William Deverell — Novelist

The official website of William Deverell, Winner of the Dashiell Hammett Award for Literary Excellence in North American Crime Writing

It takes a worried man to sing a worried song.

"The act of killing is an act of ultimate love.”

bill holding books

“It takes a worried man to sing a worried song. I’m worried now, but I won’t be worried long.” It’s an old folk song that Arthur Beauchamp can’t get out of his head. But poor old Arthur will have lots to worry about, including his possible violent death.

The back-story:

“Any resemblance to persons living or dead…”

The plot of Worried Man was drawn from a headline murder case I prosecuted some years ago: a thrill killing with bizarre literary nuances–the accused was inspired, copycat fashion, by the serial killer portrayed in Lawrence Sanders’s First Deadly Sin.

Though I practised mainly as as a criminal defence counsel, I was on occasion retained by the Attorney-General of British Columbia for homicide trials, some of which attracted wide public attention.The trial featured in the opening section of this novel roughly recreates one of them, an alleged thrill killing in Vancouver of a lonely down-and-outer.

The accused was John Wurtz, a bright young man visiting from Toronto. On his journey west, he’d been absorbed in The First Deadly Sin, a popular thriller by the late Lawrence Sanders, whose mentally warped serial killer uttered musings like, “The murder of a stranger. A crime without motive… The act of killing is an act of ultimate love.”


Continues…

From The Blog / April 1, 2015

Sing a Worried Song is out … and I’m outa here too

“It takes a worried man to sing a worried song. I’m worried now, but I won’t be worried long.” It’s an old folk song that Arthur Beauchamp can’t get out of his head. But poor old Arthur will have lots to worry about, including his possible violent death.

Whatever happens to him is out of my hands now. Sing a Worried Song is out in hardcover and as an e-book as of today. Now I must return to my untitled, half-finished work-in-progress.

ferry in mist

I’m on my way to ferry and airport.

I’m going off to commune where there’s no phone, no Internet, no email. For three plus months!

Bliss.

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Guess Who Just Hacked Your Blog…

Guest Blog by Bill’s Best Bud / April 2, 2015

That’s your parting shot? “I’m going off to commune where there’s no phone, no Internet, no email.”

You’re off to commune with whom, some hippie muse? Shit, man, we must have missed each other by a crotch hair.

Maybe that was you getting on the ferry as I was getting off. I said to myself, that can’t be Bill. That wild Einsteinian jungle of hair, the cheap sunglasses, the shirt half tucked in. No, couldn’t be you, I decided—you were always a snappy dresser. Back then. In those times of yore.

Don’t bother scrolling down to see who hacked into your blog—yes, it’s me, Bry Pomerantz, faded wunderkind of the big screen, your long-lost, long-ignored side kicker.

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The Wild Hippie Lawyer

Guest Blog by Bill’s Best Bud / April 4, 2015

Yeah, I clipped that item from the National Post. I had no idea. The deep end? You may have tiptoed near the edge. But divorce? Shacking up with hippies?

Flashback to this summery scene: I was sitting on a bench in Stanley Park. A bench I hoped to sleep on if it didn’t rain. The Screenwriters Guild had just denied my appeal to get my membership reinstated. I was homeless, hungover, as taut as a stretched condom, exhausted from ranting on the public pathways.

The final blow had just been delivered that morning: Sue announced I was domestically redundant, and gave me my walking papers. (You won’t know Sue, she was after your time. She’s a lawyer. Also, expensively, an afficionada of fine chopped flake.)

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Escape Fiction

Bry’s Blog / April 7, 2015

Good morning, Blogosphere, I’m back. Hey, Bill, in case you stop by an Internet shop—do they exist where you are?—to check your emails, I have sent a couple to your old Yahoo account. No answer. But of course, anything from muy amigo mio, unheard from for thirty-three years, goes straight into Spam.

I was hoping you might at least glance at your website, your blog, and see my entreaties to make contact. Or maybe one of your cult following of good-humoured, nonconforming eco-liberals, or a relative, your agent, publisher, somebody who knows where the fuck you are, will get word to you that Bry Pomerantz has hacked into both your writing studio and your blog.

