Bidulka, Anthony 1962-
BIDULKA, Anthony 1962-
Born 1962; partner's name Herb. Education: University of Saskatchewan, B.A., 1983, B.Ed. and B.Comm., both 1991.
Home—Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer. Has worked as a cook in a uranium mine, a bartender, an elementary school teacher, and an accountant.
Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Men's Mystery, 2004, for Flight of Aquavit.
MYSTERY NOVELS; "RUSSELL QUANT" SERIES
Amuse Bouche, Insomniac Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2003.
Flight of Aquavit, Insomniac Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2004.
Tapas on the Ramblas, Insomniac Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2005.
Anthony Bidulka's debut novel, Amuse Bouche, features a good-looking, gay private detective named Russell Quant who, like his creator, lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Russell's first big case comes when gay but closeted Harold Chavell, one of Saskatoon's movers and shakers, sends him to France to find the lover who skipped out on their gay marriage, a search that ends at the promenade of Sanary-sur-Mer. Russell is unsuccessful in his quest and is recalled to Canada, but the missing man turns up dead, and Russell is rehired to solve the murder. In working the case, he sorts through a long list of suspects, including a priest, neighbor, lawyer, former lover, sister, and best friend, as he hobnobs with the cream of Saskatoon society.
Bidulka was born and raised in rural Saskatchewan and moved to the province's largest city, Saskatoon, after he graduated from high school. He worked briefly as an elementary school teacher before he became an accountant—the job he quit in order to become a full-time writer, thus fulfilling his lifelong dream. He tries to inform his novels with his love of travel, variously placing his hero in locations as far-ranging as France and Spain. Reviewers of Amuse Bouche appreciated not only the book's Canadian flavor, but also its exploration of the gay lifestyle. "The novel's most engaging aspects," wrote D. Wayne Gunn in the Lambda Book Report, "are the glimpses it offers of the prairie city." Bidulka told Hugh Graham in an interview for Fast Forward Weekly Online, "I think the big part of the surprise people get from my book is not the fact that this is a gay detective novel, but that there are actually gay people in Saskatoon."
Bidulka's second novel, Flight of Aquavit, won the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Men's Mystery, which made Bidulka the first Canadian author to win a Lambda Award in that category. The story concerns a married gay man, Daniel Guest, who is being blackmailed by someone who refers to himself as "Loverboy"—probably a former lover. Daniel hires Russell to take care of the situation, which leads the novice detective from Saskatoon to New York and a scene at the restaurant Aquavit, and ultimately to being kidnapped. Subplots involve a long visit from Russell's Ukrainian mother, his unrequited crushes, and his friend Kelly's battle with cancer. The result is "an easygoing narrative," wrote Gary M. Kramer in the Lambda Book Report, "full of jokey asides to the reader, as well as clever tidbits of pop culture." The only missing element, Kramer noted, was romance. "Here's hoping the sexy detective will get a boyfriend in the next installment," he wrote. Shelley Glodowski, writing in MBR Bookwatch, appreciated Bidulka's exploration of the relationship between Russell and his mother in addition to the book's "compelling detective story with colorful characters, hilarious situations, and touching relationships."
The third Russell Quant mystery, Tapas on the Ramblas, finds the detective on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean, guarding a wealthy family matriarch from relatives who want to do her in. The intrigue takes Russell from Spain to Tunisia to Italy, with each destination "as richly detailed in the writing as Saskatoon is in books past," according to a review in the Ottawa Xpress by Dale Smith.
Bidulka told CA: "As an adult, my primary motivation to become a writer has been to fulfill a childhood fantasy. Ever since I was able to read and write I've been in love with and fascinated, comforted and entertained by books and the worlds they reveal. That is the gift writers give to readers. So to become a writer, to give that gift to others, to myself too, is a marvelous thing.
"I remember a time, when I was quite young, finding a box of books in a storage room in my parents' home—I'm not sure how it got there or who it belonged to—but it was filled with a wide variety of books. I read them all, relishing in the worlds they opened up to me, a young boy living on the Saskatchewan prairie. I really do believe, for me anyway, that when you are pursuing a lifelong dream, a childhood fantasy, you are infused with courage, love of life and a drive to succeed that invigorates you and not much can hold you back.
"So many things influence my writing. I think most writers or artists can't help but be influenced in some way by almost everything around them, from whom they talked to that day or what they ate for lunch. For me some of the greatest influences are travel, the people I have and have had around me, the careers I've worked in and my experiences living life as a gay man on the Canadian prairie.
