Cornwall police officer's hospital drug bust inspires crime thriller
Late-night incident sparked idea for Graveyard Shift by Dr. Melissa Yuan-Innes
The lucky timing of a Cornwall, Ont., police officer's visit to a local hospital has now become the inspiration behind an eastern Ontario author's latest medical crime thriller.
Sgt. Scott Coulter was working an evening shift in the spring of 2017 when he decided to stop by the Cornwall Community Hospital to check in on medical staff there.
"I just happened to be there when they had a difficult person that was refusing to leave the hospital," Coulter told CBC Radio's All In A Day Monday. "I was able to intervene and as the investigation kind of went on, it was discovered that he had stolen several medications from the hospital that were life-threatening."
The attempted robbery stuck with Melissa Yuan-Innes, then an emergency room doctor at the hospital, inspiring the premise of her latest crime thriller, Graveyard Shift. The novel follows an aspiring ER doctor as a criminal prowls the hallways of a fictional Montreal hospital.
"Graveyard shift is slang for night shift, so as you can imagine, when you have very few staff and the most troubled people coming in at night it can be an explosive combination," Yuan-Innes explained.
Graveyard Shift is the seventh novel in a medical crime series Yuan-Innes has written under the nom de plume Melissa Yi. The rest of the tale veers significantly into fictional territory, but Coulter said the dynamic between medical professionals and the police portrayed in the book is very real.
"I always stop in at the hospital in the evening hours to check on the hospital staff and doctors and nurses, because they do face an uphill battle after hours facing difficult patients, and it's not often kind people that are at the hospital," Coulter said.
"It's very helpful because you really feel like you're alone. Like for the hospitals I work at, you are the only physician there overnight," said Yuan-Innes, who now works at Glengarry Memorial Hospital in Alexandria, Ont., about 40 kilometres away.
While Coulter is only mentioned by name in the acknowledgements, he said he found many details that mirrored his working life.
"As you're reading things, you see comments and references and you're saying, 'Oh, that's so very Cornwall,'" he joked.
Potentially deadly drugs
It wasn't just Yuan-Innes who benefitted from Coulter's catch, which the officer described as "a book bag full of medication" that included potentially dangerous drugs such as ketamine and fentanyl.
"We recovered everything and it turned out really well," he said.
"All I could think about was if these medical-grade medications had hit the streets and people didn't know what they were dealing with and how concentrated they were," Yuan-Innes recalled. "We could easily have had fatalities."
Graveyard Shift debuts at the Cornwall Public Library Nov. 12.
With files from CBC Radio's All in a Day