Preston McPherson thought he could save his troubled Canadian dairy farm by growing marijuana, but his problems were only just beginning. With the help of his brother-in-law and local police sergeant, Ferg, he signs an agreement with a cannabis distributor, Green Fields, but money is still tight. When a greenhouse break-in sends Preston deeper into the red, Ferg– not exactly a model cop–comes up with a scheme to sell marijuana illegally to a Michigan drug dealer.
As time goes on, Preston sets up a secret grow-op on his farm, launders the proceeds, and becomes involved in robbery and even murder. At the same time, he needs to bluff his way through government inspections, deal with a local group of women bible-thumpers who are picketing his farm, address the growing demands from the Michigan gangster, and stay one step ahead of the persistent small-town cop who insists on investigating all the strange things going on in town. If any of them catch up with him, Preston risks losing his farm, going to jail, or floating at the bottom of a lake with cement shoes.
Why did you decide to write a black comedy/crime thriller?
After taking a stab at world building in Loved Mars Hated The Food, I decided to write something dark. I enjoyed the character arc that I developed for Dix Jenner. This time around I wanted to develop one that went in the opposite direction – a person who starts off good and loses his way. I originally had been thinking about a story centred around a British dairy farmer dealing with the fallout from Brexit. Instead, I decided to have the story based in Canada dealing with both free trade between Canada and the United States and the recent legalization of recreational marijuana.
What were your inspirations for this story?
I’m a big fan Breaking Bad. I was intrigued by the character of arc of Walter White who started off a meek high school teacher that evolved into a cold blooded drug dealer. I tried to develop the same type of arc for Preston McPherson. As well, I love the Coen Brothers, and one of their best films is Fargo. In the film, the main character, Jerry Lundegaard, is desperate to keep his head above water and enlists the aid of criminals to get some quick cash. Things quickly snowballed for him. I also loved the quirkiness of Fargo and tried to bring some of that into my novel.
You seem to have borrowed from several sources. Any others that you can share?
The story is very much character driven so I spent a lot of time on making an interesting cast of characters. Even Bess the cow is inspired by Arnold Ziffel in the Green Acres TV series. I wanted to go with a farm animal who was also a beloved family member although Bess didn’t develop a human-like lifestyle as was the case with Arnold. Mum is a large source of humour in the story. I envisioned her to be a little old lady who seemed to be always carrying a shotgun. Much like Grannie in The Beverley Hillbillies. The other side characters, including Fergus Becker, the mayor and his wife, and the drug dealer, Ramone, are partly stereotypes with some meat to them. I really enjoyed creating all these wonderful characters.
The book contains a lot of info about dairy and marijuana farming. How did you research these businesses?
I learned that one of my close friend’s has a cousin that operates a dairy farm about an hour outside of Toronto. I arranged a visit and spent an hour learning about how a dairy farm operates, taking pages of notes. In fact, one of the book’s reviewers commented that he was raised on a dairy farm and found the description to be accurate. I take that as a compliment. I tried to arrange to visit a cannabis farm but they operators are quite proprietary and don’t like visitors. I learned that one of Canada’s larger producers, Tweed, owns a plant in Smith Falls, which is outside of Ottawa, Canada. At one time, the plant was a Hershey’s chocolate factory. They have a visitors’ centre and provides tours. You don’t get to walk into their growing rooms but you can view the rooms from above through glass viewing stations. There was enough information available to serve my purposes.
So, there really is a Delhi in Ontario?
Yes. As I did in my first novel, The Road Ahead, I like to use real places in my books. Many of the local readers relate to places that they’ve been to. Even the scene in the Detroit BBQ restaurant is based on a real place in that city. But there is no cannabis company called Green Fields.
What’s up next for you?
I’ve been working on a memoir for the past two years. It is really part memoir and part an investigative book. It describes my parents’ story and how I slowly and meticulously uncover what happened to them. I am sure I’ve uncovered details my own parents weren’t fully aware of. I am hoping to wrap this up soon. After that, I want to go back to writing a fiction book.