Murder, like every other form of extreme behaviour, is addictive. So writes Stanley Evans halfway through his fourth, Victoria-centric police procedural, Seaweed on the Rocks (Touchwood $12.95), featuring his unconventional Coast Salish detective Silas Seaweed.

Twenty years ago there would have been a fuss made about a white guy inventing a First Nations detective. Evans' less-than-anthropological approach to generating a gritty mystery yarn'sprinkling depictions of indigenous mythology and religion for the purposes of entertaining storylines'would have been denounced as 'appropriation' on the West Coast.

But these days it's fiction. Get over it. That seems to be Evans' unabashedly confident approach. It's so clearly evident that he means no disrespect'and the city of Victoria takes centre stage in Evans's stories as much as his detective'that he has been able to develop his own style with relative impunity.

'The Warrior Reserve does not exist,' we are told. 'The Mowaht Bay Band does not exist.'

In Seaweed on the Rocks, the plotting can be a tad whimsical, but Silas Seaweed's insouciant charm is infectious, Evans' characters from the underbelly of society are superb and critical observations of Vancouver Island society are refreshingly candid and often revealing.

'Victoria's 'Viagra Triangle' is based at Rock Bay,' he writes, 'the area lying between Douglas Street and the Gorge Waterway. Fifty years ago it was largely residential, but now the few remaining houses share Rock Bay with pawnshops, one-hour motels, used-car dealerships, warehouses, hole-in-the-wall consignment shops and British Columbia's liquor-distribution headquarters.'

What the storyline lacks in urgency, it makes for in complexity. When Silas investigates the overdose of a girl he knew from his Reserve, he encounters a ten-foot-tall mythical bear, small-time crooks, a murdered hypnotist, bogus First Nations ceremonies for profit, a murdered blackmailer and a beautiful but aloof Lexus-driving First Nations love interest.

It rollicks. There's wit. And it's original.

Born in England in 1931, Stan Evans is a former college instructor who came to Canada in 1954. Two of his plays were produced at the Seymour Street Arts Club in Vancouver.

His mystery novel Seaweed on the Street (2005) introduces Silas Seaweed who investigates the disappearance of billionaire's daughter. To unravel a family mystery, Seaweed, formerly employed by Victoria's Serious Crimes Unit, searches for clues in Victoria, Seattle and Reno. We are told, "Depictions of Native mythology and religion are based on ethnological research and do not necessarily reflect the present-day observances and practices of the Coast Salish people."

In a follow-up novel, Seaweed on Ice (2006), Silas Seaweed gets involved in investigating the sale in Victoria of Nazi loot that was confiscated from Jews during World War II.

Seaweed under Water (2007) involves an underwater vision quest for Detective Seaweed after party girl Jane Colby is found drowned, with strangulation marks on her neck.

The death of a gardener and a policeman's wife lead Silas on a quest to clear his own name and track the killers to the remote islands of Desolation Sound in Stanley Evans' fifth Silas Seaweed mystery, Seaweed in the Soup (2009).

Switching publishers, Evans published Seaweed in the Mythworld (2011) in which giant thunderbirds are threatening the skies over British Columbia. A man is found dead in an abandoned church. Canada's governor general is dying and an aboriginal shaman is called upon to perform last rites. Plus there are Chinese assassins, dangerous women and a violent gang boss.

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Seaweed on the Rocks & Seaweed in the Soup


Seaweed under Fire (Ekstasis 2017) $17.95 978-1-77171-192-0
Seaweed in the Mythworld (Ekstasis 2011) 9781897430774, $17.95.
Seaweed in the Soup (Touchwood, 2009).
Seaweed on the Rocks (Touchwood, 2008). 978-1894898-73-7
Seaweed under Water (Touchwood, 2007).
Seaweed on Ice (Touchwood, 2006).
Seaweed on the Street (TouchWood, 2005) $12.95 1-894898-34-6
Snow-Coming Moon (Horsdal and Schubart, l997)
Outlaw Gold (Horsdal and Schubart, l996)

[BCBW 2011] "Fiction" "Cariboo" "Indianology"


Seaweed under Fire by Stanley Evans (Ekstasis Editions $25.95)

A hiker and his dog find a corpse in Beacon Hill Park. Two cops find another corpse in an Italian restaurant. Before long our provincial capital is littered with more dead bodies than Midsomer on the eve of Beltane.
Our hero and narrator Detective Sergeant Silas Seaweed of the Victoria Police Department Crime Scene Investigation Unit arrives, finds clues, more bodies, and several suspects.

