CLARKE, Jay




Author Tags: Fiction, Literary Landmarks, War

LITERARY LOCATION: 919 Robson Street, formerly the main outlet for Duthie Books

At this location in 1957, next to the Vancouver Public Library at Robson and Burrard, Bill Duthie founded Duthie Books, a bookstore that doubled as a literary Mecca until the family business collapsed in 2010. One of the countless authors directly encouraged by Bill Duthie was Jay Clarke, a lawyer who crafted successful thrillers under the pen name of Michael Slade. Bill Duthie personally arranged to have Clarke’s first manuscript published in a limited edition of one copy, as a surprise, and Duthie’s legendary communist cohort Binky Marks, who managed the Paperback Cellar downstairs, was similarly supportive. Clarke proceeded to write more than a dozen novels after his first and best-known title, Headhunter, appeared in 1984, co-written with John Banks and Richard Covell. “Duthie’s at Robson and Hornby was our Shakespeare and Company,” said Clarke in 2016, “and not a week goes by that I don’t mourn its passing. Even now.”

*

Jay Clarke has fond memories of Bill Duthie’s cohort who managed the Paperback Cellar (prior to David Kerfoot), the colourful communist Binky Marks.

“So as a kid I come down the staircase to the Paperback Cellar, and wow! … what’s this? Seven hundred pages of history’s 300 most baffling killers and how police used the latest forensic techniques to hunt them! What more could I ask? The motherlode was here.

“Uh-oh, look at the price. $1.99. Too rich for my blood. I put it down and walked to Duthie’s Mystery Section, but the lure was too great. Three times I went back and thumbed through the treasure displayed on the shelf by the floor … until a dark shadow fell over me. I looked up and there he was, shock of hair and rumpled clothes with gravy stain on his tie. Binky Marks.

“‘That book’s right up your alley, isn’t it, son?’ he said.

“‘Sure is, Mr. Marks.’

“‘A bookseller gets to know his customers, Mr. Five-O-Five (he gave me the name because the Granville Street theatre let out at five on Saturday, and it took me five minutes to get to the store), and the moment I saw that book I knew it had your name on it. The problem is you don’t have enough money. Every Saturday you pull out your change, and you’ve got 35 cents for a paperback, and 15 cents for the bus home. Right?’

‘“Yes, Mr. Marks.’

‘“You know about me, don’t you?’

‘“Yes, you’re a Communist!’

‘“Yes, I’m a Communist. I don’t believe in Capitalism. It grinds people down. So (Binky lowered his voice), if you tell anyone about this, I’ll deny it, understand?’

‘“Yes, Mr. Marks.’

‘“Okay, kid, (whispered in conspiracy). Let me tell you about credit.’

The deal was I could take the book for 35 cents. If I came in next Saturday, and there was a mystery that I HAD to have, I could skip a week. But if not, I would add that week’s money to a jar he placed on the counter. The day I dropped the final payment in the glass, not a word was said, but when I returned after checking the Penguin Classics section to see if Caesar’s The Conquest of Gaul had come in, the jar was gone.

Binky Marks! One of a kind.

*

In 2010, Jay Clarke wrote to Bill Duthie's daughters, Cathy and Celia:

"It's with a heavy heart that I hear the news that Duthie Books is closing shop. I was there in 1957 when the doors opened, and spent every Saturday for years standing under those Paperback Cellar glass squares in the sidewalk above, choosing the perfect mystery to buy for my 35 cents. Every Saturday, after the movies, I haunted Duthie Books. The legendary local booksellers Bill Duthie and Binky Marks were my literary gods. The week I finished Volume One, I waited till Bill was free, then I slapped 13 TOMBES down on the counter and said, "Mr. Duthie, I've written a book." He called Binky Marks up from the Paperback Cellar to see my work, and they asked if I'd leave it with them for a week to read.