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My Near-Death Experience

Bry’s Blog / April 13, 2015

Just had a near-death experience. I was strolling up your driveway when an old pickup rattled down the hill toward me. My only hope was to cannonball into the second growth. Blue Dodge, crumpled fender, peace decal: I told myself to remember these specifics if I survived.

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He that filches my good name

Bry’s Blog / April 22, 2015

Good afternoon, Bill, wherever you are. Still not receiving? Or are you finally tuned in to your blog? I suspect the latter. I see you sitting tight, hoping I’ll go away. I know now why you ran off. Not to escape the horrors of civilization. To avoid me, Bry Pomerantz.

Not just because of the vast guilt and remorse you feel over plagiarizing plot, twists and title of Needles. Yes, the book’s goddamn title—you don’t remember who came up with that? How did I feel when my name didn’t even appear in your acknowledgments? Imagine the sense of being buried alive. needles covers But now you have defamed me. You’ll be singing a very worried song if I sue for libel, bub.

You had erased all your files from your computer (or so you thought), but you forgot to clean out your trash, and there it was, Worried Song2.doc, which I took to be an early draft. I got a few hundred pages into it. I appear as your nemesis. I am the literary analogue of the fucked up character who so prominently lurks throughout its early pages. Brian Pomeroy. Way to come up with an original name.

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Lust. Thrill. Kill.

Bry’s Blog / May 14, 2015

Okay, on-re-reading your partial manuscript (the copy on your computer ends at page 201), I’m thinking Brian Pomeroy comes off not too bad. Shrewd, edgy, witty, and the island ladies think I’m hot. I am in rich contrast to your Arthur Beauchamp, the emotionally self-abusing yet somehow lovable fusspot.

Sing a Worried Song. I get the title, but I’d have advised something harder. You have a vengeful thrill killer on the loose. What about, simply, Kill Arthur! Or, in the modern style, Lust. Thrill. Kill. (Title of a script I wrote in my noir phase. It’s available.) Or how about Thrill Killer Puzzles Police. Wurtz3 Thrill Killer Puzzles Wurtz – that’s the guy you prosecuted, right? Who threatened to get you…

How does it end? Or do you know? Page 201—is that when the muse died of blockage of creative juices? When the walls closed in and you decided to go away somewhere and start life again?

As for your main plotline, let’s see, we have a sadistic, psychopathic killer on the hunt for the prosecutor who sought to convict him. Oh, dear, that’s Needles. We already did that one, didn’t we, Bill?

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LSD-laced punch at a parent-teacher soiree.

Bry’s Blog / May 27, 2015

INT. BROWNING PUB—NIGHT.

[A country saloon. Six-stool bar, a dozen tables, divers locals, a folk singer no one is listening to. Pool balls clacking. One barstool remains unoccupied, next to Moose: tattooed biceps, rubber boots caked in the offal from his fish boat. Pomerantz enters, takes the empty seat, refrains from asking him how many dolphins died in his nets today.]

MOOSE: You the screenwriter who was coming on to Ingrid?

[Pomerantz orders a pint while he toys with the question. Given that his only outings have been to the store to buy groceries or smokes, he wonders if this heavyweight is the island clairvoyant. All comes clear as Ingrid emerges from the women’s and blows Moose a kiss.]

MOOSE: I’ll join you in a minute, baby. [To Pomerantz:] Bill Deverell’s brother? [The tone is distrustful, hostile, and Pomerantz wonders if he is Skyler in disguise, on a killing spree, aiming at him because he’s miffed he can’t find Arthur Beauchamp at home. (Oops. Where did that come from? Ah, yes, Sing a Worried Song.)]

POMERANTZ: Brother in the spiritual sense.

MOOSE: Yeah, what movies have you written?

[Closeup on Pomerantz’s sweaty face .]

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The Death of Literature

Bry’s Blog / June 15, 2015

About your website, Bill. Can’t you kind of release some air from it so it’s not so anal-retentive with text-heavy excepts, reviews, awards, and your other little ego-warming back-slappers? So, okay, you have a honourary D. Litt. (They just want to put you out to pasture, Bill. Means you’re over the hill.)

