Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sandra Ruttan: Writing Lullaby For The Nameless

Writing Lullaby For The Nameless

If I had developed a successful formula with the first two books in my series, it was thrown out the window in the third installment. In prior books, readers have seen Ashlyn and Tain partnered on the job, and Ashlyn and Craig personally involved. LULLABY’s old timeline pre-dates the personal relationship and has Ashlyn and Craig partnered on the same task force as Tain.

Until LULLABY, Ashlyn has been the most stable of the three. Tain struggles with his distrust of superiors, the conflict between being Native and leaving the reservations, and his pain over the loss of his young daughter and the tolerated discrimination that may have caused her death. Craig Nolan has a chip on his shoulder and something to prove, making him both relentless and reckless. Ash has been their anchor, personally and professionally.

In LULLABY’s old timeline, Ashlyn lacks experience and struggles as the members of her team spend more time working against each other than on the cases they’ve been assigned.

The relationship dynamics between the three protagonists has changed, as has their experience level, and each has their own agenda. The constables have also been pulled from the familiar backdrop of the Greater Vancouver Area and are working in BC’s rugged Rocky Mountains, near the border to the US.

Just in case I hadn’t set up enough challenges for myself, as I’ve already inferred, LULLABY has intersecting timelines. At the end of THE FRAILTY OF FLESH, Ashlyn was assaulted and miscarried the baby she was carrying. In LULLABY’s current timeline she’s reeling from the loss when she and Tain find themselves standing over a body in a dumpster and realize the victim is a girl they rescued from her abductors in the original investigation, a revelation that rips open old wounds.

And that isn’t the most devastating revelation of all.

Another major difference with LULLABY is that the catalyst for the story was rooted in real cases. For decades, little has been done about BC’s notorious Highway of Tears*. Women have been disappearing, some found murdered and some never found at all, and there’s never been an arrest. In the rural Interior of BC, police resources are stretched thin, and all too often political and racial tensions get in the way when crime spills on to Native reserve land. For the purposes of fiction, the bickering over jurisdiction and prejudices allow for a great backdrop to a story. In reality, these problems are allowing crimes to go unchecked, and denying the victims of these crimes any justice at all.

Glenn Harper (International Noir Fiction) called LULLABY FOR THE NAMELESS a “vivid, noir portrait of the hard-scrabble small towns, ethnic tensions, dark urban corners, and deep forest environments of contemporary Canada, through the eyes of three fascinating, troubled investigators.”

I can’t think of a more fitting summary for a book that has so much going on.

* Readers can learn more about the Highway of Tears through a series of articles from the Vancouver Sun.


Charlieopera said...

This was my favorite of the series to date and can't understand how it isn't a cable series (with David Lynch at the helm). Lullaby filled in many of the teasers set up in the first two.

I reviewed it last week at my place:

Sandra Ruttan said...

You know, it's so neat to be at a point where people can disagree over their favorite in the series. Whichever one people like best, it's nice to be read.

Thanks for inviting me to write a post, Ed.