Category Archives: Adam Hayman

Cop-author tells it like it is

Vancouver Blue

By Wayne Cope

Harbour Publishing

223 pages, $22.95

Reviewed by Adam Hayman

If you like crime procedurals on TV, Vancouver Blue will entertain you. If you are like me, with a case of police phobia, it helps reveal cops as real humans. Wayne Cope’s stories sound like he’s sharing them over a beer, and he pursues a good tale the way he did his police work – with a sharp eye for detail and a measured attention span.

Cope divides his book into sections: his stint on the dog squad, as a beat cop, a detective, a motorcycle cop with the traffic division, in the major crimes division, and the historical homicide unit (a handful of years on each section speaks in part to his measured attention span). His book time on the force begins in 1975 and ends in 2009. Each section is packed with fully fleshed-out anecdotes and Cope’s theories on policing. “I developed my own rule about writing tickets: leave the humans alone. So regular taxpayers got warnings. Scrotes, drunks, criminals and gangsters got tickets. And I’ve maintained that rule for more than 34 years of policing.”

Within the first 50 pages, Cope sets himself up as that overly honest uncle we all have (or wish we did), laying down the world in a black and white fashion. He frequently makes clear delineations – with little wiggle room – between a good person and a bad person with. “We have the most liberal judges in the civilized world, judges who are incapable of dealing with these repeat offenders who, in a sane world, would never be released from prison.” He also paints all drug users with the same brush and never offers any sympathy, but after reading Cope’s stories, and learning how he thinks, I’m sure he would respond, “Why should I?”

Cope’s bar-talk style of writing affects his transitions between anecdotes. In a bar, gulps of beer can be enough of a transition into the next tale, but in Vancouver Blue Cope frequently will just start a new paragraph with a sentence like, “And now for the fastest confession ever obtained.” However, while I’m not sure in what order Cope wrote his stories, the writing seemed to improve as the book progressed. By the end of the book, Cope is sharing with us his time on the historical homicide unit, cracking cold cases and organizing long undercover stings on crooked criminals. This section of the book was a highlight for me, and is perfect fodder for anyone who binge-watches crime procedurals.

For a book that is amusing, easy to read and truly honest about police work, I would look no further than Vancouver Blue. I only wish I could have heard the stories directly from Cope himself. Perhaps he should record an audiobook.

Adam Hayman is a Victoria journalist and reviewer.

A new WorkPLACE at Open Space


Curated by: Lynda Gammon

Until Oct. 25

Open Space, second floor, 510 Fort Street

Reviewed by Adam Hayman

Lynda Gammon has turned Victoria’s Open Space into a WorkPLACE. Not her own work place, but a curated exhibition examining how we have worked and continue to work in the modern world. Gammon, a Victoria artist and associate professor at the University of Victoria, is known for questioning both space and place. At Open Space, she showcases eight works from four artists.

The idea of WorkPLACE was not to accumulate a large selection of work, nor was it to question how an artist works. Instead, a small collection of quality pieces examines the word work.

I found it easy to absorb the entirety of each piece in 90 minutes, including the time it took to watch Christine Welsh’s hour-long documentary. This is why Open Space’s admission by donation policy is perfect for exhibitions such as this. The gallery on lower Fort Street is a simple stop to make if you have the extra time during a visit downtown.

The theme of  “work” is  clear throughout the majority of the pieces with the exception of the beautiful Eyeless Dragon by Dong-Kyoon Nam. Nam is a Korean-born artist who works with found or everyday objects. He received his MFA from UVic and now teaches at the University of Manitoba. In Eyeless Dragon, a halogen light stares down at the exposed innards of copper wire and electric cord, but the piece doesn’t register as easily with the theme of work as the others. It is, however, still powerful and can absorb a large amount of the viewer’s time.

Tommy Ting is a London-based artist who works in many mediums, and his pieces, ‘Machine’ and Workers Posing as Workers, brought political weight to the show by looking at workers in the past. Swiss born photographer/filmmaker Thomas Kneubühler provided a collection of photos titled Absence, which were a series of shots of people staring at what we assume must be a computer screen. This depiction of modern society provoked self-conscious thoughts—how do I look when I’m sitting in front of a screen? The photographs were also perfectly situated next to Ting’s Workers Posing as Workers, a reproduction of a photo showing faceless Asian and Native Cannery workers from the turn of the century. The proximity of these pieces poked at my social conscience, which was a great choice by Gammon.

