With two recently released books, author Helen C. Escott discusses her unusual yet productive year
Helen C. Escott didn’t intend to have two books published this fall, but as a retired civilian member with the RCMP and COVID-19 leaving her housebound for most of 2020, she found ample time to write.
Her plan with Flanker Press was to release one book, Operation Wormwood: The Reckoning in September and then a second book, In Search of Adventure: 70 Years of The Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Newfoundland and Labrador at a later date.
However, like most things in relation to 2020, those plans changed.
“I finished two books during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Escott tells The Herald. “I would write at nine in the morning until supper time, and then go back in the evening and write more. I just felt like being home and being creative.”
That passion for writing is one which has been with her throughout her life.
“I think I was born with it. Even as a child, I would write and tell stories. I always had a great imagination as a child. Maybe too much for some teachers.”
Journalism & police work
The author’s first book to hit shelves, The Reckoning, is the follow-up to her bestselling crime thrillers Operation Vanished and Operation Wormwood, which was a 2019 Arthur Ellis Awards finalist for Best First Crime Novel.
Writing crime thrillers comes naturally to Escott given her background in journalism and as a civilian member of the RCMP.
Escott says they are not overtly different from each either.
“The questions you ask a suspect are very similar to the questions a journalist asks you. It’s the same who, what, when, where, why, how and how much. A journalist will go out, knock on doors looking for that man on the street and police officers do the same. Both keep digging and digging until they get the truth of the story.”
Escott’s path from journalism into policing has served her extremely well. As a civilian RCMP member, she was attached to many police investigations. It was the perfect marriage for her and her future endeavours though she does offer that fiction is probably more liberating for her. Hence, her crime trilogy.
“You have such a creative license writing fiction,” she says. “I could easily live in a make believe world. My characters become very real to me and I love spending the day with them.”
In search of adventure
Escott’s non-fiction title, In Search of Adventure came about because of her role as communications and media relations specialist with the RCMP. When she took over the veterans association’s newsletter she decided she wanted to interview and feature a veteran every month to have their story documented and preserved. “Every time a veteran dies we lose that history, we lose those memories, we lose that information, and we can never get that back.”
Soon veterans were approaching the author wanting to tell her their story. Escott says these are the stories the public were never supposed to know.
“You get their true feelings and you get their history and that’s never really been told in this province. There are only four Newfoundland Rangers left … so it’s so important to capture their story.”
Of note are the number of RCMP female veterans profiled in the book.
“I think of them as being the women who broke the glass ceiling,” Escott says.
Those she spoke with inspired the book’s title. “They chose the career of an RCMP officer because they were, in their own words, in search of adventure.”
Those adventures have now resulted in a collection of memorable stories, a book which took two years to see from concept to release. Why not pick up a copy in a locally owned book store?
“These little gift stores which are dotted all over the province are the backbone of the publishing industry. Go to any little gift shop along in any little community, because every time you buy something there, you keep that small business and young person behind the counter employed.”
It’s that feeling that everything we do is for the greater good of the province which has meant so much and it’s why she can’t ever see herself living anywhere else.
“This is the best place in the world to live. I’ve always said that, and I’m very proud to be a Newfoundlander.”
Operation Wormwood: The Reckoning and In Search of Adventure are now available in local stores province-wide.