Ryans spins Bay Bull murder mystery set in the 1970s

By Chad Feehan
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
November 17, 2023 Edition

Witless Bay author Chris Ryan always wanted to write a book about his hometown of Bay Bulls.
He’s done just that with his latest novel Ladies in the Lane, a whodunit set in the early 1970s about a killer who inserts bookmarks down the throats of his victims.
In the novel, three senior RCMP detectives are brought in from Ottawa to solve a case that gets progressively more confounding with every move they make.
Through a combination of his love for mystery and an affinity for his hometown, Ryan has concocted a story about “Newfoundland’s first serial killer” in the most unlikely of places.
Because his readers are going to be mostly Newfoundlanders, the choice to keep the story on the island was easy.
“When you’re a Newfoundland author, you write for the Newfoundland audience,” he said.
Ryan had to make sure he got his facts straight in order to set the scene for a believable narrative. After talking to official sources as well as older folks in the community, he discovered the roads in Bay Bulls weren’t paved until 1976. This, among other things, were reflected in the novel to maintain the times.
“You’ve got to be right on your history, because if not, it kills your credibility as a writer,” Ryan said.
Ryan is among a number of local authors who are choosing to utilize the freedom of self-publishing to put their works out into the world. He sees self-publishing as a valid way to get around the very real possibility of one’s story being turned down by established publishers.
“We’re going to see some great works that should be published,” he said of self-publishing. “They are great pieces of history that should see a bookshelf in a library.”
Ladies in the Lane is his fourth self-published book since 2021 after Working Cape Race, Still Waters, and Working the Trail.
In 2014 he published The Bay Bulls Standoff with Flanker press, which detailed Leo Crockwell’s eight-day armed standoff with the RCMP in Bay Bulls in 2010.
Ryan is a voracious reader of both crime and Newfoundland literature. In addition to having read 15 John Grisham novels this year, Ryan said, he reads most books published in Newfoundland within a week or two of their release. His favorite Newfoundland writer is Wayne Johnston, author of The Colony of Unrequited Dreams, and most recently a memoir called Jennie’s Boy. Johnston has family ties to Ferryland and grew up in the Goulds.

“I love Wayne Johnston’s books,” Ryan said. “As soon as they’re released I buy them immediately.”
Having been diagnosed with ADHD and bipolar disorder, Ryan said the process of becoming a writer has been a long and slow one, but he credits perseverance and practice for his increased productivity and skill. In fact, he has another book in the works right now.
“It’s like anything,” said Ryan, “when you spend time at it, you get better.”

Ladies in the Lane is available on Amazon, and at various craft shows that Ryan makes appearances at throughout the year.

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