"The following Saturday, I returned, heart in my throat, to get my first review. In the interim, they'd taken my pages to a bookbinder and had them put into hardcover with the title and my name in gilt on the spine. I was stunned. Bill handed it to me and said, 'It's in a limited edition of one copy, but here's your first published book. Promise me that one day your novels will be for sale in my store.'"

"I promised. And they were.

"It's no overstatement to say that Bill and Binky created Michael Slade.

"The only time I was ever threatened with contempt of court was when a provincial court judge refused to adjourn a trial so I could attend Bill's funeral. I told the judge that I was leaving anyway, and he could do what he wished, but that he should think long and hard about the fact that I expected mourners from the Court of Appeal would be there. He relented.

"Fifty years have passed since Bill and Binky encouraged that young writer (do you think that goes on today in the big box stores? Ha!)”

*

Having acted as an attorney in more than 100 murder cases, Jay Clarke of Vancouver has co-written a series of gruesome 'psycho-thrillers' under the pseudonym Michael Slade, commencing with Headhunter in 1984. He has had four co-writers, mostly notably his daughter.

In his noteworthy debut horror novel, Headhunter, a killer is loose on the streets of Vancouver and the victims are everywhere: floating in the Fraser River, buried in a shallow grave, nailed to an Indian totem pole on the university campus. All are women, all are headless. Brightlight Pictures optioned the screen rights in 2006.

In most of the earlier Slade novels members of the Special X Unit often hunt for serial killers. Clarke has traced his origins as a writer to his fascination with EC Comics in the mid-1950s. "From then on, I was fascinated by the criminal mind," he says. "First I drew comics, and than I wrote a book, 13 Tombs, when I was thirteen. I typed it out in signatures and stitched them together like the guts of a book. From age ten I had haunted Duthie Books, so I showed my work to Bill Duthie and left it with him to read. Imagine how wowed I was when he gave it back to me a week later, bound in hardcover, with the title and my name in gilt on the spine. 'Now you're published in a limited edition of one,' he said. 'One day, I want to see your books sold in my store.'"

Born in Lethbridge in 1947, Jay Clarke specializes as a lawyer in cases for the criminally insane. Most of his recent novels are co-written with his daughter Rebecca Clarke, who studied literature and history at UBC. Their collaboration for Bed of Nails (2003) marks a return to the landscape of Slade's second novel, Ghoul, selected by the Horror Writers Association as one of the 40 top horror novels of all time and named one of the best novels by the A to Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers (Simon & Schuster, 1997) along with Silence of the Lambs and Psycho. In Bed of Nails (Penguin, 2004), a local crazy called The Ripper--who believes he’s Jack the Ripper--plots revenge on inspector Zinc Chandler. A car chase with guns blazing in Vancouver and a World Horror Convention in Seattle lead the Mountie to a cannibal island climax in the South Pacific, where Survivor is the game, and Chandler is an unwilling contestant.

Clarke is willing to consider his fascination with horror could be somewhat linked with the disappearance of his father, a Trans-Canada Airlines pilot, whose flight from Vancouver to Calgary in 1956 crashed into a mountain near Chilliwack during a storm, killing all 62 people aboard. The plane went missing on December 9, 1956 and wasn't found until May. "What you do is you plumb your life," he told the Georgia Straight's Steve Newton in 2003, "and you come up with whatever the scariest things are. Now, I don't know, maybe your parents lost you in the woods. Maybe Uncle Charlie took you out and sexually assaulted you behind the woodpile. Maybe you drowned and had a near-death experience. It will be different for every single person., but there'll be something in your life which you have to carry with you and you'll carry with you til the grave."

