and intriguing plot...LAST OF THE INDEPENDENTS was our unanimous choice as winner of the Unhanged Arthur Award." And the sequel will be even better! Not to give too much away, but it deals with a very thorny issue in the city's recent history, thrusting Mike into a decades-old disappearance of a troubled girl. I'm working on revising that now.
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here's my tag list:
Jess Driscoll runs several blogs, including factsarenothing.com. She's working on her debut novel, a love story set on the campaign trail. She's probably my favorite person to talk with about writing.
Mercedes Eng teaches at Coquitlam College alongside myself. She has published chapbooks and run workshops in the Downtown Eastside. Her first book is slated to come out next year from Capilano College press. She's currently working on a long-form poetry project about her father.
Stephanie Gray won the Vancouver Writers Festival short story contest a year ago and is working on her first novel.
Harry Tournemille was awarded an Ontario arts grant to finish his first novel. He writes fiction and short fiction and nothing more.
Gyles Augustus Montesquieu is a made-up person whose name I included because I couldn't think of a fifth writer. He's written seventeen novels, all of them unpublished, and for good reason. He's addicted to laudanum and impure thoughts.
10/12/12: The Improv Playhouse in Illinois is staging my adaptation of Frankenstein on October 27th. I'm thrilled. I had a good conversation with David Stuart, the director, and I'm really interested to see what they do with it.
Also, Andrew Nicholls started filming The Falls yesterday, with actors from The Nanaimo Film Group. This is another project I'm very excited about.
10/3/12: I enjoyed the hell out of the workshop. Nice people. Mercedes did an amazing job coordinating and overseeing the day. And some of the poems weren't too bad.
9/26/12: This Saturday I'll be assisting my friend Mercy with a chapbook-making workshop at the Carnegie Centre in Downtown Vancouver. It's part of the Word on the Street Festival. Mercy's workshop is designed to empower people who might not normally have a venue to publish by helping them type, format, and print off a run of chapbooks. Should be fun.
9/10/12: The Falls, Andrew Nicholls's and my horror film, is lurching forward with casting and prop construction. On the weekend Andrew built a squib (bullet effect) that doesn't use gunpowder (and hence won't need costly supervision and permits). He's currently at work on a collapsible crane/jib system. Andrew is the MacGuyver of art-related technology.
8/28/12: A few days ago I finished the rough draft of my next novel. All I can say is that it builds on Last of the Independents, putting the main character in a position of compromise while raising the stakes considerably. It also explores the city of Vancouver to a greater extent. I'm excited.
Speaking of LOTI, publication is moving forward. The Dundurn people have been great.
For those of you who've been following me on this website, you've probably noticed a paucity of information about the novel. Here's a few paragraphs that explain what LOTI is about and what I'm going for.
My original idea for Last of the Independents was to write about "the Henry Rollins of private detection." Rollins is a former singer for the bands Black Flag and The Rollins Band. Al Pacino throws him through a screen door in the movie Heat. Rollins operates his own record company and publishing imprint, putting out jazz records, war vet poetry, and his own spoken word shows. He published Nick Cave's first novel, And the Ass Saw the Angel. I think that DIY ethic of "fuck it, I'll do it myself" translates well to the detective story.
The private detective has always been someone slightly off the grid. More specifically, it's someone who's his or her own person, but can move through different social circles, at once belonging and not belonging. As my friend Mercy might say, the PI is an "in-betweener."
Raymond Chandler's essay "The Simple Art of Murder" lays out the contradictions of private detective fiction. Chandler's essay has been quoted to death, especially the ending:
"But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world....He is a relatively poor man, or he would not be a detective at all. He is a common man or he could not go among common people. He has a sense of character, or he would not know his job. He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him. He talks as the man of his age talks, that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness....He has a range of awareness that startles you, but it belongs to him by right, because it belongs to the world he lives in."