Gammon’s decision to present two videos, and where she placed them, however, needs re-examining. Christine Welsh, Metis filmmaker and women’s studies associate professor at UVic, had her documentary about the Coast Salish women who make Cowichan sweaters displayed prominently in the exhibition. It proved a fitting choice for this collection and the film runs just under an hour. This isn’t hard to sit through, unless, of course, you’ve just watched the shorter documentary, Currents (six and a half minutes) by Thomas Kneubühler, which is situated just to the left of the stairs when you enter. Sitting through seven minutes of a film, and then more than 50 minutes of a separate film is not easy on a millennial’s attention span. So if you are like myself I would recommend starting with Welsh’s film, and then moving around the gallery to end on Kneubühler’s.

WorkPLACE runs until Oct. 25.

Adam Hayman is an amateur woodworker and fourth year writing student at UVic with a passion for visual arts. 

Author captures slacker heroes

David Foster Wallace Ruined My Suicide and Other Stories

By D.D Miller

A Buckrider Book

246 pages, $20

Reviewed by Adam Hayman

Here is the easiest way I can summarize this book: if someone made a collection of short films out of D.D Miller’s stories, the director would have to be Louis C.K. However, if you’ve never seen the show Louie, that won’t make much sense, so let me put it this way: if a close examination of the “post-millennial” man is what you’re after, then Miller is able to deliver that, and he does so from a handful of angles.

A dozen stories in this book all paint many men in, what I’m afraid to call, an honest light. Men who think about porn, fantasize about waitresses, and fail to act at times they know they should.  These guys are held back by what they think of as laziness, but any undergrad in a first year psych class would call fear: fear of failure, being alone, or commitment. It certainly isn’t a flattering light, but somewhere in this collage of characters many men could share a sentiment. Miller doesn’t give the impression that he’s writing these characters out of humour. They seem to come from an understanding of their humanity.

The stories’ premises vary from something as simple as two couples on a beach, to an untethered, pig-blimp flying over a city in the midst of a city-worker strike. There are men in every stage of modern relationship; the women they all long for vary. The stories to watch out for:; Son of a Son of a Flying Pig; David Foster Wallace Ruined My Suicide; and My Summer With Seth. The last story piqued my interest because it is written in the form of a letter, and more importantly, it features a character that is likened to Seth Rogan. What gen-y-guy hasn’t laughed at the odd Rogan flick?

Reading several stories of different men pining over the sexual image of a woman, and enjoying the feeling of a cold beer can, however, loose its attraction. The Tudor, a story in the collection, is a prime example of this. The main character describes vivid sexual fantasies involving one of the university students he is tutoring. It is at times a little uncomfortable to read, especially for those not interested in such subject material. It is, however, well written. The main characters’ thoughts and actions are what make it uncomfortable, but if the author had left them out the story would’ve fallen flat.

This collection is a great tool for anyone looking to study the “slacker hero,” or for anyone simply looking to find great examples of characterization. This is Miller’s first book, and I am all too excited to see a full novel come from his desk. The chance to read Miller explore every aspect of a character would be hard to pass up.

Adam Hayman is a writer and student journalist.

Rewilding could reinvent our world

The forward-thinking proposition of restoring our planet to its more natural state– of “rewilding” it– lies at the heart of J.B. MacKinnon’s latest book, The Once and Future World.  His first work of creative nonfiction, Dead Man in Paradise won the RBC Taylor Prize. His second book, The 100-Mile Diet, co-authored with Alisa Smith, became a bestseller. The Bloomsbury Literary Review and Comic Book Resources called his third work, I Live Here, a “groundbreaking ‘paper documentary.’”  MacKinnon has also been published in many magazines and is a past senior contributing editor of Explore, Canada’s outdoor magazine.  In short, he knows a thing or two about great creative nonfiction, and how humans interact with our natural world.  Adam Hayman recently had the opportunity to question MacKinnon about his work and ideas.

To say you’ve had your finger on the pulse of the environmental scene for a number of years would be an understatement. What about last year made it the right time to publish this book?

Writers are lucky: our role in society today is to dig deep in a culture that constantly encourages people to stay on the surface. A few years ago I sensed that traditional conservation had lost its edge—it had become the depressing art of hanging on to the last wild places and fading species, what one scientist called “managed extinction.” People were beginning to talk about the need for a newer, bigger vision: not just fighting for what was left, but rebuilding what’s been lost—rewilding the world. That inspired me, and obviously it inspired several other writers at the same time, in different ways, such as George Monbiot in the U.K., and Jon Mooallem, Miles Olson and Emma Marris in the U.S. Suddenly, rewilding has its own bookshelf.