Once again-for the seventh time-in Stanley Evans' Seaweed Under Fire, he confronts crooked lawyers, crooked policemen, crooked insurance salesmen, crooked restaurateurs, crooked green grocers moonlighting as moneylenders, even a crooked First Nations guy-and murderers.
The detective is Indigenous-but the author is not. British-born, Stanley Evans has lived in Canada most of his life, had several careers, and written other books and plays prior to inventing Silas Seaweed in 2005. Searching the web I could not find any accusations of cultural appropriation directed at Evans. His work is sold and promoted by Strong Nations Books whose mandate promises to bring Indigenous books into our lives.

"Sensitive"; is an odd word to apply to writing so blatantly based on the Whodunit police procedural formula, but the deadpan narrative learned from Spade and Marlow permits Detective Sergeant Seaweed to treat everyone with the same nonchalant tough love-be they Coast Salish, Italian, Chinese, Filipino, or Caucasian. Silas's heritage is always present, giving him a perspective useful in his dealing with others on the fringe. Incidents involving tradition and spirituality stop short of sentimentality.
Silas Seaweed has two residences: a container on the waterfront and a shack on the reserve, with a small outboard boat to take him between them.
This is a man who rescues a large cedar log from the sea and builds a dugout canoe. He is a shape-shifter, changing effortlessly from someone who lives in a container to someone who goes for a drink at the Laurel Point Hotel and makes love to a beautiful billionairess.

A wolf and a racoon assist him in his sleuthing.

His boss, Inspector Bernie Tapp, regards Silas as the force's "Indian specialist."; In the real world he would be less special; the Victoria Police Department has both currently serving and retired members who are First Nations. But this is not the real world.

His schooling was at Victoria's prestigious St. Michael's on a scholarship. Perhaps this equips him to confront two teenage girls in private-school uniforms smoking crack. The quintessential hard-boiled cop with a heart-of-gold, Silas is a do-gooder, welcoming regular walk-in clients at his office in the container. He does not like pimps, drug dealers, or men who beat up women.

He does like women-even colleagues, victims, and murderers. And women-even colleagues, victims, and murderers-like him.

Not all locales exist as Stanley Evans describes them, but he does try to remember to take advantage of attractive local geography; there are a few too many views of the Salish Sea, distant mountains and twinkling lights. Like most detectives of his ilk, he likes jazz but unfortunately when he tries to include a local star he gets her name wrong, so "the piano lady was playing Dianne Krall songs,"; instead of Diana.

Sometimes style gets the better of him and he overdoes what, used once, might be an effective sentence structure. For instance, I found "My mentors were and still are shamans and hereditary chieftains";, "Her town home was and still is a large red-brick Queen Anne-style house,"; and "Native Indians were and sometimes still are hunter-gatherers."; And yes, he did and still does use both "First Nations"; and "Indian.";

Some clichés just keep on giving. I won't be giving away any plot secrets by quoting the conclusion of the novel: "I drove to Clover Point and parked in the turnaround. Looked out to sea and thought about Felicity Exeter. After a while I went to her house. She opened the door and said hello. She was wearing a turban to cover bandages around her head. That turban looked good on her."; 9781771711920

Review by Phyllis Parham Reeve, who recently wrote the foreword to Charlotte Cameron's play, October Ferries to Gabriola. She is co-founder of the bookstore at Page's Resort & Marina on Gabriola Island.

[BCBW 2018]