My hero is always on the move. That’s because the sleuth in the Highway Mysteries series drives an eighteen-wheeler up and down the west coast of North America. Even truck drivers need a little R&R now and then, and that’s what brings former RCMP homicide investigator Hunter Rayne to the resort community of Whistler, British Columbia in the third Highway Mystery, Sea to Sky. While Hunter enjoys a few days of downhill skiing, he plans to become better acquainted with an attractive female lawyer he met in L.A. He doesn’t, however, plan to become the prime suspect in a murder on the mountain.
The town of Whistler became familiar to many winter sports fans around the world when it was the site of Alpine events at the 2010 Winter Olympics. It’s a magnificent setting, with the snow covered peaks of Blackcomb and Whistler Mountains towering some 5000 feet above the attractive and upscale Village of Whistler, where you can walk to dozens of shops, restaurants and bars. Yet Whistler is only a two-hour drive from the port city of Vancouver, or four and a half hours from Seattle, the last hour of the drive on the spectacular Sea to Sky highway as it winds its way upward through the coastal rainforest and along the rugged shores of Howe Sound.
I am honored and delighted to be featured in the February 2014 issue of 18 Wheels & Heels, a magazine for women in the trucking industry. They first contacted me on Twitter (@RuthEDonald) to ask whether I would be interested in having them feature me and my Highway Mysteries series, and of course I replied with an enthusiastic Yes! They’ve listed my three mysteries in their “Book It List” of good reads for their subscribers as well.
Here’s a .pdf of the interview. (I’d link directly to the pages in the magazine, but I had trouble viewing it on my own computer, although it did work on an iPad.)
The role that women play in the trucking industry has obviously continued to evolve since the time period that the Highway Mysteries are set in (the 1990s). Most of us have seen a few hot pink or purple trucks on the road, with the drivers joyfully flaunting their femininity. Others downplay their gender in order to avoid harassment by their male counterparts; gender discrimination can still be a problem for women in the male-dominated industry. There are a few books out by women truck drivers chronicling their years in the industry, among them Trucking in Englishby Carolyn Steele. I liked reading about her adventures, and could relate to much of what she experienced.
I enjoyed my years working in the transportation industry, and am happy that I can put my experience to good use in the Highway Mysteries series. I’m also glad to have endorsements from readers who work in the industry, as I try very hard to make sure my settings and situations are authentic. Last year, two of my books were also reviewed and described as “recommended reads” by a trucking publication in the United Kingdom, Truck and Driver magazine. (The books were Ice on the Grapevine and Slow Curve on the Coquihalla.) I was delighted to hear from some new fans in England who had purchased my books on their recommendation.
The central plot of each novel is, of course, a murder mystery, but my stories are driven by the characters in them. Those characters are real to me, and you can meet people like them working in service industries (including trucking and law enforcement) almost everywhere in North America. They have flaws, insecurities, hopes and dreams; they have fears and triumphs, loves and losses, foibles and indulgences. They are ordinary people, and like all “ordinary” people, they are unique. They are my friends, and I hope they will become your friends, too.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved books. It’s hard to pinpoint just when murder became the main ingredient of my favorite reads. No doubt I cut my literary teeth on Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. I can’t remember how discriminating I was in my childhood, but I must have liked books with horses and concussions, because that’s what I remember about my first attempt at writing a novel when I was twelve. The heroine – loosely based on my young self, I suppose, although I had never had a horse or a concussion – was continually being thrown from her horse and losing consciousness in her quest to chase (or was it escape from?) a bad guy.
Once I entered the senior years of high school, I became a book snob. It was classics or nothing, and my preference was for European classics: Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Victor Hugo, Jean Paul Sartre and Thomas Mann are among those that come to mind. (I can recall throwing a Harold Robbins paperback across the room in disgust.) I also let myself read American writers like Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Bellow, plus the occasional Michener historical saga. Except…
Except when I was on summer vacation at my Uncle’s lakeside cabin, when I would raid his bookshelves for the works of John D. MacDonald, Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, Dick Francis and Ngaio Marsh, among others. Then it was on to university, my first marriage and some dark days – years actually – in my life, from which I emerged still scorning contemporary crime writers in favor of Penguin classics. My second husband, a charming and brilliant rogue, but a rogue nonetheless, got me back into reading modern novels and I quickly found myself hooked on crime.
