A Mystery Becomes a Mystery Novel

A Mystery Becomes a Mystery Novel

Posted on October 11 by Dave Butler
Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on Pinterest

The scene: Banff National Park. It was grey and cold and early November. With a light snowfall hinting at the coming winter, we followed an unkindness of ravens to the bull elk lying only metres from the Trans-Canada Highway. It was on its side, horribly mutilated, and it was clearly dead from something other than natural causes. When my warden partner and I found the bullet hole in the elk’s shoulder, we were silent. With equal measures of anguish and resolve, we shared a look that said what words couldn’t: it was a brutal and bold assault on the park, a mystery we would solve, no matter the hurdles that might stand in our way.

That incident, and the resulting investigation that led to convictions against an American hunter and his Canadian accomplices, were my initial inspiration for the first Jenny Wilson Mystery, Full Curl. When we found that elk in Banff, fines for poaching in Canada’s National Parks were as low as $250. $250! Thankfully, that has changed. Now, fines are at least $15,000, and can be as high as $1 million. “Good,” I hear you say, “they should be higher.”

Trophy hunting for animals provokes significant emotion around the world, on both sides of the debate. Whether it’s elephants, rhinos, or lions in Africa (remember Cecil?), tigers in Asia, or grizzly bears on BC’s west coast, nothing gets social media buzzing with vitriol more than an image of a trophy hunter posing with his (or her) kill. If it’s in a national park, or if it’s illegal, the debate grows louder.

Out of either courage or wisdom (perhaps some of both), I won’t use this space to try to answer the question of whether trophy hunting is morally or ethically acceptable in the twenty-first century. You can – and likely will -- decide for yourself.

Instead, what I attempt to do in Full Curl is, through the wonders of fiction, explore a range of perspectives on what’s clearly a complex and emotional issue. As the characters led me on a tumultuous journey of deceit, distraction, and discovery, I peeled back the layers of human motivation. What drives someone to shoot an animal and put its head on a wall? What about those who help them do it? Is it greed? An egotistical attempt to dominate? A deep-seated yearning for appreciation or admiration? Do they view themselves as conservationists, or is that nothing more than justification after the fact? And what about the people who chase those who illicitly take animals for trophies? Should they always follow the rules in their battle to bring bad guys to justice? How far should they go?

In writing Full Curl, I learned as much about myself as I did about my characters and their motivations. In reading Full Curl, I hope you’ll find yourself doing the same. 

Dave Butler

Posted by Kendra on November 1, 2016
Dave Butler photo

Dave Butler

Dave Butler is a forester and biologist living in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. His writing and photography have appeared in numerous Canadian publications. Dave is Director of Sustainability at Canadian Mountain Holidays, a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal winner, and a Royal Canadian Geographical Society Fellow. He lives in Cranbrook, British Columbia.