They say that fact is often stranger than fiction. When it comes to the life of Colwood author Don Easton, it’s also often more exciting.
Easton’s sixth novel, Birds of a Feather, is newly available in bookstores, continuing the exploits of fictional RCMP undercover officer Jack Taggart, which are based on Easton’s own 20 year career as an undercover officer with the RCMP.
The book sees Taggart heading down to the Mexican border after a young girl is kidnapped by a drug cartel. Taggart finds himself paired with U.S. Customs agent John Adams and comes to discover they have been thrown together for a secret purpose. Against orders the pair end up in Juarez, Mexico, where everything goes wrong.
All of Easton’s novels are a mix of fact and fiction. He said part of the fun for him is to hear readers trying to figure out what’s based on Easton’s career and what he made up. He intentionally tries to keep it vague, both for the mystery, and to hide real life events that may still be sensitive to some.
“I know it drives them nuts sometimes trying to figure out which part’s true or which part isn’t true,” Easton said.
Easton retired from the RCMP in 1995 after 20 years of service, mainly as a deep undercover officer.
At several points in his life Easton had contracts out on his life by criminal organizations. He witnessed murders and made tough calls in the line of duty that sometimes resulted in criminals getting murdered.
Easton started writing novels in his retirement as a way to show people what it’s really like, something he feels is missing from most depictions of law enforcement.
“I didn’t read novels much before I started writing them, generally because I found them too phony,” Easton said. “I’ve seen it too much first hand to be reading somebody’s idea of what it is.”
His sixth novel, Birds of a Feather is close to how events actually went down during Easton’s posting on the Mexican border for 10 days. At the time he donned curly, permed blonde hair in a ponytail and posed as a high-level drug dealer. He said his first day on the case he found himself with a rifle pointing at him, something he included in the novel.
His reasons for being in the area differ from the book in many ways, but most of the events come from real life, such as being paired up with an American customs agent under investigation for murder, a revenge killing for the murder of his partner.
The other aspect of the novel Easton believes is true is its depiction of Mexico as a dangerous place, due to the drug trade. He won’t holiday in Mexico and hopes the book educates people on the situation there.
“I think it’s gotten worse. A lot of shootings now. The cartels have gotten stronger, they’re at war with each other,” Easton said. “I think a lot of Canadians are really naive about that.”
Easton has a seventh book finished, Corporate Asset, and accepted by his publisher, and another nearing completion. Easton has also been in talks with a producer in Toronto about turning his books into a movie and TV series. He doesn’t know if it’s going to go ahead, but the books have been optioned, which is the first step.
Easton will sign books at the Coles in Westshore Town Centre mall from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 8 and at SmithBooks in the Tillicum mall from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 14.