And your blog, man, with that cheesy, snotty Horace Widgeon, the straw man you invented to make you look stylishly hip and au courant. Kill him, Bill. Hire me instead. I’m annoying in my own way, but at least I’m real.Widgeon June 15

Happily lacking in your blog, however, is the bright-eyed chattiness one expects online these days, the sharing of one’s innermost banalities, the borrowed opinions about love and art and planetary survival introduced by the blogger’s favourite cloying quote, tucked into the screen’s upper-right corner, something perhaps from Confucius: A hint of fragrance clings to the hand that gives flowers.

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I’m in You’re House!

Bry’s Blob / June 18, 2015

Though I spell checked this sucker, It will appear oblivious very quickly that I am fairy snookered, so I won’t pretend I didn’t just Polish off the twenty-sifter of rum I found stashed in the caboose of your liquor cabinet. I promise not to touch the 18-year Glenmorgie with the “happy birth day!” scrawled on the box, which I get your saving for your triumph ant return.

Love that bullet holed No Trespass sign at your door.Exposives Act Yeah, I’m in your house now, I’m your official house sister until Ingrid comes back. If she ever does.

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I’m worried now but I won’t be worried long

Bry’s Blog / June 20, 2015

“It takes a worried man to sing a worried song.” Hey, Bill, I couldn’t get that hoary old blues out of my freaking head. Couldn’t remember the last stanza until good old Arthur recited it (page 326). “I asked the judge what might be my fine. Twenty-one years on the Rocky Mountain line.”

Story of my life.Pomerantz 2

Okay, Bill, I’m sober and I’m flabbergasted. Respectful of your privacy, I climbed to your loft, your office-in-home, solely intending to enjoy your pretty pastoral view from windows high up. But on your desk, giving me a come-hither look, was an opened, padded brown envelope with the full 330 pages of your final copy edit.

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Moose, Me, and Sonia’s Pointers

Bry’s Blog / July 12

Did I mention I was working on a screenplay? Not Needles, Bill, that awaits our negotiations and out-of-court settlement. My current project has a mind-control theme, a subtle Stephen Kingish horror flick. No ghouls, vampires or brain-eating zombies. A New Age guru shows up in a small community and starts drawing everyone into his web like helpless flies, emptying their minds through some transformative process. Only one man resists: a cynical screenplay author and lush who is working on a script with the very same theme!

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Sheep in the Garden, Sonia on the Futon

July 17 / Guest Blog by Bill’s Best Bud

Yo, Bill, I want you to know I’m settling in here real fine, and living small, pretty well keeping to your loft studio, where I crash on the futon. I brought up the TV so I could watch the old-movie channel. One of these days they’re going to show “Duck, Chuck,” I heard it was on their list.

The main bedroom is out of bounds, still stinks of the BuggerOff I sprayed. You may have to wash the bed covers. I’d do it myself, but the washing machine is on the fritz. Also, the toilet overflowed again. “I’m backed up too,” said the plumber. Maybe next week.Glenmorangie 2

I vacated your writing studio just in time. A family of otters has taken up residence underneath it. Stinks worse than Moose’s boots.

That’s the good news. The bad news: I forgot to lay in some brew, and can only confess and seek forgiveness for getting into your 18-year-old Glenmorangie last night. I had company to entertain, I was up against the wall. Took a photo of it first for your memories.

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The Astonishing Events That Transpired While I Was Away

Bill’s Blog / July 19, 2015

Terrible news greeted me on my return from Costa Rica. An old friend is in a coma.

I saw nothing amiss on pulling into the yard but on entering the house saw signs it had been lived in—by some grubby drifter, I assumed, though I didn’t call the RCMP right away in case he was, as it turned out, an acquaintance.

I raced through all the rooms, finally up to the loft, my office, where in the midst of the disarray was a printout of a screenplay treatment by Bry Pomerantz. My printer was still on, as was his laptop computer. Mr. Pomerantz is a fellow writer whom I haven’t seen for decades and only occasionally heard from: calls from distant locales, usually after midnight, when he was ingesting cocaine or crystal meth or similar high-speed narcotics.