My preference soon became mystery series, harking back to my earlier enjoyment of the Travis McGee and Nero Wolfe mystery series. That was reinforced by TV series like Perry Mason, Columbo and Murder She Wrote, followed by the original Law and Order. I shared books with my father, and sometimes others in the family, and our collective tastes ran from The Cat Who series by Lillian Jackson Braun to the Richard Jury series by Martha Grimes and the Thomas Lynley series by Elizabeth George. More recently – which may not be terribly recent by most standards – Michael Connelly and John Lescroart have become my favorite authors, and I now prefer to watch true crime like Dateline and 48 Hours on television.
So what’s my point?
Why would a law-abiding pacifist who even apologizes to flies and mosquitoes when she is forced to kill them (in self defense, of course) be so fascinated by crime? I know I’m only one of millions with the same fascination. Why, when we hate to witness actual violence, or even read about it, do we love books and shows about murder? I’m no psychologist, but I’ve often pondered the question, and it seems to me that it gives us comfort to see the perpetrators of crime found out and put away so they won’t be able to harm innocent people. We want to be able to figure out who did the evil deed and see them brought to justice, and that lets us feel a little more in control of the scary world around us.
Whatever the reason, even though I stray back to classics and will even venture to read a contemporary ‘literary’ novel now and then, I am and will no doubt remain, firmly hooked on crime.
* * * * * *
If anyone is interested in sampling my fiction writing on their e-reader, I’m offering a free short story on Kobo, Smashwords and most major ebook retailers (except Amazon, where I can’t make it less than 99 cents). It’s called Joggers and features Elspeth Watson, one of the main characters in my Highway Mystery series. The three novels in the series are available in both digital and print editions. More information about the series at Proud Horse Publishing.
A dead man rides a chairlift on Whistler Mountain, and it doesn’t take long for the press to label the murderer “The Chairlift Killer”. Former homicide detective Hunter Rayne drove the Sea to Sky highway to Whistler’s ski resort for what was supposed to be a pleasant weekend of skiing with an attractive female acquaintance. Instead, he finds himself at the top of the suspect list, and has no choice but to get involved in the investigation in order to clear his name.
While he’s busy in Whistler, trucker Hunter is forced to hire his biker friend, Dan Sorenson, to take his place behind the wheel. What connects the badass biker from Yreka, California to the most prolific female serial killer in US history? And what happens when Hunter’s dispatcher El Watson gets the biker involved in the murder investigation?
In the midst of the investigation, Hunter’s life becomes complicated when the progress of a new relationship is arrested by the appearance of a woman from his troubled past.
Sea to Sky is the third novel in the Hunter Rayne highway mystery series, just released in a digital edition at the end of 2012 and in a print edition in March of 2013. It’s now available in digital format from most ebook retailers, and the print edition can be ordered online or through your local bookstore. Quote the ISBN of 978-09881118-20 for the print edition.
The new mystery series – the Hunter Rayne highway mysteries – features a long-haul truck driver as the ‘semi-professional’ detective. Thanks to recent reader Steve for the following comment:
Never thought I would enjoy a truck driver based mystery, but I sure did.
I wasn’t surprised. When I chose to write about a trucker, I knew that some readers would hesitate to pick up a book featuring a truck driver. Why would that be? Seems there’s a perception out there, especially among women, that a book with trucks in it must be a book for boys. What!?
Hey! Truckers are real people, too. Truckers can be men or women, young or old, with interesting lives, interesting loves, strong emotions, and fascinating hobbies. Truck drivers can be talented, attractive (wasn’t Elvis?), complicated people. Some truck drivers of today are a lot like the cowboys of yesteryear – hard working, solitary individuals with interesting pasts and complex relationships, which can add up to a touch of romance.