Michael Slade’s eleventh gruesome thriller Swastika (Penguin $24) is a fast-paced, RCMP procedural that was directly inspired by the W.W. II archives of Jay Clarke’s father, Jack “Johnny Clarke,” an artist who volunteered for the RAF in September of 1940. He flew 47 combat missions against the Third Reich, mainly in a Halifax with Bomber Command, and participated in the Battle of El Alamein. Jay Clarke connects his father's war record (which he says he found behind a false wall in his mother's linen closet in 2003) to events in this far-reaching thriller in which a delusionary Aryan killer named Swastika arrives on the West Coast and heads to Barkerville in search of Hitler’s gold. "What is it about the Cariboo that appeals to the Germanic mind?” Slade writes. “Are the mountains evocative of the Bavarian Alps? Are the thickets reminiscent of how the Black Forest used to feel? Is it the sense of Lebenstraum in its wide-open spaces, the yearning for elbow room that drove the Nazis to invade Russia? Whatever it is, German accents are everywhere in the Cariboo today, and that made the Aryan just one among many.”

Swastika is an unusual Michael Slade story because it alleges a Pentagon cover-up of SS Major Wernher von Braun's links to the horrific deaths of 20,000 prisoner-of-war slaves who died while the Nazis built V-2 rockets for Hitler. In promotional materials, Jay Clarke is quoted: "Von Braun's war record was 'inconvenient' for the Pentagon's post-war missile plans. So, to subvert the Nazi restrictions in Project Paperclip, he was slapped with more whitewash than Tom Sawyer and his dupes put on that fence. By the time I was a kid in the mid-1950s, you could sit on the floor wearing your Davy Crockett coonskin cap and see von Braun on Disney's TV show. His design for the rocket ship in Tomorrowland was based on his V-2. By the time he died an American 'hero' in 1977, he'd been given a medal by President Ford... During the Red Scare years after the war, von Braun became essential to America winning the arms race. So the Pentagon brought its own iron curtain down between Nordhausen--the overflow camp--and the Dora Mittelbau V-2 factory tunnels, less than five miles to the north. Dora was written out of history, and the cover-up persists today."

Spanning 2,000 years, Crucified is a Vatican conspiracy novel that links Roman Catholicism to a high-ranking Third Reich member named Judas who betrayed Hitler, as the original Judas betrayed Christ. The story unravels from the contemporary discovery in Germany of an Allied bomber plane called the Ace of Clubs. As the grand-daughter of the downed pilot, Liz Hannah enlists the help of a bestselling author and historian, Wyatt Rook, to explain how the bomber was so severely off-course when it disappeared. Their investigations soon attract attention from the Vatican, enabling Slade to make historical detours into the Crusades and Satanism, with flourishes of torture and murder en route.

To coincide with the 2010 Winter Games, Michael Slade fashioned a five-ring circus of mayhem and murder for everyone stuck on the Sea to Sky Highway. In his corpse-filled thriller, Red Snow (Penguin $24), mercenaries isolate Whistler Mountain, putting the Olympics in jeopardy, as Slade pits his psycho-villain Mephisto against the RCMP’s Special X squad, enabling publicists to gleefully declare, Let The Games Begin.

SELECTED PUBLICATIONS:

Red Snow (Penguin Canada, 2009). 978-0-14-316779-2
Crucified (Penguin Canada, 2008). 978-0-143167-78-5
Kamikaze (Penguin Canada, 2006), by Jay Clarke, Rebecca Clarke. 0-14-305328-0
Swastika (Viking Canada, 2005), by Jay Clarke, Rebecca Clarke. 0-14-305325-6.
Bed of Nails (Viking Canada, 2003), by Jay Clarke, Rebecca Clarke. 0-14-301383-1.
Death's Door (Viking Canada, 2002), by Jay Clarke, Rebecca Clarke
Hangman (2001), by Jay Clarke, Rebecca Clarke (daughter)
Burnt Bones (Viking, 1999), by Jay Clarke
Ripper (Penguin/Signet, 1996)
Cutthroat (Penguin/Signet, Oct. 1992), by Jay Clarke, John Banks
Ghoul (NAL Signet, 1989), by Jay Clarke, John Banks, Lee Clarke (Jay Clarke's wife)
Primal Scream (Viking, 1998)
Evil Eye (Viking, 1996)
Headhunter (Morrow, 1984) - Jay Clarke, John Banks, Richard Covell

[BCBW 2016] "Fiction" "War"




Hangman (Penguin $32)
Review



Six minutes before witnessing a hanging, Seattle newspaper reporter Justin Whitfield is engaged in a flirty conversation about convicts’ most-requested last meals. “Double cheeseburger. A side of french fries. Ice cream for dessert. And a coke,” says Sue, a TV reporter.