You mentioned during an interview that the reading of captains’ logs and explorers’ journals was, for you, an interesting part of the research for this book, but you also had to research and report on some gruesome stuff, like live auks thrown onto fires as fuel; living tortoises being stacked like barrels in the hulls of ships for a year at a time with no food or water. The list is long, and in such a comprehensive book it certainly is necessary, so how was the research process for you on a whole?

The challenge with writing about emerging ideas is that the pieces of the puzzle haven’t yet been put together, and you have to do that work yourself. It feels risky—you’re constantly asking yourself what gives you the right to say these things. So, out of a sheer lack of self-confidence, I researched everything to death.  I spent two weeks just reading about whale shit for what ends up being a page or two in the book. At the end of that, I was probably one of the world’s leading experts in whale shit.

What I’m always looking for in my research, though, are those little details that bring information to life—a scientist’s poetic reference to whale feces as “flocculent plumes,” or a pioneering scuba diver’s memories of sea bass rising from the depths, singing their spawning chant. Who knew that fish made noises? Not me. It’s these little discoveries that can make 12 hours in the rare books section of the library feel like an adventure.

The question “which nature?” stayed in my mind after finishing this book. Which nature do I want to live in? I thought it was very honest and realistic question to ask, and something that environmental skeptics and supporters should ruminate on. If you had the chance to ask two people this question who would they be?

First, I have to say that we can’t ask ourselves that question without first knowing what our options are. Much of what I try to explain in The Once and Future World is that nature as we know it today is a skeletal version of what it was in the past. In other words, our choice of which nature is much broader than almost anyone imagines: we can live with astounding natural richness and diversity, or in a grossly simplified and degraded version of nature, or somewhere in between. But we at least need to be honest about what our choices really are.

So, assuming everyone on earth has read my book — ha! — I would want to ask the which nature question of someone with real power: the president of the United States, say, or the CEO of the world’s largest corporation. Just out of curiosity. My other choice would be the next stranger I meet, because this is a question I feel we all need to think about, and one that I hope will infiltrate our culture.

You’ve mentioned the efforts of building nature into the cities we inhabit, which is a great step for those looking to add a bit of rewilding to their city lives. Hearing about the “bee boles” and other past and present “Habitecture” was fascinating.  Have you seen or heard any advancements since the release of this book?

I’m constantly hearing new examples. In my hometown of Vancouver, there’s Habitat Island, an artificial island park that became the city’s first herring spawning ground in decades and may have helped bring whales and dolphins back to urban waters. I recently learned that some First Nations in Eastern Canada traditionally built shelters on raised platforms to house pine martens in their communities. Dark-sky cities, where constraints are put on artificial light, are a form of habitecture, as many species depend on darkness and the stars in various ways. Digital technology is making it possible to imagine fenceless fields, which could revive the incredible long-range herd animal migration routes that used to criss-cross the continents. Then there’s “daylighting,” or bringing streams buried by development back to the surface—Seoul, South Korea, tore up a freeway to bring a river back to the heart of the city. And all of this is just the beginning.

As a pop-culture lover I smiled when I saw you used an Arcade Fire lyric as a quote, and I couldn’t help but assume, (even if the reference was unintended) that the section on the hypothetical “Lost Island” – an interesting section where you try and introduce humans onto an untouched island without losing the island’s biodiversity – was a reference to the TV show Lost. My question is, have you seen rewilding grow into pop culture since this book came out the same way the 100-mile diet did?

It’s definitely moving in that direction. I find it amazing how quickly people embrace the word “rewilding”: I gave a talk to a group of architects, and by the end they were talking about rewilding as if it had been part of their lexicon for 20 years. People are giving the term their own meanings: for some people, it’s about rewilding the landscape, and for others, it’s about rewilding themselves or their families—getting back in touch with nature. And sure, it’s showing up in pop culture, too, from Adbusters magazine to NPR’s Radiolab to interviews with Shailene Woodley, the star of Divergent.

What was most exciting about the 100-mile diet was the way it blossomed into a million different experiments, some personal and some community-based, that ultimately showed that a different food system was not only possible, but could offer us all a better quality of life. I hope something similar happens with rewilding. Thinking and talking about an idea are important, especially in the beginning, but it’s when ideas are lived out loud that we truly reinvent our world.


5 Questions with Aaron Shepard

Aaron Shepard, a graduate of the University of Victoria’s MFA in Creative Writing program, just released his debut novel: When is a Man (Brindle & Glass.) When is a Man wades into the small towns of the British Columbian interior and shines a light on relocation, ghost towns, and rebirth.  Shepard, a writer of award-winning short fiction, grew up in the Shuswap area of B.C. After earning a Recreation, Fish and Wildlife Technology diploma, he built hiking trails and worked for fisheries biologists and silviculture crews around the province. With this much exposure to nature it’s no wonder Shepard decided to explore B.C.’s remote forests in his debut novel.  Recently, Adam Hayman was able to ask Shepard a few questions over e-mail about his novel.

