From Pg. 1
“All around. Have you seen the light in the night sky?”
“I thought those were the Northern Lights.” The pink and green and white shifting, flowing against the stars. Like something alive, glowing, and growing. And approaching.
Olivier Brulé lowered his gaze, no longer able to look into the troubled, lunatic eyes across from him. He’d lived with this story for so long, and kept telling himself it wasn’t real. It was a myth, a story told and repeated and embellished over and over and over. Around fires just like theirs.
It was a story, nothing more. No harm in it.
The idea for this book, both the theme of story telling, of the ‘myth-time, and the title of the book, came completely unexpectedly when Michael and I were visiting Vancouver. We went into their splendid Art Gallery, where there was an exhibit on of one of my favourite artists, Emily Carr. She painted in a flowing, near abstract, style, uncannily capturing a sort of dream world in an area called Haida Gwai. As part of the exhibit, there was context, about the oral traditions of the First Nations. As well as a history of Carr herself. In it they described that she was very very close to her father, until a falling out. After that, she never saw him, spoke to him, spoke of him again. And only ever once referred to what had happened, describing it as ’the brutal telling.’ It came to me, standing there, that I wanted to write a book about myth, about the power of stories, and imagination. And perception. These lines are the beginning of a story woven throughout the book.
From Pg. 26
Most murder investigations appeared complex but were really quite simple. It was just a matter of asking “And then what happened?” over and over and over.
Ha – what they’re really saying is that a great investigator listens. Closely. I actually got this idea from my time as an interviewer on CBC Radio, where most of the time the best thing the interviewer can do is get out of the way, and help the person tell an often painful story. And listen, very, very closely.
From Pg. 23
He’d once heard a judge say the most humane way to execute a prisoner was to tell him he was free. Then kill him.
Gamache had struggled against that, argued against it, railed against it. Then finally, exhausted, had come to believe it.
This is something a high school teacher said, almost in passing, to my class. I can’t remember the context, but I do remember being appalled. And revisiting this idea over and over. Until, as I got older and became aware of my own mortality, I came to believe it might be true. This isn’t in any way a call to capital punishment, which I find repulsive. But simply an acknowledgement that maybe not knowing is the kindest way to go. I also liked showing this part of Gamache. That he is not at all dogmatic. He’s willing, and able, to face tough questions, and change his mind.
From Pg. 31
“Can’t imagine what Gamache thinks of us,” said Myrna. “Every time he shows up there’s a body.”
“Every Quebec village has a vocation,” said Clara. “Some make cheese, some wine, some pots. We produce bodies.”
Now, this is facing a slight problem head on. No use pretending that the body count in Three Pines (a village continuously described as idyllic) is in any way normal. Might as well embrace this abnormality, own it, even have some fun with it, then move on. I really hadn’t thought of this when I first started writing the books. As a result, I didn’t want to strain credibility too much, so many of the actual deaths now happen elsewhere. But the investigations are conducted from the village.
From Pg. 33
People lied all the time in murder investigations. If the first victim of war was the truth, some of the first victims of a murder investigation were people’s lies. The lies they told themselves, the lies they told each other. The little lies that allowed them to get out of bed on cold, dark mornings.
The Gamache books are absolutely crime novels, murder mysteries, but the biggest mystery in each is human behaviour. Human nature. And part of that nature is a certain willful disregard for the truth about ourselves. That’s what I love exploring. What motivates us. Thomas Hobbes said that hell is truth seen too late. That’s the vortex around which THE BRUTAL TELLING swirls.