“One guy’s order,” she continues, four minutes before the execution, “was six pieces of French toast, with butter, syrup and jelly; six barbecued spare ribs; six pieces of burned bacon; four scrambled eggs; five well-cooked sausage patties; french fries with ketchup; three slices of cheese; two pieces of yellow cake, with chocolate fudge icing; and four cartons of milk to wash it down.”

Michael Slade’s Hangman (Penguin $32) is filled with anecdotes about hangings throughout the centuries. It’s the eighth of the Special X Psycho Thriller series and it doesn’t hold back on the toppings. Headed by RCMP Inspector Zinc Chandler, a hard-nosed cast of police, reporters, lawyers and a crime writer try to solve a serial killer’s taunting hangman games written in blood.

As each new hanged victim is found with one less limb, Michael Slade—a pseudonym for father-and-daughter writing team Jay and Rebecca Clarke—turns the gore up a notch to a level that some will find objectionable:

“The body hanging from the beam was missing a leg. The killer had used a hacksaw to cut it off. Draining blood dripped from the stump under the black dress to pool on the floor. The hacksaw lay beside the tongue in the pool. The severed leg had been kicked over against the wall. The muscles had contracted and the bone stuck out an inch. A chunk was chipped from the bone where it had snapped off the thigh. Blood that oozed out of the leg had been used by the hangman to draw the grisly gallows game on the wall.” 0-670-98480X

[Jeremy Twigg / BCBW 2001]


Swastika (Penguin $24)
Article



Jay Clarke, an attorney in more than 100 murder cases, has co-written a series of gruesome ‘psycho-thrillers’ under the pseudonym Michael Slade. Commencing
with Headhunter in 1984, these novels frequently feature members of the Special X Section hunting for serial killers. In his latest novel, Swastika (Penguin $24), Clarke hunts through the annals—and factories—of World War II history to celebrate his father’s war record and expose a Pentagon cover-up.

Jay Clarke, aka Michael Slade, can trace his origins as a writer to his fascination with EC Comics in the mid-1950s—and the encouragement of bookseller Bill Duthie. “I was fascinated by the criminal mind,” he says. “First I drew comics, and than I wrote a book, 13 Tombs, when I was thirteen. I typed it out in signatures and stitched them together like the guts of a book. From age ten I had haunted Duthie Books, so I showed my work to Bill Duthie and left it with him to read. Imagine how wowed I was when he gave it back to me a week later, bound in hardcover, with the title and my name in gilt on the spine. ‘Now you’re published in a limited edition of one,’ he said. ‘One day, I want to see your books sold in my store.’”

Born in Lethbridge in 1947, Jay Clarke specializes as a lawyer in cases for the criminally insane. Most of his recent novels are co-written with his daughter Rebecca Clarke, who studied literature and history at UBC. Their collaboration for Bed of Nails (Penguin 2003) marks a return to the landscape of Slade’s second novel, Ghoul, selected by the Horror Writers Association as one of the 40 top horror novels of all time and named one of the best novels by the A to Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers (Simon & Schuster, 1997) along with Silence of the Lambs and Psycho. In Bed of Nails, a local crazy called The Ripper—who believes he’s Jack the Ripper—plots revenge on Inspector Zinc Chandler. A car chase with guns blazing in Vancouver and a World Horror Convention in Seattle lead the Mountie to a cannibal island climax in the South Pacific, where Survivor is the game, and Chandler is an unwilling contestant. Clarke is willing to consider his fascination with horror could be somewhat linked with the disappearance of his father, a Trans-Canada Airlines pilot, whose flight from Vancouver to Calgary in 1956 crashed into a mountain near Chilliwack during a storm, killing all 62 people aboard. The plane went missing on December 9, 1956 and wasn’t found until May. “What you do is you plumb your life,” he told the Georgia Straight’s Steve Newton in 2003, “and you come up with whatever the scariest things are. Now, I don’t know, maybe your parents lost you in the woods. Maybe Uncle Charlie took you out and sexually assaulted you behind the woodpile. Maybe you drowned and had a near-death experience. It will be different for every single person, but there’ll be something in your life which you have to carry with you, and you’ll carry [it] with you ’til the grave.”

