Hooked on Books

By Vernice Shostal

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Eric Wilson is a storyteller. The well-known author of 22 best-selling Liz Austen mysteries for children began his career as a teacher at White Rock Junior Secondary School where he found, to his amazement, that the small group of boys in his class didn’t like reading. An avid reader of the Hardy Boys series since childhood, Eric liked reading so much that, as an adult, he didn’t even own a television. In order to get his students interested in reading, Eric decided to write what he thought the boys might like. Nine months later, his first story was born. Assured they would have no questions to answer and no book report to write, the students agreed to hear the story.

As Eric became acquainted with his students, he was astonished to find how little they knew about their country. Born in Ottawa, the son of an RCMP officer, Eric lived in almost every province in Canada from New Brunswick to British Columbia, and had an opportunity to learn a lot about his country. As a teacher, he decided to share this knowledge by writing a series of books that, while entertaining the reader, would incorporate Canadian history, geography and cultural values.

“In other words, I turned my books into my classroom,” says Eric. “These are all values and things I had talked to my students about and it had an effect on them, but I thought if I put this sort of thing in books, I would reach a much wider audience.”

Eric began reaching his audience by writing mysteries, “Which require huge amounts of learning and preparation,” he says. “Not only do you have the villain and the clues leading to the villain, you’ve also got your red herrings because you want to trick the reader into looking the wrong way at the right time... The clue gets slipped in so the reader has missed it.”

Eric’s Liz Austen series has been translated into 10 languages around the globe. His newest children’s book, *The Emily Carr Mystery*, researched by Eric and his wife, Flo, is set in Victoria.

He’s received the Arthur Ellis Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Crime Writers of Canada, was voted Author of the Year by the Canadian Booksellers Association in 1992 and received three “Silver Plate Awards” from Spain for sales in excess of 100,000. In 2002, he was awarded the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for his work in fostering literacy and promoting a love of Canada.

Eric’s latest book, Paris '97, written under the pseudonym of Eric Hamilton, is his first adult fiction. The name Hamilton, Eric’s middle name and his mother’s maiden name, keeps his adult fiction separate from the children’s books he has written.

Paris '97, a book about Diana Princess of Wales, took four years to write. The novel grew out of an admiration Eric and Flo had for the Princess. Diana took on the land mine industry, the armaments industry and had compassion for other people, says Eric, who spent an entire year researching Diana’s death in Paris in 1997.

“I read almost every non-fiction work that has been done about her. I watched the television programs about her death and the conspiracy theories.”

To many people, Diana’s death is still a mystery. Was it really an accident? What part did the paparazzo-driven white Fiat Uno play in the accident? What happened to the Fiat Uno after the accident? These are some of the questions Eric tries to answer in Paris '97. An historical fiction with action and suspense, the novel also works in the theme of forgiveness, “To help people understand that by forgiving others, it’s a way to lift that stone from your heart and have a happier life.”

In addition to writing, Eric visits schools to promote literacy. In their spare time, he and Flo like to dance, go to movies, take walks on the breakwater, read and look forward to more travelling. This summer they will lead a tour to London and Paris to visit historic places related to *Paris '97*.

Paris '97 is available at Russell Books, Munro’s, Bolen books, Tanner’s and www.amazon.com. For more information about Eric Wilson, visit www.ericwilson.ca





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