The Next Chapter

Martin Michaud set his detective series in Old Montreal — creating a bestselling series in the process

Never Forget, the latest book in Michaud's series featuring Montreal cop Victor Lessard, is the first to be translated into English.
Never Forget is a book by Martin Michaud. (Dundurn Press)

This interview originally aired on March 14, 2020.

Martin Michaud is a Montreal-based writer, musician and former lawyer. His Victor Lessard series has won an Arthur Ellis Award for crime writing and the Prix Saint-Pacôme for Crime Fiction. 

The latest in the detective series is Never Forget, which finds Lessard on the trail of a deadly killer in Old Montreal. Never Forget is the first book in the series to be translated into English. 

Michaud spoke with The Next Chapter about writing Never Forget.

Origin stories

"I started writing in my mid-20s and I wrote, over a period of 15 years, two novels which were not crime novels. Those two novels were rejected by all publishers in the universe. I was ready to give up when I decided to write a first crime novel.

"It was all centred around one idea: can I create a character like Hieronymus 'Harry' Bosch from American author Michael Connelly's detective novels? Can I create a character that is relatable, that will basically conduct investigations from the major crime units in Montreal? I ended up doing a brainstorm.

Can I create a character that is relatable, that will basically conduct investigations from the major crime units in Montreal?

"I put down some ideas and on that piece of paper there was a name: Victor Lessard. It started from there."

Montreal as muse

"One thing that is singular about the series is the fact that I'm trying to use Montreal as a character. Earlier in my life, when I was reading Swedish novelist Henning Mankell, I thought he was doing something great with his crime fiction. He was writing these good crime novels, but at the same time, you would learn about Sweden and learn about the culture or historic events that occurred over there. So I tried to bring that up in my writing of the Lessard series.

One thing that is singular about the series is the fact that I'm trying to use Montreal as a character.

"There is, in the backstory, some elements about historical events that happened in the 1960s and 1970s in Quebec. I'm talking about obviously the FLQ and October Crisis. but also about some secret experiments that were conducted by the CIA in Montreal which were well-documented under the codename MK-Ultra."

Found in translation

"I did read the translation for Never Forget. I have a great admiration for translators. You have to be an artist to be a translator because it's not only translating words in the literal sense, it's also capturing the voice of the writer you translate. I thought the translation did a fantastic job of just that. 

You have to be an artist to be a translator because it's not only translating words in the literal sense, it's also capturing the voice of the writer you translate.

"When I read the translation in English I have the impression that it's me talking in a different language — and sometimes maybe it's even better than what I initially wrote!"

Martin Michaud's comments have been edited for length and clarity. 

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