Cluttered about were several empty bottles: beer, wine, an 18-year-old Highland malt. More nervous-making was the shaving mirror on my desk, with a straw. One of the windows was wide open, and an ashtray perched on the ledge had a collection of butts and what appeared to be cannabis roaches.

It was when I peered out the window that I saw the body, lying supine on the grass. I was calling 911, frantically shouting information, as I raced down there, and in my haste I fell and bruised my hand on the rocks lining the nearby flower bed. Following instructions, I found his pulse and confirmed that he was breathing.body on grass

Great credit goes to our island’s emergency responders, who were here in fewer than nine minutes: ambulance, police, even a fire truck. The Medivac helicopter was already on its way from Victoria.

Mr. Pomerantz has now been two days in a coma in Victoria General Hospital. He had a concussion and a broken arm but otherwise his physical systems are all working.

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Bill’s Blog, March 30, 2015

Killer Review of Sing a Worried Song

Well, the first review is in and, inevitably, with my luck, it’s from the pen of my bete noir, Horace Widgeon.Somehow the old bugger got an advance copy and persuaded the editor of The Squib, a pretentious literary quarterly, to allow him to eviscerate Sing a Worried Song.

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Blog Posts

Books

books in box 2

April 2015Sing a Worried Song


Globe & Mail Review By Margaret Cannon

Confession time: I love Bill Deverell’s books. I’ve been a fan since the villainous Dr. Au appeared in Needles and Deverell never fails me.

This sixth Arthur Beauchamp book is simply brilliant and should be shortlisted for next year’s Arthur Ellis Award.

The story begins with a bit of court testimony. The witness describes a man arriving in a motel room. It is stark and scary. This leads Beauchamp back to 1987, battling alcoholism and his wife’s infidelity. He’s one of Vancouver’s best defence attorneys but, faced with a truly vile crime – a thrill kill of a local clown – he takes the prosecutor’s role. He wins. He returns to his life and personal demons. Thirty years later, retired, married, fulfilled, and relaxing on glorious Garibaldi Island, Beauchamp is summoned to defend a local man. But his past is lurking there, waiting to rise up and take revenge for murders long thought settled. You won’t put this one down and, as an added bonus, Deverell is one of Canada’s best at developing the B.C. setting. Almost as good as a trip west.


Toronto Star review by Jack Batten

In William Deverell’s new novel, readers can only nod in agreement when he writes of his central character, “Arthur Beauchamp is a worrier. It is what he does best.” After six novels featuring Arthur, we’ve learned to accept and love him as the champion of all worrywarts. He’s 75 now, and he still frets about his manliness, his performances as a criminal defence counsel, his standing in the community, and practically everything else under the sun.

Sing a Worried Song gives us Arthur in full worrying mode at two different stages of his life. The first half of the book takes place more than a quarter century ago when Arthur was still married to Annabelle, the beautiful artistic director of the Vancouver Opera and a serial cheater. At this time in his career, in late 1986, Arthur briefly changes roles in the courtroom, taking on his first and only job as a prosecutor, acting for the Crown in a murder trial.

The case involves a slippery young guy accused of stabbing to death a Vancouver busker. As Deverell presents the trial, it’s gripping stuff. He may be the most convincing of all writers of courtroom stories, way up there just beyond the lofty plateau occupied by such classic courtroom dramatists as Scott Turow and John Lescroart, and in the new book, it’s Deverell at peak form.

The novel’s second half brings us forward to 2012. Arthur has now moved to Garibaldi Island, is married to Margaret Blake, the Green Party MP, and has mostly retired from law. In this half, Arthur has many mini-adventures dealing with Garibaldi’s rustic eccentrics. But throughout this gently humourous stretch, a hangover from the old murder prosecution nags at Arthur. It worries him, and maybe, we readers realize, he may have very good reason for the worry.


National Post Review by Naben Ruthnum

William Deverell’s Sing a Worried Song is about the murder of a clown. While those who fear and hate clowns believe that this is no crime at all, Deverell and his series character, lawyer Arthur Beauchamp, are quick to establish the corpse as a real and troubled person. Joe Chumpy was a gentle Vancouver downtown eastside busker, stabbed several times in his apartment in what appears to be a pointless thrill murder by a visiting Toronto rich kid. The killing could also have been the work of one of the gay prostitutes that Chumpy sometimes hired, but what little evidence and valid testimony there is seem to point to the out-of-town boy.

