Police kill an unarmed civilian and the Director the Special Police Oversight Agency risks his career seeking justice.
- Fiction, Literary Fiction, Thriller
- Page Length:
- 250 – 500 Pages
- Book Status:
- Completed Manuscript
An unarmed man dies in a stand-off with police officers on Boxing Day in a crowded Toronto shopping mall. Wyn Rhys, Director of the Special Police Oversight Agency, is tasked with investigating it. Will this case be like almost every other case in the history of the fledgling agency, hobbled by an uncooperative and secretive police force, or will the shocking video of the incident, taken by a mysterious bystander, give SPOA the public support they need to bring the police to justice?
Blue Suicide is a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the politics and deal-brokering between the police and the oversight agency that investigates them when any civilian is killed, seriously injured, or harassed in the line of duty. It explores the impact on the lives of the families of the victims and how technology has empowered citizens and reversed the concept of the ‘surveillance society’. It is also the story of Wyn Rhys, a police officer turned investigator turned Director of SPOA and his personal demons, as he grapples with complicated feelings for a female survivor from one of his early investigations.
Interview with Jennifer Venner
Why did you write the book?
I am interested in social justice and stories that are both thought-provoking and timely. I wrote this book because I was shocked and dismayed when I saw a video, caught on a cellphone camera of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish man in distress being tasered to death in a Vancouver airport in 2006. This video went viral and called into question how police deal with people with mental health and addiction issues. Fast forward to 2013 and Toronto to the outrage around the death of another man, Sammy Yatim, who was shot nine times by police while holding nothing but a small knife. In the US there are even more egregious abuses of power by police. My research, aided in part by a former police investigator and by the Special Investigations Unit in Toronto (the model for the police investigations agency in the book) revealed to me the intense power struggles between the police and the oversight agencies that are tasked to investigate them and how police culture persists in being macho, racist, and misogynist, as well as secretive and collusive. The thin blue line still exists, perhaps now more than ever, and must be challenged for the sake of the safety of our most vulnerable citizens.
What was your inspiration for the book?
I have never been particularly interested in writing what are typically called ‘procedural’ books – crime, mystery- because they generally eschew character development in favour of plot and of course, procedure. Books that diverge from this treatment, such as To Kill a Mockingbird and Graham Greene’s The Heart of the Matter served as inspiration; the characters, while engaged in complex work (law, security) were troubled, complex, fragile. I wanted to capture some of that in the protagonist, Wyn Rhys, the director of a police investigations agency, who has lost the thread of meaning in his life just at a time that he is faced with one of the most dramatic cases of his career. I wanted to explore contrast between the public man – pragmatic, methodical, cold – and the private man, who is fearful and confused, who feels estranged from loved ones, having always made his career his main priority. There are tragic consequences when the private man seizes control of his life at a time when his public persona is under unparalleled scrutiny. Basically, I wrote a book not about a man doing a job but a job undoing a man.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
Like most writers, I have to keep body and soul together, so I have a fulltime employment, in the healthcare sector. I have two marvelous children, an active life in my community and many interests: art, travel, philosophy, literature.
What do you plan to do with the funds you raise?
I was delighted to be accepted for publication by Iguana Books, which is a new, hybrid publishing house in Toronto that has a standard of quality comparable to a traditional publisher, but publishes and distributes books electronically. It is not a vanity press, but instead utilizes crowdfunding to harness the resources necessary to bring a book to a readership, through their online bookstore but also through other, more traditional outlets. The opportunities for writers to find readers in new and exciting ways (and get paid to do it!) in the online world are vast, and more and more talented people in the industry are taking advantage of them. I’m excited to count myself among the pioneers in this new territory.
With the funds I raise I will be working with an editor on the next draft of my novel and preparing marketing materials to promote my book and raise awareness about systemic problems in law enforcement in North America.
Jennifer Venner wrote her first novel at age 12, inspired by a rapturous encounter with Anne of Green Gables. She then took a 20-year hiatus from novel writing to go to highschool and university, get married, work for the mafia in Russia, attend graduate school and have two children. In 2005 she was commissioned to write a play, titled Hearts Made Great for Orchestra London, which was re-mounted in 2006. She has published short fiction and is working on her second novel, about online dating.