February 5th, 2020 ~ Vol. 90 No. 5
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Canadian Author has storyline intertwined in Crowsnest Pass
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
David Selles
Pass Herald Reporter
John Barr is a writer based out of Vancouver, BC who has ties to the Crowsnest Pass.

“My first wife was from the Pass and my first Father-in-Law worked for one of the coal companies. I spent a lot of time in the Pass when I was in my 20's and 30's and I fell in love with the place. It's quite a fascinating community.”

For those reasons, Barr’s second book of his trilogy, And Justice For None, features part of the story taking place in the area.

Barr originally started his writing career as a journalist back in the 1960’s at the Edmonton Journal.

As a trained writer and historian, Barr’s first works were non-fiction.

He spent time writing histories about Alberta.

His first was about the rise and fall of social credit and a second was about the origins of western protest.

It wasn’t until after the 80’s and 90’s until Barr truly started his journey as a fiction author.

Barr’s first book, Geronimo’s Cadillac, was published in 2011 and introduces readers to Barr’s fictional character James M Walsh, who’s based on the real James M Walsh.

“I created the character JM Walsh, who's a fictional character but he's a distant descendant of a guy that was actually one of the founders of the Northwest Mounted Police, who's the real JM Walsh. The real JM Walsh was quite a character. He was a frontiersman and he was kind of a legend on the prairies.”
continued below ...
The idea to use a real person and bring a fictitious character out of it was something Barr always liked.

“I liked the idea of thinking that was then and this is now. What would happen if he had a great great grandson who also got into the Mounted Police and that was like Walsh and what would it be like after he left the police? So the character is in his late 40's or early 50's and he doesn't find retirement a very happy existence. He misses the adventure and the excitement of investigation and he hasn't really landed anywhere comfortable yet.”

Barr continues Walsh’s journey in his second book.

“He's living in Hillcrest, after a failed career as a rancher near Beaver Mines. He's trying to make a living in the Pass and then he gets this assignment that takes him into Calgary and Cochrane and that area. That's where most of the investigation takes place. He winds up back in the Pass at the end of the story.”

The main storyline of Barr’s second book is that Walsh agrees to investigate the death of a young Blackfoot woman in a suspicious house fire.

The woman’s father, Chief William Starblanket, wants answers and for some reason, the police are silent.

Suspicions point to the woman’s husband, a wounded Afghanistan war veteran; his wealthy and reclusive Alberta business family; and a shadowy private “security” firm with a reputation for black ops.

While Barr wasn't always planning on writing a trilogy, he felt the need to continue Walsh’s story.
continued below ...
"It was a big enough challenge just completing my first novel because I wasn't trained in writing fiction. After I finished the first novel I figured I'd like to follow this man's career now. He's had this one great adventure and so I thought I'd like to follow him and see where he goes. I read other novelists who've said sometimes it happens that you create a character and then that character takes on a life of his own in your mind and leads you into further stories and that's what's happened for me."

The third novel is going to take place completely in the Pass and is going to involve sort of a final reckoning between Walsh and the RCMP.

Speaking again about how he came to choose the Pass as a location for his books, Barr mentioned that other Canadian novelists have based crime novels in bigger areas across Canada.

“The place emotionally resonates with me. Apart from that, after I began writing the second novel, I started researching Canadian crime novels and what I discovered was that most of the Canadian writers have chosen some part of Canada for their location. I thought we need a Canadian series that's based somewhere else other than the bigger locations like Toronto or Montreal and I can't think of a better place in the west for it to be than the Crowsnest Pass.”

According to Barr, it's not necessary for people to read the books in a specific order.

Barr hopes the third book of his trilogy will be completed sometime next year.

Barr isn't sure if there are more books on the way in his future.

"My fantasy would be that there's such overwhelming interest across the world that I'd feel impelled to write a fourth and fifth book but we'll have to wait and see."
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February 5th, 2020 ~ Vol. 90 No. 5
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