This is your debut novel, and you mentioned that small portions were modified from a short story that you had published in the Malahat Review. How did this novel evolve from that, and what was that process like for you?

Most of the novel’s origins evolved quite separately from that short story, “Valerian Tea,” which takes place in Sweden and also has a protagonist named Paul. When I started writing the novel, I didn’t have a firm grasp on my main character – what kind of person he was or the conflict that was driving him. The mood and tone of “Valerian Tea” seemed to fit with the direction of the novel, so I started taking the story apart and adapting it as part of the novel’s backstory. Through that process, I realized I had a fully developed character in Paul that I could parachute into the novel to give it some emotion and heart. Even though their situations are different, the two versions of Paul share the same soul, the same defeated outlook on life.

Your biography mentions that you are an avid outdoorsman.  This love for the outdoors comes across beautifully in your descriptions. Outside of a personal passion for nature, where did the lengthy descriptions stem from?

“Avid outdoorsman” is probably a little inaccurate after 10 years of city living, unfortunately. My canoeing and tracking skills are pretty rusty. I almost got lost in the woods a couple of weeks ago, and that’s never happened to me before.

The Immitoin Valley, where most of the story takes place, is a composite of different landscapes, rivers and towns that I know well. [I did] some research because I wanted to include elements of reservoirs I’ve never been to, like Kinbasket or Williston, but mostly I was going on memory and experience from years of working and hiking in southern B.C. To write the excavation site in Sweden, I did a lot of internet research on local bogs, birds, grasses, shrubs and so on.

For some reason, it was important to me for the setting to be as realistic and accurate as possible, right down to the moss. I guess it was a way of celebrating the places I’d lived and worked. It sounds really nerdy, but I have a background in forest ecology through a tech diploma program I took in the nineties, so I imagined my setting in terms of biogeoclimatic zones. That way I could invent a place out of thin air – like the old mill site along the river, for example – and know that it fit within the logic of the valley.

Recovery, relocation, and rebirth are some of the themes that course through this novel. Were these themes you wanted to work with beforehand or were they born from the subject matter?

When I started out, I knew I wanted to explore those themes, but didn’t know how they would fit together or what direction they’d go. I had some vague ideas. But the characters and their actions have to feel natural and logical, so ultimately they lead the way and everything else follows. I think a kind of structural tension always exists between the narrative and the underlying ideas – if you tweak something concrete, something abstract is changed as well. Eventually you realize you can only control the concrete stuff. The ideas become slippery and subjective.

One thing I realized early in the writing was how prevalent themes of displacement and rebirth are in Canadian literature. I felt that instead of trying to be coy about themes in my novel and pretend I hadn’t noticed they existed, it was better to hold them up to the light and really examine them. So there’s a bit of a self-referential or “meta“ aspect to my novel, like when Paul wonders why these stories of floods and displacement are constantly recurring and he starts to question the relevancy of his project.

The novel is separated into three sections and in the middle section the form differs slightly: there are no chapter breaks. What was the reasoning behind this?

Instead of having numbered chapters in the second part of the book, I used Paul’s interviews and field notes to create structural breaks. The interviews are a visceral way to mark the time passing, as well as the shifts in Paul’s line of inquiry and his attitude. I also liked the idea of blurring the distinction between Paul’s research and his life – as though he’s turning his ethnographic lens on himself.

As tempted as I am to simply ask you, “When is a man?” I will refrain, and let the readers figure it out. I am curious to know if your understanding of masculinity changed during the writing and/or research of this novel?

In terms of defining masculinity, I was definitely struck by all the untapped possibilities – in both life and literature. When we’re tackling the notion of “manliness” in fiction, it’s usually through the image of the hyper-masculine fighter/drinker/lover or else the “emasculated,” tragi-comic male. Paul’s definitely closer to the latter, but he also sees his recovery from prostate cancer as an opportunity to start on a different path. He goes about it the wrong way, perhaps, but I didn’t want to write a feel-good, politically correct recovery story either. If you become somehow displaced from your body – whether through paralysis, amputation, or impotence – you’re obviously going to go through some dark times.

I read some great articles about how couples dealt with prostate cancer and impotence. From that came the idea that our best relationships transcend the question of gender roles. You do whatever needs to be done for the relationship to survive and flourish, to help love endure.