Ilze Berzins

Glebites find themselves in pages of a mystery: Ilze Berzins has recently written a murder mystery titled Death in the Glebe, set in the picturesque Ottawa neighbourhood she calls home. She describes the fun and mischief she’s stirred with her latest novel.

The Ottawa Citizen
Thursday, March 2, 2000
Page: D12
Section: City
Source: The Ottawa Citizen

It’s all fantasy. And yet it isn’t. My artmaking — my painting and my writing — comes from the same process. Art for me is experiencing reality, transforming it and then letting it run wild back into the real world.

My mystery novel, Death in the Glebe, involves many people from my real world as supporting characters. Now, I’m enjoying their surprised reaction as they discover familiar places, themselves and their daily work routines in the pages of the book.

“I saw my name,” chuckles Det. Ron Boss of the Ottawa-Carleton police. I had called on him to help provide detailed explanations of forensic research and other investigative techniques in a murder case.

“Page 84!” chimes the lovely sales clerk at the Book Bazaar. That’s her favourite page. That’s where her name, Susan, appears in the context of the murder investigation.

And Crown attorney Reid Anderson is really my brother, Andy, who would sue me if I ever used his real name.

Reporters and photographers from the Citizen and from the Sun are ever present, and keep up the pressure to solve one of Ottawa’s grisliest murders.

The lead male character is my idea of Mr. Right. One of the leading ladies is a more beautiful version of myself.

The villains are all those who have wronged me — even if only in my imagination. There are plenty of dogs and cats. Almost all of my characters are animal lovers, and Central Park — where Glebites let their dogs romp — figures prominently in the story.

There is a sleazy lawyer known as the Felon in court circles, a retired fortune-teller with a pornographic memory, and a starving artist called Fat Boy. There are, in my fictional Glebe, wealthy matrons, vagrants, lost souls and everyday folk — just like the real one.

My story takes place in spring, just as the tulips are ready to burst into bloom and when everyone comes out of hiding. Then Bank Street is reborn as the high street of Ottawa. People luxuriate in the new sunshine and linger on coffee shop patios to watch the passing parade.

From the moment the victim is found, wrapped in a carpet and stuffed behind the boiler in Hardon Hall — based on the apartment building where I live — the novel flips between the real and surreal Glebe.

One of the fun things about setting the story in the neighbourhood is that it has soothed over some petty animosities in my own life. One person who provided the inspiration for a rather grotesque character in the plot still isn’t speaking to me, but has purchased numerous copies of the book.

Even my landlord, I understand, is amused by the story, though the portrayal of the character based on him is less than flattering. I guess that proves Oscar Wilde’s observation that the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.

The locations are varied: From the swank Ritz Canal to the local pubs. The Royal Oak, The Loon and Irene’s are all popular hangouts. My characters shop at Loeb’s and get their hair done in any one of the chic boutiques on Bank Street.

Rockcliffe is mentioned as a far-off place somewhere, somewhere where nothing much happens. Almost always the real action is in the Glebe.

Art is serious play, someone once told me. And so my play of words and images has enabled me to communicate, I think, something unique and authentic — not only about myself, but about the place I live.

It’s as entire and complete a picture as possible from my life. Everything I write comes from a very personal experience — almost always from a traumatic and painful event in my life.

I think it is a privilege and a luxury to have the ability give form to all of my demons and my angels. It is, as someone has else has written, only when I write that the madness stops.

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