A Life of Crime: A retired detective takes up a life of crime fiction
Published Monday, November 23, 2020 1:23PM EST
Desmond P. Ryan's Mike O'Shea crime series covers are seen in these images from realdesmondryan.com.
LONDON, ONT. -- The story of Desmond Ryan is the story of a crime fighter turned crime writer.
The author of the Mike O’Shea series of police procedurals is a former Toronto police detective who is inserting the world he knows into a world he created to bring a series of compelling police stories to life.
Ryan has written a series of three novels in which the Mike O’Shea character deals with the emotional fallout of an incident in which he failed to draw his weapon during a confrontation that resulted in the shooting death of his partner.
A confessed bibliophile, Ryan took a degree in English literature before joining the Toronto police force because, he says, he “always loved books (clearly).” And he says he was influenced by earlier crime writers including the British masters: Evelyn Waugh, Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle.
“I write because it’s fun,” says Ryan. After three decades of writing police reports he sees crime fiction as a healthy outlet that allows him to tell stories the way he would have wanted them to work out.
“The idea of being able to tell a story so well that others will actually want to take the time to read it is a wonderful gift. I am seeing that I have that gift to give crime fiction readers.”
Every crime fiction writer is creating a fictional universe in which his characters operate. But most of those fictional worlds are very much rooted in reality. So it is for Mike O’Shea in the hands of his creator Desmond Ryan.
“One of the things about policing is that you get a real inside view of so many different worlds,” says Ryan, “Writing crime fiction gives me the opportunity to provide an authentic crime experience to fiction readers. A win/win scenario really!”
As a self-published writer, Ryan had a choice to make. Being a retired detective, his knowledge was very much seated in Canada’s policing and justice system. But there is a much larger market for English-language writers who set their stories in America. It is a stark choice facing every Canadian author and there are arguments to be made for locating on both sides of the border.
But Ryan says it came down to the issue of accuracy, “I want to give my readers an authentic experience and not just kind of make things up on the fly or gloss over what I couldn’t research, so setting the series in Toronto was crucial.”
The series so far is three novels: 10-33 Assist PC, Death before Coffee and The Man at the Door. He has also written what is essentially a short story called The Funeral, which follows the first book in the trilogy and details the emotion of a police funeral following a death in the line of duty.
A fourth Mike O’Shea book is in the works, but its publication was pushed back because of the pandemic.
And Ryan is simultaneously working on a new series with a different appeal. He is starting a second “Mary-Margaret” series which will be cozy mysteries rather than police procedurals, although there will be significant crossover of characters so it will also be set in Toronto.
The crime fiction genre is crowded and Toronto has its own stable of writers and their characters. But Ryan’s Mike O’Shea stands out for its realism.
That is clearly the result of Desmond Ryan the crime writer being able to reach into the decades-long experience of Desmond Ryan the crime fighter.