Raised on a Shawnigan Lake horse ranch, Rene Unischewski is the real name of a former Nanaimo realtor who signed a three-book deal with St. Martin's Press under the name Chevy Stevens.

Even though her kidnapping thriller Still Missing (H.B. Fenn $29.99) was four months before publication, it was hyped big-time in Quill & Quire. The key was having a New York literary agent, Mel Berger, at William Morris. Unichewski, age 37, also had the smarts to hire Renni Brown, author of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, to help edit the manuscript. Still Missing debuted at #19 on the NYT bestseller list and stayed on the list for four weeks.

Still Missing is the story of a real estate agent named Annie O'Sullivan, age 32, who is kidnapped for a year by a psychopath nicknamed The Freak. Told in flashbacks, Annie recalls her hellish year in a remote cabin during her visits with a therapist. The kidnap victim realizes, "I was going to have to help him rape me."; Stevens' New York publisher has reportedly printed 150,000 copies. It was pre-sold in 20 countries, including Canada. The book has been criticized by some as verging on torture porn, but most have enthusiastically endorsed this grim and unsettling thriller as a page-turner. The dangers envisioned are not entirely far-fetched. In 2008, a Re/Max realtor Lindsay Buziak was murdered in Victoria while showing an empty house. A Duncan realtor was raped and slain in 1991. Unischewski's pseudonym is a blend of her father's nickname and her brother's first name. Reviewed in People and O magazines, Unischewski/Stevens took some time for a book launch on July 10, 2010, in Nanaimo. 978-0-312-59567-8, ISBN10: 0-312-59567-0

Chevy Stevens' follow up thriller is Never Knowing (St. Martin's $28.99 CDN 2011). The promotional material states, "All her life, Sara Gallagher has wondered about her birth parents. As an adopted child with two sisters who were born naturally to her parents, Sara did not have an ideal home life. The question of why she was given up for adoption has always haunted her. Finally, she is ready to take steps and to find closure. But some questions are better left unanswered. After months of research, Sara locates her birth mother---only to be met with horror and rejection. Then she discovers the devastating truth: Her mother was the only victim ever to escape a killer who has been hunting women every summer for decades. But Sara soon realizes the only thing worse than finding out about her father is him finding out about her. What if murder is in your blood?"

The third release for Nanaimo realtor Chevy Stevens' three-book deal with St. Martin's Press is Always Watching (St. Martin's / Macmillan), set in Victoria, focussing on the personal demons that beset Dr. Nadine Lavoie, the psychiatrist for Chase's first heroine, realtor Annie O'Sullivan, who was kidnapped, raped and tortured, and her second heroine, Sara Gallagher, who discovered her father was a killer of women for thirty years.

Ex-realtor Chevy Stevens' fourth novel, That Night (St. Martin's 2014) is not about the fictional realtor Annie O'Sullivan, the protagonist in her earlier thrillers. Instead it's about Toni Murphy who, at eighteen, was wrongly convicted of the murder of her younger sister. Her boyfriend at the time was also convicted. Out of prison by age thirty-four, Toni returns to her hometown on Vancouver Island, very anxious not to violate any terms of her parole. While her former boyfriend, Ryan, is convinced he can unravel the murder case, her own mother is less sure about her innocence. In order to clear her name, Toni must re-engage with a nasty cabal of women who once made her life miserable in high school.

BOOK:

Still Missing (St. Martin's 2010)
Never Knowing (St. Martin's 2011) 9780312595685 |
Always Watching (St. Martin's / Macmillan 2013 $29.99 978-0-312-59569-2
That Night (St. Martin's 2014) $19.95 9781250057518

[BCBW 2014]