Barclay, Linwood 1955–
Barclay, Linwood 1955–
Born 1955, in New Haven, CT; married; wife's name Neetha; children: Spencer, Paige. Education: Trent University, B.A. (honors), 1977.
Home—Burlington, Ontario, Canada. Office—Toronto Star, 1 Yonge St., Toronto, Ontario M5E 1E6, Canada. Agent—The Helen Heller Agency, 892 Avenue Rd., Toronto, Ontario M5P 2K6, Canada. E-mail—[email protected]; [email protected]
Peterborough Examiner, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, reporter, 1977-79; Oakville Journal Record, member of staff, 1979-81; Toronto Star, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, worked as assistant city editor, news editor, chief copyeditor, and life section editor, 1981-93, humor columnist, 1993—.
"ZACH WALKER" MYSTERY SERIES
Bad Move, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Bad Guys, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2005.
Lone Wolf, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Stone Rain, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2007.
Father Knows Zilch: A Guide for Dumbfounded Dads, illustrated by Steve Nease, Stoddart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1996.
This House Is Nuts! (humor), Stoddart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1997.
Mike Harris Made Me Eat My Dog (humor), ECW Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1998.
Last Resort (memoir), McClelland & Stewart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2000.
No Time for Goodbye (thriller novel), Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2007.
Linwood Barclay is a Canadian journalist, columnist, and humorist who has published several books of humor, a memoir, and crime novels featuring a writer named Zack Walker. In Last Resort Barclay writes about his childhood in Ontario's Kawartha Lakes region. When he was eleven, his parents became the owners of a cottage and trailer resort, and the author was pressed into service each summer. His duties included the unsavory tasks of taking fish guts to the dump and keeping the ladies' room stocked with toilet paper. D'Arcy Jenish and Barbara Wickens, reviewing the memoir for Maclean's, found that Barclay "writes with admirable openness about his dysfunctional family."
Barclay's first mystery novel, Bad Move, introduces Zack Walker, a character Barclay described as "basically me unchecked" in an interview for Book Reporter. Walker is a worrier who constantly frets about dangers facing his wife and teenage children. Convinced that their urban neighborhood is turning into a lawless place, he persuades his wife that they should move to the newly built Valley Forest Estates. But this refuge soon fails him. Walker finds the body of an environmentalist who has been fighting with developers to protect a rare animal's habitat. Other discoveries make the writer and his family the target of greater evils than he ever faced in the city. A Kirkus Reviews critic called the novel "the ultimate in Daddy-doesn't-know-best stories," while a Publishers Weekly contributor remarked that "Barclay's mystery debut is a rollicking good read." Writing for All Readers, Harriet Klausner commended the novel as "one of the most exciting crime thrillers of the year." Joe Hartlaub commented for Book Reporter that the book "defies easy categorization, and bless Barclay for that…. While parts of Bad Move are hilarious, it is by turns very grim and graphic as well."
In Barclay's second novel, Bad Guys, the Walker family moves back to the city and Zack takes a job at the newspaper where his wife works as an editor. On the home front, Walker goes overboard trying to stalk the boy he fears is stalking his daughter. Then he buys a car at auction that is still desired by its former owner, a drug runner. Things are also dicey on Walker's first newspaper assignment, which has him pairing up with a private detective on a robberies case. When the detective winds up in the hospital and a photographer is killed, Walker finds his general state of paranoia more than confirmed. Unfortunately, his judgment on where to look for help is poor and ratchets up the danger another notch. Writing for MBR Bookwatch, Klausner called this book "a wonderfully jocular Noir starring a sympathetic Don Knotts-like lunatic who no one understands." A Publishers Weekly reviewer commented: "This cleverly executed mystery includes both long-term setups and well hidden surprises."
In Barclay's third mystery novel, 2006's Lone Wolf, the mystery begins when Walker finds a mutilated corpse at his father's lakeside fishing camp. While the locals attribute the death to a bear attack, Walker suspects something far more sinister, and rightly so. After another body is found and a large supply of fertilizer goes missing, it starts to become apparent that the first attack was no accident and that Walker's suspicions are dead on. Following on the heels of Lone Wolf, 2007's Stone Rain finds Walker mixed up in yet another life-threatening mystery. This time Walker gets into trouble while trying to help his good friend Trixie Snelling—a former neighbor and a professional dominatrix—dissuade local reporter Martin Benson from running a story on her. Despite Walker's efforts, the story runs, and soon Martin turns up dead in Trixie's bondage basement. Trixie, the prime suspect, is nowhere to be found. In a review for Publishers Weekly, a critic noted that Barclay's "expert blend of humor and suspense make this a well-constructed, often witty mystery that's sure to please." Klausner also praised Stone Rain in a Casa Mysterioso review: "Linwood Barclay has written an exciting crime caper whose protagonist likes and needs action, but dives head first into disorganized dangerous dilemmas."