Michael Slade’s eleventh thriller Swastika is a fast-paced, RCMP procedural that was directly inspired by the WWII archives of Jay Clarke’s father, Jack “Johnny” Clarke, an artist who volunteered for the RAF in September of 1940. He flew 47 combat missions against the Third Reich and participated in the Battle of El Alamein. Jay Clarke connects his father’s war record (which he says he found behind a false wall in his mother’s linen closet in 2003) to events in Swastika, a far-reaching thriller in which a delusional killer named The Aryan arrives on the West Coast and heads to Barkerville in search of Hitler’s gold.
“What is it about the Cariboo that appeals to the Germanic mind?” Slade writes. “Are the mountains evocative of the Bavarian Alps? Are the thickets reminiscent of how the Black Forest used to feel? Is it the sense of Lebensraum in its wide-open spaces, the yearning for elbow room that drove the Nazis to invade Russia? Whatever it is, German accents are everywhere in the Cariboo today, and that made the Aryan just one among many.”

As for using Swastika to link the German-born ‘American’ scientist Wernher von Braun to Hitler’s war crimes involving slave labour, Jay Clarke claims, “Von Braun’s war record was ‘inconvenient’ for the Pentagon’s post-war missile plans. So, to subvert the Nazi restrictions in Project Paperclip, he was slapped with more whitewash than Tom Sawyer and his dupes put on that fence.
By the time I was a kid in the mid-1950s, you could sit on the floor wearing your Davy Crockett coonskin cap and see von Braun on Disney’s TV
show. His design for the rocket ship in Tomorrowland was based on his V-2. By the time he died an American ‘hero’ in 1977, he’d been given a medal by President Ford... “During the Red Scare years after the war, von Braun became essential to America winning the arms race. So the Pentagon brought its own iron curtain down between Nordhausen—the overflow camp—and the Dora Mittelbau V-2 factory tunnels, less than five miles to the north. Dora was written out of history, and the cover-up persists today.” 0-14-305325-6

[BCBW 2006]


"Where Do You Get Your Ideas From?"
Swastika/Kamikaze Press Release (2006)


from Michael Slade
Chapter One

Once upon a time...

A harness-maker named George Murdoch ran afoul of a cow. The story goes that Mrs. O'Grady's cow kicked over a lantern and began the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which left thousands homeless in the Windy City. One of them was George. Eventually, he went West and settled outside the stockade of Fort Calgary, the Mounted Police post. The Blackfoot called him "Leather Man."

It was George who circulated the petition and raised the $100 required to get Calgary incorporated as a town on November 12, 1884. The election that followed had more fistfights than speeches, but in the torchlight parade that December, George, Calgary's first mayor, was carried shoulder-high.

That same month, George became a justice of the peace. His diary records a court session: "A strange sight, civilians, military, and Indians in paint looking in at the windows." When he refused to enforce the prohibition on alcohol – which, according to his diary, would be "suicidal" – George provoked the enmity of Jeremiah Travis, teetotaler and the federally-appointed magistrate. An epic battle ensued:

Library and Archives Canada records: "Yet perhaps Murdoch’s most enduring legacy lies in the diary and notes he kept assiduously during his early years in the west. With their insight and detail, his comments provide a valuable account of frontier life as seen through the eyes of a newcomer and permanent resident."

