War and Drink by Melissa Yi
“I could make Hope a custom gin.” —Nathalie Gamache, artisan distiller and board-certified gynecologist
Nathalie’s offer to create a gin for my main character, Dr. Hope Sze, delighted me. I’m an emergency doctor myself, and when we met online through a physician group, I felt that Nathalie understands Hope’s courage and fears as a resident doctor who solves crimes.
In honour of a custom gin, though, I’d have to focus on alcohol in my next medical thriller. And I hardly drink!
However, I was soon fascinated by the history of booze and crime. I began reading Frenchie, the story of a Quebec man who joined Al Capone’s gang in Chicago for 8 years.
I discovered that Montreal, the main site of my Hope Sze series, was a vacation magnet during Prohibition, as Americans flowed north for “giggle water” (liquor), jazz, and “pro skirts” (prostitutes in 1920’s slang). Unfortunately, buildings from the era were destroyed to make way for new construction.
Luckily, la Maison de Bootlegger is still standing in Charlevoix, Quebec. This building was a speakeasy, a place where they illegally sold alcohol, so you had to “speak easy,” or softly, about its location. Now it’s a restaurant with a nightly rock and roll show. Make your dinner reservations early so you can get the tour. I enjoyed tiptoeing into hidden rooms, observing hidden booze shelves, and creeping through a secret passageway in Elvis Presley’s footsteps.
Seriously, Elvis was here. He even left his signature!
Much further east, at the Age of Sail Museum in Nova Scotia, I noted the Family Temperance Pledge in their Bible and realized that of course the Maritime provinces, right on the sea, would sail liquor to the U.S. I read later that the income was a boon to Nova Scotia fishermen, suffering from a regional recession in the 1920’s. But as the Temperance movement pointed out, that money came at a social cost: alcoholics beat their families and spent their money on drink instead of food.
So there was no shortage of writing inspiration for me, both in terms of liquor and of crime. But how could I weave it all together in my novel, White Lightning? Especially when I took a side journey researching 19th century England, how could I draw it all together into a thriller featuring my thoroughly 21st century heroine, Hope Sze?
The solution: more research.
Hope visits the Rumrunner’s Rest, a Prohibition inn inspired by la Maison de Bootlegger, but in Windsor, where 75 percent of alcohol flowed across the Detroit River onto U.S. soil. To maximize the chaos, Hope also has to navigate a con filled with people dressed up like fictional villains from the The Wicked Witch of the West to Children of the Corn.
I literally played with the historical elements: I wrote the 19th Century portion first as a play called “The Climbing Boy” in a playwriting class at George Brown College, which was turned into a Lego stop action movie at the digital Winnipeg Fringe. I folded “The Climbing Boy” into White Lightning thanks to some inspiration from author Simone St. James.
In other words, in White Lightning, I tried to capture the glamour as well as the murder and treachery of Prohibition.
As William Faulkner pointed out, “War and drink are the two things man is never too poor to buy.”
So let’s raise a glass and grab a book as we turn the page on a new year!
Hope Sze Medical Mystery Book 9
Prohibition and Predators.
Hope Sze escapes for a romantic weekend away at the Rumrunner’s Rest, a Roaring Twenties inn once celebrated both for Prohibition’s best alcohol and the smoothest jazz bands north of the Detroit River.
Then a convention of fictional villains overrun the tavern, her friend glimpses a ghost, and Hope uncovers a grisly surprise in the fireplace that may be related to Al Capone.
Tonight, unless Hope unravels a century’s worth of clues, death will collect several more lives. Including the one she holds most dear.
Direct links: https://books2read.com/whitelightningyi
Melissa Yi, also known as Dr. Melissa Yuan-Innes, studied emergency medicine at McGill University in Montreal. She was so shocked by the patients crammed into the waiting area, and the examining rooms without running water, that she began to contemplate murder. And so she created Dr. Hope Sze, the resident who could save lives and fight crime. Her most recent crime novel, White Lightning, is already up for many awards. She appeared on CBC Radio’s Ontario Morning and recently had so many print interviews that an addiction services counsellor said, “I see you in the newspaper more often than I see you in the emergency room.”
Dr. Melissa Yuan-Innes applied to medical school mostly because she wanted to save lives, but also because she’s nosy. Medicine is a fascinating and frustrating window into other people’s lives. She shares her sometimes painful, occasionally hilarious stories in The Medical Post, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and in her essay collections The Most Unfeeling Doctor in the World, FIfty Shades of Grey’s Anatomy, and Broken Bones.
Author central: amazon.com/author/myi