Arts

Image: The Dying Detective cover/Dasser Kamran/Fulcrum

We caught up with Professor Lynch to discuss his new book, set in and around the U of O

Professor Gerald Lynch, a long-time English professor at the University of Ottawa, is set to release his upcoming novel, The Dying Detective, later this month. 

Lynch describes the novel as “the stand-alone conclusion” to his mystery trilogy, which follows the comings and goings of retired detective Kevin Beldon. The Dying Detective is set right here in Ottawa, and makes frequent reference of the University of Ottawa (particularly its criminology program!). 

The Fulcrum sat down to chat with Professor Lynch earlier this week about the new book, which is now available for purchase on Amazon.

The Fulcrum (TF) Thanks for taking the time to do this, Professor Lynch. To get started: you say that The Dying Detective is set in and around Ottawa. Did you want to talk about that a little?

Gerald Lynch (GL): Well, yes. My family and I have lived here for years, and our moves from place to place seem to have shown up in my novels, too. When we lived in Blackburn-Hamlet, I tended to write about the suburbs more, and we’re now downtown, so the settings have mostly shifted there. 

I like writing about the place I live. Ottawa’s a great place to write about! And I think it’s under-written about, so I like getting to do something different from other writers. The main character, Detective Kevin Beldon, actually has his MA in Criminology from the University of Ottawa, and the university is featured in all three novels.

TF: That’s super interesting. And each novel in your mystery trilogy features Beldon, right?

GL: That’s right.

TF: That’s a very Irish name!

GL: Yes, I suppose it is! I was born in Monaghan, Ireland and came to Canada when I was a boy. I think I just like Irish names – I’ve used Seamus a few times, which has the added benefit of that “shame-us” double meaning – and I tend to come back to them. The main character Kevin’s wife is Irish, too – Trixie Beldon. 

I don’t think I pick Irish names to mirror any part of my real life, per se, but I think it makes sense that there are some resonances between an author’s life and their work. And I think there’s always that pull towards beginnings and roots – I don’t necessarily try for Irish content, but gravitate towards it.

TF: That makes sense! Were you an avid mystery fan before?

GL: Not really, actually. I grew up reading a decent amount of Sherlock Holmes – The Dying Detective is actually an Arthur Conan Doyle title. And I like Martin Amis’ Night Train and Jack Vance’s mystery writing. But I wanted to play with genre, and I think I’ve done that in this series. 

TF: It’s interesting what you say about the title. It seems pretty “on-the-nose”; did you want to talk about that a bit? It almost feels like they might be a trap.

GL: Well, yes. All of my titles have been pretty simple [The Dying Detective, Missing Children, Omphalos, to name a few]. I won’t spoil anything, but the titles tend to have more than one meaning in the context of the novels’ content.

TF: Fascinating. To pivot a little – how’s COVID been for your writing process?

GL: Only positive, actually! (Laughs.) I’ve had time to finish all the production and final touches on the book, figure out the cover, that sort of thing. Teaching online has been a pain, though. But really, COVID didn’t really have any negative impact on my process or anything.

TF: Glad to hear it! Any final remarks on The Dying Detective?

GL: Just a little joke: Christmas is coming. Buy it. But in all seriousness, it’s a fun read, and for a U of O student would be a good break from your studies. I think it’s fun getting to read something set in the place that you live – it was certainly great fun to write.