Barclay gets away from the "Zach Walker" mystery series in 2007's No Time for Goodbye. With this novel, Barclay "tries his hand at bourgeois terror, getting it largely right in a dark domestic thriller," according to a Kirkus Reviews critic. The story starts off with fourteen-year-old Cynthia Bigge being caught by her father while she is out drinking with her older, hoodlum boyfriend, Vince Fleming. The next morning Cynthia wakes up and, much to her surprise, her parents, brother, and both their cars are gone from their home without a trace. The story jumps to the present (twenty-five years later), when Cynthia is married to high-school English teacher Terry Archer, who is the story's narrator. Cynthia never heard from her family again after that night, but she never gave up hope that one day she would discover what happened to them.
After a cold-case television show reenacts the disappearances, strange events occur, while Cynthia starts getting dangerously close to unraveling the mystery behind her family's disappearance. A critic for Publishers Weekly felt that some of the book's "plot twists require significant suspension of disbelief," but that "skilled characterization and convincing dialogue" help make up for this drawback. Klausner, writing in Book Crossing, praised Walker's efforts with this novel: "Linwood Barclay is a master thriller writer who knows how to keep his audience on the edge of their seats."
When asked where he got the idea for this novel by an interviewer in Rap Sheet, Barclay replied: "The idea for No Time for Goodbye came to me around 5 a.m., which seems to be when all good ideas show up. I had been thinking about a very tragic case about a young girl who'd been abducted from her home in the dead of night. When her parents got up in the morning, she was gone. And it was like a switch got flipped. What if you turned that incident around? What if the girl woke up at home, and the family was gone?"
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Barclay, Linwood, Last Resort, McClelland & Stewart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2000.
Booklist, May 1, 2004, Sue O'Brien, review of Bad Move, p. 1501; May 1, 2005, Sue O'Brien, review of Bad Guys, p. 1514.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2004, review of Bad Move, p. 299; April 1, 2005, review of Bad Guys, p. 385; August 1, 2007, review of No Time for Goodbye.
Library Journal, September 1, 2007, Ken Bolton, review of No Time for Goodbye, p. 124.
Maclean's, July 17, 2000, D'Arcy Jenish and Barbara Wickens, review of Last Resort, p. 46.
MBR Bookwatch, May, 2005, Harriet Klausner, review of Bad Guys.
Publishers Weekly, May 31, 2004, review of Bad Move, p. 54; April 25, 2005, review of Bad Guys, p. 42; March 26, 2007, review of Stone Rain, p. 72; August 20, 2007, review of No Time for Goodbye, p. 46; October 29, 2007, review of No Time for Goodbye, p. 49.
All Readers,http://allreaders.com/ (September 20, 2005), Harriet Klausner, review of Bad Move.
Book Crossing,http://www.bookcrossing.com/ (August 10, 2007), Harriet Klausner, review of No Time for Goodbye.
Book Loons,http://www.bookloons.com/ (September 20, 2005), David Pitt, review of Bad Move.
Book Reporter,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (June 4, 2004), interview with Linwood Barclay; (September 30, 2005) Joe Hartlaub, review of Bad Move.
Casa Mysterioso,http://casamysterioso.com/ (March 11, 2007), Harriet Klausner, review of Stone Rain.
Lavin Agency Web site,http://www.thelavinagency.com/ (December 30, 2007), biographical information on Linwood Barclay.
Linwood Barclay Home Page,http://www.linwoodbarclay.com (December 30, 2007).
Mystery Ink,http://www.mysteryinkonline.com/ (September 20, 2005), Yvette Banek, review of Bad Move.
Mystery Reader,http://www.themysteryreader.com/ (September 20, 2005), Jennifer Monahan Winberry, review of Bad Move.
Rap Sheet,http://therapsheet.blogspot.com/ (August 14, 2007), interview with Linwood Barclay.