The book opens at the 1987 trial of the killer, Randolph Skyler — an excellent sinister rich kid name. Deverell’s two kinds of pro at once: an extremely experienced lawyer and a longtime writer of crime fiction, he makes the courtroom scenes lively and realistic, animating the proceedings with details of personality conflicts and Arthur Beauchamp’s shaky hold on his sobriety.

The second half of the novel takes us out of the courtroom and 25 years further on in time, with the retired Arthur Beauchamp leading a much more pleasant life on Garibaldi Island in 2012. The sense of unfinished business from the trial hasn’t faded, and one of the major players from the events of 1987 is threatening to make a reappearance in the most unpleasant of ways.

Deverell writes the first section in the past tense and the second section in the present tense, a neat division that works quite well. Leaving the courtroom also allows each half of the book to be in a slightly different subgenre, making Sing a Worried Song entertaining in a couple different registers.


The Publishers Weekly Review

publishers weekly worried man

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Book cover

2012I’ll See You in My Dreams

In 1962, Arthur Beauchamp is about to undertake his first murder trial. His defendant is Gabriel Swift, a politically active young aboriginal accuse of killing Professor Dermot Mulligan, a former mentor to both men. Arthur becomes increasingly convinced that the police evidence against Gabriel is not only flimsy, but suspiciously convenient in a system - and a society - with entrenched racist assumptions. But as the case progresses, Arthur develops an uncomfortable sense that Gabriel is not telling him the whole truth. And to make matters worse, the green young lawyer is up against a wily veteran of the courts and a clever but biased judge. Five decades later, Arthur remains haunted by the case. Finally, he is compelled to emerge from retirement to try to complete what he began all those years ago. He must pass through some murky and long-repressed personal territory along the way, but the journey ultimately offers hope for the peace of redemption.

Audible.com’s version is available, as is the e-book. For more information and to purchase this title please go to http://penguinrandomhouse.ca/imprints/mcclelland-stewart and click on authors.

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SNow Job book cover

Oct 2009Snow Job

This is the novel that many dared me (a thrice-failed candidate for office) to write: a novel that takes the mickey out of our posturing politicians while maintaining the tension of a true thriller but with great dollops of humour. A genre-jumping finalist for the Stephen Leacock Award, it was read with glee, I’m told, by Ottawa insiders, One wrote: “Warmest congrats on Snow Job, it is your and Arthur’s fulfillment. I was especially delighted by the recognition of the poisonous mix of vanity, fear and highly conditional loyalty that makes up political life at the top. I thought of your acuity as I wandered through various Xmas parties on the Hill this year - rife with angst on all sides.”

For more information and to purchase this title (http://penguinrandomhouse.ca/imprints/mcclelland-stewart) and click on authors

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Kill All the Judges

April 2008Kill All The Judges

This comic thriller was a finalist for the Stephen Leacock award, and it drew widely upon this author’s growing collection of characters, including the ever-introspective Arthur Beauchamp, and the Garibaldi Island oddballs who constantly plague him. Here’s a summary:

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April Fool cover

Sept 2006April Fool

Winner of the Arthur Ellis Award for best Canadian crime novel…

“Hugely entertaining.” Calgary Herald

“The insular life of isolated places - Bamfield, Garibaldi - expensive law firms and the courtroom are handled with an insider’s knowledge and an iconoclastic sense of humour. Deverell writes breathless prose. Arthur Beauchamp is a lovely guy – spouting Latin, worrying about getting up to speed in the courtroom after such a hiatus, and fearing an inability to get it up when Margaret leaves her perch. He manages to be a scholar, a courtroom wonder and a doofus. April Fool spills over with idiosyncratic characters. The novel blasts out of the starting gate, rockets along, is hugely entertaining. Deverell plays with the blending of good and bad, but one thing is transparent - the fight for the environment, however goofy at times, is essential.” Edmonton Journal

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