Elvis Presley drove a truck before he became famous. You might be interested to know that several other famous people were truck drivers at some point early in their careers. Take for instance, Liam Neeson, the actor. A hunk, or what? And Chevy Chase, a very funny man. For those of us who were around to appreciate their best years, how about Charles Bronson and Sean Connery? And Richard Pryor. And Rock Hudson. Who wouldn’t want to read about truck drivers like those guys?
But famous truck drivers weren’t all actors and singers. How’s this for murder mystery fans? Another man who drove a truck before he came famous was Peter Sutcliffe. Who was he, you ask. Peter Sutcliffe was – mwah-hah-hah – the Yorkshire Ripper.
Another reader recently commented:
… the whole time I was reading this book I thought R.E. Donald was male. For a guy, he did an excellent job of getting the female characters right. The introspectives and actions of all characters give readers a full understanding of their motives. That was unexpected from a male author in a mystery involving truck drivers. I’m sorry, Ruth E. Donald, for presuming you were a man. It’s a compliment to you that I read the book with such interest that I didn’t read “about the author” first.
Thank you, Goodreads readers Steve and Ginney, for the compliments. They were reading my first Hunter Rayne highway mystery Slow Curve on the Coquihalla. Another Goodreads reader, Pat, had this to say about the second novel Ice on the Grapevine (ahem! a finalist for the 2012 Global Ebook Award for Mysteries):
The plot and situations were intriguing, and kept me guessing to the end. I found the characters very believable, especially the women. There even were traces of humor and romance. I’m curious to see how Hunter and the other characters develop as the series progresses…. R.E. Donald is definitely an author to revisit.
Thank you, Pat. Comments like yours keep me happily writing more. It’s nice to know that more readers are discovering that a truck driver can make an intriguing hero.
So please keep in mind, mystery lovers, you can’t always judge a book by its cover. Take a closer look at the person behind the wheel next time you pass a big rig on the highway. He – or she – might just be famous one day.
Note: Both novels are currently featured as Giveaways on Goodreads.
Why would a woman who loves mystery novels want to write about a truck driver? It seemed like a good idea at the time.
It began back in 1994. I wanted to write a mystery series with a male protaganist, similar to the mysteries I loved to read, but I wanted a unique character. I enjoy reading about moody L.A. homicide detectives, brilliant Scotland Yard detectives and smart aleck private eyes, but I felt that I couldn’t do a character in those professions justice, and other writers had already created series that I couldn’t compete with around similar characters.
Write what you know, they say. Well, by 1994 I’d spent around twenty years working in the transportation industry, so I figured I had a good handle on that. My husband had once done undercover work for the police and had used a truck driver as his cover. Interesting how truck drivers can show up just about anywhere without raising suspicion, I thought. And another plus about a truck driver, he wouldn’t be limited to one geographical area, which would certainly provide a variety of locales for murder. (At the time, I was concerned that the entire population of Cabot Cove would be killed off to keep Jessica Fletcher busy in Murder, She Wrote.)
That’s how I first decided on the main character in my Hunter Rayne highway mystery series. He’s a former Royal Canadian Mounted Police homicide detective who resigned from the force after over twenty years of exemplary service after the sudden death of his colleague and best friend, and a painful divorce that caught him by surprise. He’s hoping that the solitude of life on the road will help him to heal from what he considers his personal failures.
As much as Hunter tries to keep his new life simple and uncomplicated, circumstances, with the help of his boss, Elspeth Watson, conspire to get him involved in murder investigations even in his civilian life. As a boy, his heroes were cowboy crusaders like Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger, and he just can’t seem to let go of what motivated him to become a law officer in the first place, that need to see the guilty party captured and justice done.
My books aren’t thrillers or full of heart pounding suspense, but they will keep you guessing. Does the idea of a trucker turn off some women mystery readers? Maybe so. But I must be doing something right. My second novel Ice on the Grapevine is a finalist for the 2012 Global Ebook Award in the mystery category. Both novels are now available in print editions as well as ebooks. They’re available online from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other sites, or from Proud Horse Publishing, or you can ask your local bookstore to order them. Just quote the ISBN numbers.
