The story is over a hundred and ten years old, passed down over the course of four generations.
But now, thanks to the imagination and experience of local author Brock Clayards, the tale has come to life in Clayards’ second book, Chasing the Dragon’s Tail.
Inspired by his great grandfather’s exploits, both during China’s Boxer Rebellion and his subsequent policing experience in Victoria’s Chinatown, this book takes the reader back to a time when drugs, gangs, money, espionage and violence were all a harsh reality of life in Victoria.
The action takes place on the cusp of the First World War and manages to incorporate some seafaring military action alongside the more shadowed world of espionage and crime.
“The whole story is based upon the stories that were passed down from generation to generation,” said Clayards from his Central Saanich home.
“Of course I filled in the gaps and embellished it tremendously for the book, but the core of the story is based on his experience as it was told to me.”
That experience imbues the book with a gritty realism that transports the reader back to the back alleys and opium culture of Victoria’s early Chinatown.
But the realism of the book doesn’t arise solely from Clayards’ great-grandfather’s life; it has at least some of its roots in Clayards’ own eclectic experience. As a twenty-seven year veteran of the RCMP, he has a solid understanding of police work and the seamy underside of espionage and criminal culture.
“Back in the late ‘70s … 1978 and 1979 … I was with the Security Service, what they call CSIS today, and we were chasing around Saddam Hussein’s agents,” said Clayards. “We managed to get two of them and had them expelled from the country.
“That had its moments of excitement and I draw upon, not the specifics of those situations, but the feelings and emotions I had back then for the characters in my book.”
Garry Ryan, award winning Calgary author, said that the result of Clayards’ unique background in his stories provides a book that is “packed with complex characters, layered intrigue and vivid settings.”
This is Clayards’ second book. His first, Pacific Flyways, was also coloured by his personal experience. It told the story of an imaginary plot that involved international biological terrorism with its roots on Vancouver Island.
At 63, Clayards said that he has more books that he needs to write.
“It’s an artistic outlet for me,” he said with a wry chuckle. “I’ve been around for a while and I’ve been a lot of places and seen a lot of things. These stories are in me and I need to share them.”
Chasing the Dragon’s Tail and Pacific Flyways are both available on kindle.amazon.com and at Smashwords.com.
More information on the books and Clayards’ career can be found at brockclayards.com.
— Tim Collins/News staff