25th Trillium Award

Read Ontario, with Ian Hamilton

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The Scottish Banker of Surabaya, by Ian Hamilton

Ontario has a wealth of fantastic writers and amazing stories. From October to mid-November the Ontario Book Publishers Organization is highlighting a selection of Ontario's finest writing from some of the great Ontario publishers. Pick up an Ontario book and ?Read Ontario!?

But just where does the magic happen? Visit the Open Book: Toronto and Open Book: Ontario websites over the next few weeks to find out how living in Ontario has influenced some of our best authors.

Ian Hamilton is the author of five novels in the Ava Lee series, including The Water Rat of Wanchai (House of Anansi), which was the winner of the Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel. His unlikely heroine, smart and savvy forensic accountant Ava Lee, has captivated crime fiction readers with her intellect and detective skills. Fans can look forward to the sixth instalment in the series, The Two Sisters of Borneo, forthcoming from House of Anansi in September 2014.

Visit a participating Read Ontario independent bookstore to purchase your copy of his latest novel, The Scottish Banker of Surabaya or click here for details on how you can enter to win The Scottish Banker of Surabaya and 41 other Read Ontario books.

Read Ontario: Ian Hamilton

I live in and write in Burlington. I have a townhouse about half a kilometre north of the Lake, and two kilometres from the centre of the city. But specifically, I write in my basement. Since I started writing the Ava Lee series, it is the third basement in which I've written because we've moved twice since I started.

The basements have shrunk with every move. The first, where I wrote four Ava Lees, was quite expansive, though not particularly well lit. The second, where I wrote the fifth Ava Lee, was sunlit but cold. Now I write in a tiny office tucked into the corner of the basement. It doesn't have a door so its more alcove than office. Anyway, it is small. Maybe three metres by three metres, and its kind of dark and maybe even gloomy.

Strangely, I think I like this compressed space more than the others. I have my computer and a blank wall in front of me. To my right is a chess table, hand made by an old friend, Chuck Long, from walnut, pine and oak more than 30 years ago. I have notes, pens, batteries and parts of manuscripts piled on it. Above it is a poster that my German publisher issued. It's of Ava Lee's eyes, and above them it reads 'Sie ist sexy, klug und unschlagbar' and beneath, 'Vorhang auf fur Ava Lee'. Whenever I'm depressed, those eyes pick me up. Behind me, there is an oak bookcase that was made by my brother-in-law Graham Field. It has reference books that I never open, photos, mementos from my past life and a row of books signed by authors I've done events with — Andrew Pyper, Guy Vanderhaeghe, Linwood Barclay, John Lawrence Reynolds, Robert Rottenberg, Robin Spano and so on. It?s a row that now overflows the case. There is a separate row for George V. Higgins. He was a Boston writer and an old friend. I have most of his books, all signed.

I wrote the sixth and seventh Ava Lees here, and a prequel, and have just started on number eight. The process is not exactly textbook. I am an early riser, so by six or seven I'm sitting at the computer. I always start by re-reading what I wrote the day before. Then I rewrite it. Always, I rewrite it. For some reason, in this basement, there are fewer distractions and the process seems smooth. Maybe its a case of the compressed space resulting in compressed thoughts.

Of course, I have days when I get stuck. The basement isn't working. Ava Lee's eyes can't get me going. So I put on my running shoes, head out the door, a quick right, and then down Pinecove Road to Lakeshore Road. I'll walk west for half an hour to Spencer Smith Park and then along the Burlington waterfront for another 20 minutes. There is something so raw and powerful about Lake Ontario that by the time the walk is finished something has usually taken hold. It could be a line, even just a word. Whatever, I go back to the basement in Burlington and I write about the world.

Ian Hamilton is the author of five novels in the Ava Lee series, including The Water Rat of Wanchai, which was the winner of the Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel.

Click here to visit Ian Hamilton's website.
Join the Ian Hamilton Facebook page and follow him on Twitter here.

For more information about The Scottish Banker of Surabaya, please visit the House of Anansi website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore, online from the publisher or at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

1 comment

Speaking of the Ava Lee prequel (The Dragon Head of Hong Kong), House of Anansi is giving it away for FREE for a limited time as a serialized ebook. The first instalment will be sent out on November 19th, 2013, and there will be three more instalments to follow, one every week. It'll be available for sale in mid-December.

Here are all the details: houseofanansi.com/AvaLee

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