I believe Chandler's essay has been severely misinterpreted by the writers who came after him. There is a far better and simpler quote from Chandler's essay regarding the topic of theme:
"I do not know what the loftiest level of literary achievement is: neither did Aeschylus or Shakespeare; neither does Miss Sayers. Other things being equal, which they never are, a more powerful theme will provoke a more powerful performance. Yet some very dull books have been written about God, and some very fine ones about how to make a living and stay fairly honest."
"How to make a living and stay fairly honest" is the crux of the detective story, not the wisecracks or tough talk, not the casual violence or the hysterical femmes fatales or the hardboiled metaphors. The detective novel is a novel of ethics, a novel of work. It's about making money in the real world, balancing that need with concepts like truth and morality and justice, which are often lumped together but are very distinct.
The paradox behind the private detective story is relevant today. How do you maintain integrity and ethics in the face of compromise? How do you engage with a world that is unfair, corrupt, violent, indifferent, and still often beautiful?
[Speaking as a critic, I think the private eye novel gets short shrift from academics precisely because of the different choices between those two professions. Both academics and private detectives (the fictional kind, which bear little resemblance to their real world counterparts) are fascinated by how society works. The academic engages with the world at a remove, relying on the academy for finance, studying the world of work and politics without committing to that world. The private detective, like the artist, is all in. The world of work is all she has. Hence the overwhelming amount of criticism about the fictional private detective as embodying "middle-class tensions and fears." As if those tensions of work and pride were isolated in the middle class, as if the middle class were itself a solid thing. A lot of criticism happens to be both true and hopelessly myopic.]
In Last of the Independents, the intersection between commerce, justice and missing people (Mike Drayton's specialty) is difficult to navigate. It mirrors the way a lot of younger people feel in trying to stake out a place in this world for themselves, balancing finance with the things they care about, be it ecology, social justice or family.
In Last of the Independents, it's an arduous road that Drayton adheres to. There is money in some cases and none in others, and he must strike a balance between the dictates of his conscience and of his pocketbook. As we all must.
What complicates things is the law. Mike has a hard time accepting the limits of his role as a private investigator. He's faced with an opportunity to advance the case of a missing child by doing something the legality of which is questionable.
If you could return a missing child to his father, would you bend the law? Break it? Transgress it outright? What would you be willing to become in order to accomplish that? Is a crime in the service of a greater good any different than a crime for personal gain? Who makes that distinction?
Last of the Independents is Mike Drayton's crucible. He's young, and the ramifications of the novel will carry over the rest of his career. The title is meant to suggest a lack of compromise, a total integrity, and the loneliness that goes with it. But the title comes from a seventies crime film about a criminal. A criminal with ethics, but a criminal nonetheless.
And if all that pontificating seems like bullshit, let me say: Last of the Independents is fiction. Fiction is meant to entertain. I hope you find it entertaining. I hope the jokes work. I hope you buy it and enjoy it and pass it on to a friend. Because I'm in this, same as you. I'm not above shilling, but I'm going to shill for something I believe in.
7/24/12: "You just have to relax and immediately start thinking about the novel next after the current one you are writing ... isn't that what writers do, work on one, imagine another, and get paid for the first?"
My mom is a total badass.
7/22/12: Yesterday I marked the last of my exams. Once I hand in my grade sheets tomorrow, I'm done until September.
This summer I'm going to explore the parts of Vancouver I don't know all that well, like Bowen Island and the North Shore. I LOVE that I can do this--learn about my city, the place I live and the setting of some of my work--under the guise of "research."
Kwantlen has featured me in a Q&A for their alumni newsletter, which you can read here if you so choose.
The next novel is going well. I'm meeting my thousand word daily quota, even with marking and all of life's intrusions.
7/6/12: Picture of the awesome-looking Arthur Ellis award here. Yes, it is propped on my turntable, and yes, that is a poster for Orson Welles' Touch of Evil in the background.
6/26/12: Dundurn Press has accepted Last of the Independents for publication. Exciting!
6/22/12: Nice press release on the Arthur Ellis win from the Kwantlen Alumni association. It's funny thinking that out of one cohort, quite a few writers have emerged. My friend Harry Tournemille recently got a government grant to finish his first novel. My friend Jess is almost done hers. Another friend, Stephanie Grey, won last year's short story contest at the Vancouver Writers Festival. None of us except Harry really seemed to enjoy taking creative writing classes. It was just the coincidence of geography.