"I've had the great good fortune to travel to over a dozen countries including India, Ukraine, France, Africa and Indonesia, many of which show up in my writing. I have met and gotten to know many terrific people. I'm a people watcher and my brain works in such a way that although I may not remember someone's name, there's a good chance I'll remember what you were wearing the last time I saw you or whether or not you've changed your hairstyle. And I love to talk to people and ask them questions about their lives. I do have access to knowledge about how various types of people walk or talk, the sound they make when they eat or how they react to a specific situation. Then I mush up all this information and use it to create characters for my writing.
"Other writers in many diverse genres also influence me. I read fantasy and mysteries and biographies and gritty thrillers and romance novels. There is nothing better than finding an author—who creates in her or his books—a world I can believe in. I'm a big fan of escapist writing, books that take me away on a bit of a vacation, either because of the story line or, more often, characters I want to spend time with and learn more about.
"After a decade as a chartered accountant, I left my office for the last time on a Friday afternoon and at 6:00 a.m. the following Monday I was in my at-home office beginning research on my first novel. The work ethic and professional requirements of my former careers have certainly followed me into my life as a writer. I created a routine that I have now followed for years. While I'm in the process of actual writing, my day behind the computer will range anywhere from four to six hours. I put my head down and work. I take few breaks and often eat lunch at my desk, so when my day is done, often mid-afternoon, I've put in a good amount of work and exhausted my mental and creative capabilities for the day. At that point I usually try to mentally let go of whatever project I'm working on and go about other activities I've planned for the day. When I go to bed at night I, in a sense, begin work again—I often go to bed thinking about what I'm going to write the next day, ideas of how to punch up a paragraph I worked on that day, or fleshing out ideas for a new project—so when I wake up the next morning I often have no need to sit and think about what to write, I've already done it and am ready to go.
"The most fascinating thing to me about the writing process is how things don't always turn out as you plan—characters turn out to be different people than you thought they'd be, or they relate differently to other characters or the story line in a way you didn't expect … they almost take on a life of their own. I love that. I really felt I'd learned a good lesson when I finally gave in to that and allowed myself to be flexible enough as a writer to use that dynamic rather than fight against it or ignore it. I think it improved my writing process and the resultant writing.
"The originating ideas for this series revolved around the main character, Russell Quant, and a desire to create a character and setting very different from those I've experienced in mainstream (and nonmainstream) novels in the genre. As an avid reader I could find countless mysteries with countless different types of heroes set in countless (usually big city) locales. But finding mysteries set in smaller centres yielded fewer options and ones set in Canada even fewer still. The quantity continued to dwindle when looking for mysteries with gay heroes and more so for mysteries with gay heroes set in Canada. I found none set in Saskatchewan.
"When I read a mystery, I love it when there is a dash of something unexpected thrown in—characters who surprise me or ones I've never met before in any other book; locations I've never visited; peeks into lives and lifestyles I know little or nothing about. Enter Russell Quant. He is a novice detective, an ex-farmboy, half-Ukrainian, half-Irish, gay, and lives in the middle of the Canadian prairie. Perhaps the first of his kind being written about today.
"The book is not about being gay, but it adds flavor to Russell's life and how he lives it and with whom he lives it. Living in Saskatoon, as anywhere else, has its own peculiar challenges and rewards. It is a beautiful place where the extremes of bitingly cold winters and scorchingly hot summers reflect the city itself and its inhabitants—good fodder for storytelling. I like to say that Russell Quant is living a big life in a small city.
"Throughout the world and even in some parts of Canada I feel there can be misconceptions about what life on the Canadian prairies is like, what kind of people live there and how they fit in and relate to the rest of the world. The same can perhaps be said for life as a gay person. The Russell Quant series tells the story from these unique points of view and in a way that is subtle, nonconfrontational, amusing and hopefully compelling enough that readers will want to find out more about the book's cast of characters."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Canadian Book Review Annual, 2004, Ian C. Nelson, review of Flight of Aquavit, p. 161.
Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), July 5, 2003, Margaret Cannon, review of Amuse Bouche, p. D11; January 8, 2005, Margaret Cannon, review of Flight of Aquavit, p. D11.
Lambda Book Report, February, 2004, D. Wayne Gunn, review of Amuse Bouche, p. 17; April-May, 2005, Gary M. Kramer, "A Native's Pride," review of Flight of Aquavit, p. 55.
MBR Bookwatch, April, 2005, Shelley Glodowski, review of Flight of Aquavit.
Anthony Bidulka: The Official Russell Quant Mysteries Web Site,http://www.anthonybidulka.com (June 17, 2006).
Fast Forward Weekly,http://www.ffweekly.com/ (June 12, 2006), Hugh Graham, "Running against the Grain," interview with author.
Ottawa Xpress,http://www.ottawaxpress.ca/ (October 20, 2005), Dale Smith, review of Tapas on the Ramblas.