This is what some of my readers have been saying:
“Those were the best mysteries I’ve read in a long time!! As soon as I finished the first one I bought the second and felt empty when I finished it! The characters were awesome and so there that I somehow think they are in my life and I should be bumping into them at IGA or Gibson’s Building Supplies!” Judi H., Roberts Creek, B.C.
“… this book caught my attention from the very first pages and it only got better. …I recommend this book to anyone who has a love for a good mystery. I usually figure out who the guilty party is when I read a book but this time it was a surprise. I think that Hunter Rayne would make a great TV detective, driving around the country in his rig visiting different states and helping to solve crimes. He is that interesting of a character.” See full PRG review of Ice on the Grapevine by Linda Tonis.
The first mystery in the series is Slow Curve on the Coquihalla. When a well respected truck driver, the owner of a family trucking business, is found dead in his truck down a steep embankment along the mountainous Coquihalla highway in British Columbia, his distraught daughter wants to know how and why his truck left the road on an easy uphill curve. Her resemblance to his own daughter compels Hunter Rayne, a fellow trucker and former homicide detective, to help her find answers.
As he uncovers signs of illegal cross border activity originating in a Seattle warehouse, Hunter recruits an old friend, an outlaw biker, to infiltrate what appears to be an international smuggling ring. But while Hunter follows up clues and waits for critical information from his old friend, the wily biker starts to play his own angles.
Finally, putting all the pieces together, there in the dark on the same uphill curve on the Coquihalla highway, Hunter risks it all to confront the murderer.
The ISBN for Slow Curve on the Coquihalla is 978-0988111806.
The second mystery in the series, the one shortlisted for the 2012 Global Ebook Award in mysteries, is Ice on the Grapevine. The story opens on a July morning with the discovery of a frozen corpse at a brake check just south of the Grapevine Pass in L.A. County. Hunter, who is in southern California making a delivery, is persuaded by his irascible dispatcher, Elspeth Watson, to help clear two fellow truck drivers who are arrested for the murder. His job is made more difficult by the fact that the suspects, a newlywed couple, won’t speak up in their own defence.
The circumstantial evidence is strong, and a rookie detective from the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department is eager to score a win. The investigation crosses the Canada-U.S. border when the victim is identified as a second rate musician from Vancouver, and it turns out there were more than a few desperate people happy to see him dead, including the accused couple. Hunter has to use all his investigative skills to uncover the truth.
The ISBN for Ice on the Grapevine is 978-0988111813.
I’m working on the third novel in the series, which will be set primarily in the resort community of Whistler, B.C., which was the location of the 2010 Winter Olympic games.
I hope you enjoy reading about my truck driver hero as much as I enjoy writing about him!
Ice on the Grapevine, the second novel in the Hunter Rayne highway mystery series, has been selected by judges as a finalist in the mystery category of the 2012 Global Ebook Awards. The winners will be announced at a gala awards ceremony at the University Club in Santa Barbara, California on August 18th.
The first two novels in the Hunter Rayne highway mystery series were released as ebooks by independent Canadian publisher Proud Horse Publishing in the fall of 2011, and will soon be available in print editions. They have both been receiving very good reviews from readers on various ebook review sites over the past several months.
The series features a former homicide detective who reluctantly resigned from a successful career with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and took to the highways as a long haul truck driver in the hopes that the solitude of the road would help him heal from the pain of personal tragedy. A strong supporting cast includes his irascible female dispatcher, Elspeth Watson, who is as tough a boss as they come but is always ready to volunteer Hunter’s help when a fellow trucker is in trouble. The author’s many years of experience in the transportation industry help to keep the situations and characters engaging and realistic.
The novels are traditional ‘whodunits’ with complex plots, multiple suspects and – for most readers – a surprise ending. They feature realistic subplots involving the recurring characters and have more than one fan impatiently waiting for the next novel in the series.
R.E. Donald is working on the third Hunter Rayne highway mystery, set primarily in the resort community of Whistler, BC, known around the world as the home of the 2010 Winter Olympics.