Michael Slade is George Murdoch's great-grandson. Inspired by Leather Man's 235-page frontier diary, he plotted his first novel, HEADHUNTER, published in 1984. It begins: Medicine Lake, Alberta, 1897. The body hung upside down from the ceiling by nails driven through both feet. The head was missing, the neck severed to expose vein and muscle, artery and bone in a circle of raw flesh. What was left of the man was still dressed in the bright scarlet tunic of the North-West Mounted Police...

Chapter Two

In 1922, Vivian Murdoch was born in Calgary. George Murdoch's granddaughter was a country girl at heart, who wished to see the world. On the day she graduated as an RN from the Misericordia Hospital in Edmonton, Viv jumped a train to Vancouver to work as a war nurse. Her adventures (pages 71 - 76) inspired KAMIKAZE, a tale of double revenge for the atrocity at St. Stephen's Hospital during the Fall of Hong Kong ("Banzai" pages 42 - 52 and "Barbed Wire" pages 76 - 86) and the atomic-bombing of Hiroshima by the Enola Gay.

Michael Slade is Vivian Murdoch’s son and granddaughter. As an undergraduate in history before he studied law - Jay Clarke has acted in more than 100 murder trials - Slade did a year's research into President Truman’s decision to drop the atomic bomb. As a UBC History graduate, Rebecca Clarke delved into subsequent revelations. That conspiracy inspired the chapters "Hickam's Flag" (pages 146 - 159), "The Big Bang" (pages 191 - 201), and "Black Rain" (pages 216 - 222). In 1945, Viv joined Trans-Canada Air Lines, now Air Canada. She met and married Captain Jack Clarke.

Chapter Three

Flight Lieutenant Jack Clarke, a Montreal commercial artist, flew 47 raids with #10 Squadron, RAF over the Third Reich and North Africa when he was twenty. In the Battle of the Atlantic, he attacked the Gneisenau and the sub pens in DAS BOOT, flew in all the 1000 bomber raids, and served under Monty against the Desert Fox at the Battle of El Alamein. His adventures ("Warrior of the Night" pages 136 - 147) inspired SWASTIKA, a tale about the conspiracy to whitewash SS-Sturmbahnführer Wernher von Braun so he could build nuclear missiles for the Pentagon.

With #6 Group, RCAF, Jack trained crews that raided Von Braun's V-2 rocket factory and test site at Peenemünde in August 1943 ("Tomorrowland" pages 110 - 126, "Achtung!" pages 149 - 156, "Wonder Weapons" pages 171 - 179, "Spoils of War" pages 193 - 201, and "Death March" pages 212 - 217).

[Quill & Quire: "Michael Slade has a reputation for conducting extensive research before beginning to write his novels, and there is much evidence of this in SWASTIKA. The scenes in Hitler's bunker and the V2 rocket factory are so descriptive that it's difficult to know where historical fact leaves off and fiction begins. SWASTIKA will please anyone who enjoys a good thriller with a historical bent."]

In 1945, Jack became a pilot with Trans-Canada Airlines. In 1956, as the captain of Flight 810 which slammed into Mount Slesse, he died along with 61 others in the worst aviation disaster in Western Canada. That story will be published this November in DISASTER ON MOUNT SLESSE by Betty O'Keefe and Ian Macdonald.

Chapter Four

Boiled down to basics, one could theorize this. The conspiracy in KAMIKAZE allowed the White House to test the potential of the atomic bomb as a warhead threat to control the Soviet Union. The conspiracy in SWASTIKA gave the Pentagon the nuclear missile to attack Russia. Combined, those two conspiracies spawned the Arms Race and the Cold War. The Cold War spread American and Soviet troops and influence around the world. At the end of the Cold War, the Russians went home. The Americans didn't. Bin Laden created al-Qaeda from Muslim outrage over U.S. troops being stationed in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam. Al-Qaeda aims to drive Americans and American influence out of all Muslim nations. That led to 9/11, which led to the War in Iraq...

Chapter Five

And everyone lived happily ever after.