For all the alone-ness and apart-ness of writing, it's really a discipline of communication. Which makes it by its very nature a shared experience. Sometimes I forget that.
6/4/12: From the Crime Writers of Canada website:
Best Unpublished First Novel - “Unhanged Arthur”
Last of the Independents by Sam Wiebe
"A thoroughly satisfying read. An opening that grabs you, fast-moving and at times very funny with snappy dialogue, nice writing and intriguing plot. Very professional, and almost ready for publication. Last of the Independents was our unanimous choice as winner of the Unhanged Arthur Award."
This is incredibly cool. The winners were announced at the CWC Conference in Toronto on Thursday. I wanted to be there but my teaching commitment precluded it. But thank you, CWC. This means a lot to me.
I'd also like to thank my parents and my brothers Dan and Josh, as well as Andrew and Lauren Nicholls, Mike Stachura, Jess Driscoll, Mercy Eng, and Mel Yap.
There were nice writeups in the Post and on Canada.com. The other nominees were amazing. You can read all the excerpts at CBC Writes, which published my excerpt on Friday.
In addition to that, I'm revising The Falls, a screenplay for a "survival/horror" film with an anticipated shooting date of August 2012. I'll be working on that with Andrew Nicholls and the Nanaimo Film Group. There's a Falls page at Permanent Records which is worth checking out. We'll also be rerecording some of the audio for Frankenstein over the summer, now that my brother Josh is in town.
On a more positive and shameless note, my name is mentioned in the National Post today. I spent the weekend cooking up a bio and excerpt for another media outlet. Very exciting. Here's my author photo.
There's an integrity to the vertical lines and a distinctly brutalist suggestion what with the ruined castle--but also, dare I say it, a hint of playful insouciance?
5/1/12: Okay. All right. Okay.
It is May first. I'm just home from a three-week trip to Europe that took in London, Stratford-upon-Avon, Paris, Dublin, Glasgow, Sitlring, Edinburgh, and Montrose/St Cyrus. I've been on the go for about twenty hours now and the crash is imminent, but I want to address a few recent developments.
First, let me thank Jess Driscoll for updating my website in my absence. She keeps a great blog called Facts Are Nothing and her web site is a lot prettier than mine. I'd also like to thank the Stachura family for hosting me for a few days in Montrose. I had the time of my life.
My thoughts on the Arthur Ellis shortlist nomination are as follows: I am deeply honored and I am very thankful for the exposure. Write-ups have appeared in The CBC, the National Post, and the Nanaimo Daily News, as well as on a lot of great blogs and websites. There may--nay, there WILL--be more cool news coming up, so stay plugged in.
Doesn't have the ring of "stay tuned," does it? Ever stop to think about all the great vocabulary that digitalization is making obsolete? When was the last time a phone rang, or a doorbell chimed? When was the last time--OK, Carlin, we get it, save the rest for your comedy routine.
4/28/12: There's a short write-up about the Arthur Ellis Awards from CBC, and the Crime Writers of Canada have released the shortlist as a PDF with more information about the writers and books.
4/20/12: My novel, Last of the Independents, is on the shortlist for the Crime Writers of Canada's Best Unpublished Novel award, the Unhanged Arthur. It's exciting and a little unbelievable, but here's the list. We find out the winner May 31st.
3/19/12: The Winter 2012 issue of Spinetingler is out now, and is available [ebook] on Amazon. My story "Black Light Marker" is in it.
True to my word, as of March, my Steve Rolston sketch of Hemingway punching out Jack Kerouac has been framed, while my master's degree sits in a box somewhere at my parents'.
3/15/12: My story "Humanitarian" [full title: "He's No Humanitarian, But Damn, Can He Take a Punch"] was published online in Thousand Islands Life magazine. You can read it here.
2/25/12: A short story I wrote, "Black Light Marker," is getting published in Spinetingler Magazine.
2/19/12: Re-posted the updated third draft of the Frankenstein script, with fewer errors.
2/4/12: Posted full texts of the 'Bus Fight' story and the Frankenstein radio script, which are yours to enjoy--free-just for perusing this ugly website. You're welcome, internet.
1/30/12: "Credit Roll" by East Vanguard was played on CITR's "Parts Unknown" radio show. Check it out here at 1:05:00. Nice plug for the album after that. CITR is UBC's radio station.
1/23/12: Yesterday the Island was hit by storms. All sailings from Departure Bay were cancelled. I spent the night at my friend Andrew's and caught the earliest sailing this morning. Watching the sun come up from the observation deck as we crossed the Georgia Straight was some consolation.
1/3/12 : A profitable and cancer-free 2012 to the half-dozen or so people who check here on a regular basis.
The Frankenstein recording sessions went down yesterday. I was very pleased with the result. Andrew Nicholls of Permanent Records handled the recording duties, so it should sound a hell of a lot better than Hamlet--which is no aspersion against that fine work.
Recording these radio plays, with sixteen-plus people crammed into my apartment, I feel as close to the way Swearengen must have felt during the "we're forming a fucking government" episodes of Deadwood.
12/7/11: Melvin Yap has finished his album "Material Witness" under the moniker East Vanguard. You can hear it at Sound Cloud here. I played drums on all the tracks except "Material Witness." I'm very happy with how it turned out. If you like '70s film music a la Lalo Schifrin or Oliver Nelson, you'll probably like this. And if not, then you've wasted two seconds checking out the website of an independent musician from Vancouver. Consider it patronage of the arts in the form of donating your time.
11/26/11: My esteemed colleague and fellow inebriate Michael Stachura alerted me to the fact that my undergraduate essay on Cormac McCarthy and Nietzsche had been published online and wasn't linked to my website. Now it is.
10/21/11: Posted some older blog posts in the "Essays, Missives and Screeds" section. Some of what's on footinmouthandheadupass.blogspot.com is embarassing--me going through reactionary grad school angst, making jejeune political statements, or picking a fight with people who didn't deserve it. But quite a few posts made me laugh to beat the band. It was a great blog, just disorganized, sloppy, and pulling in too many directions.
While I was reading through my old blog I came to this post: http://footinmouthandheadupass.blogspot.com/2009/09/don-crutchfield.html . It was about me realizing that Don Crutchfield, a "Private Investigator to the stars" who James Ellroy turned into a character in his novel Blood's A Rover, had written a book I'd read years before. It's not a profound post by any means, just me making a connection with my own reading history. But look who posted in the comments section:
How fucked up is that?
10/21/11: Met Ian Rankin at the Writer's Festival. Really nice guy. I asked a floor question about how closely a crime writer should follow actual investigative procedure, and he told a story about how, when he started the first Rebus book, he wrote a letter to the Chief of Police asking for permission to visit the police station. Long story short, Rankin ended up a suspect in a murder investigation.
When I got his signature later, I told him I was an aspiring crime writer. He said, "Remember, Sam, we've all been where you are just now." Which is a great point.
Also at the festival were Denise Mina, Stuart MacBride, Peter Robinson, and a local guy, all of whom seemed really cool and had interesting things to say. When asked the best piece of advice he'd ever got, MacBride answered: "Be less shit."
10/13/11: Autumn in Vancouver is the best place in the world at the best time of the year. If it were any prettier, it would have superfluous em-dashes and have been written by Emily Dickinson.
9/21/11: My Scene of the Crime award arrived today. Framable certificate, fifty dollar check, and an offer to publish the story on their website (or link to it via mine). Either way the story should be up somewhere soon.
9/15/11: I did some drumming for Mel Yap's album "East Vanguard." He writes amazing songs. One of the demos ended up as the soundtrack to a short film Mel made to promote his friend Peng's art show at Jacana Gallery. Video here.
8/18/11: Hamlet is now on iTunes. Check out http://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/wiebe-brothers-present/id458287924 .