10 Questions With Jane Hall

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10 Questions With Jane Hall

Jane Hall is the author of The Red Wall: A Woman in the RCMP (General Store Publishing, 2007). She joined the RCMP in June 1977 and she retired in 1998. The Red Wall is her first book and it is her "attempt to contribute to our knowledge and understanding of Canada and hopefully inspire others to do the same."

OB:

Tell us about your book, The Red Wall: A Woman in the RCMP.

JH:

The book is a memoir spanning forty years of extraordinary times, people, and events. It is an amusing book that deals with some very serious issues: abuse of women, social inequality, the justice system, politics, Western alienation, crime, social responsibility, love, duty, honour, and betrayal.

This is the first, and to date, the only book every written about female members in the RCMP. The book is about much more than the first few women who took up the challenge. As the very astute Garth Drabinsky of CBC radio observed, “This book could have been written by any Mountie, male or female.” That was precisely what I had hoped to achieve.

The reader will experience the RCMP through the eyes of a Mountie, from Depot to retirement. It is an intimate, uncensored view of the modern evolution of not only the RCMP but Canadian society.

Politically driven structural changes over the past twenty-five years to both the Canadian justice system and the RCMP appear to have brought not only “the administration of justice into disrepute” but the RCMP as well. Today it is the protectors who are in need of protection.

Now is the time for the public to look past sensational media headlines and spin; to look into political agendas, mismanagement, and simple commercialism; to search for the truth, and then, based on informed opinions, decide what the face of Canada will be in the future; to decide if we want a system of justice, protected by peace officers or a system of law, enforced by police.

OB:

When did you first realize that you wanted to write The Red Wall?

JH:

I had wanted to write science fiction since Grade 7, but I didn’t have the time to devote to it or the experience. When I was leaving the Force, I realized the Red Wall: A Woman in the RCMP was the story I needed to write, to document history in the making. What I wanted to write is not what I needed to write - not yet, anyway.

I enjoyed the writing process, but when I was done I would have been much more comfortable leaving the book as personal achievement, not a public voice.

I understand the seduction of silence, the promise of safety, security, and anonymity.

Governments, institutions, and international corporations like silence. They will fight to protect it, and it will not be a fair fight. I do not think the average person understands why silence is so important, so dangerous.

Silence, in law, implies consent.

When the public is silent, politicians and corporations have power - unlimited power to create their own version of the past to control the future.

I couldn’t pretend I didn’t understand the meaning of silence. The oath I took thirty years ago when I became a Mountie - an oath to Canada and Canadians - gave me the strength to break it.

OB:

How long did it take you to write The Red Wall?

JH:

It took me eight years to write the manuscript and two years to re-write and re-write and re-write.

OB:

Did you have a specific readership in mind when you wrote your book?

JH:

When you write about real people, real events, everyone is interested.

I knew the entire policing community would be first to step up; they always do when a police officer is the author. There are a lot of books written about policing, but not many are written by police officers, even fewer by RCMP members.

I also knew women from all walks of life and different generations would be interested, because I have a unique perspective that has not been written about before. The feedback I am hearing from women confirms what I suspected. Most of the challenges I encountered are universal to women and are still more of an issue today than the silence would imply.

I knew the politicians would read the book, even if only to decide how to manage the spin if the public decides to help break the silence by starting a social dialogue on any of the four themes in the book.

I knew men would read the book because the vast majority of them are interested in a female point of view so as to better understand and support us.

I was surprised that teenagers are reading the book. They are asking some great questions and taking a look at their own parents in a new light. We have come so far so quickly as a society; the next generation doesn’t realize the recent history that has shaped their reality.

OB:

How did you research your book?

JH:

I have always been interested in history. I was an Art History major at Queen’s. I have always been disappointed that there are so few Canadian history books. Like most members, I have collected books on the Force, both past and present, collected newspaper articles, listened and learned at Depot, consulted the history museum in Regina, watched CBC documentaries, and spoke to a lot of members with my service and many with much more. Many of my friends are lawyers, and one is a judge. They affirmed and provided new insights into the impact of changes in the law on their professions. Finally, and perhaps most important, I am a professional witness, and I have done my best to relate what I have observed.

OB:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

JH:

During the day, a quiet house, my den, a computer and a phone. Twin beds for the night, so I do not destroy my husband’s sleep when my subconscious mind wakens me with ideas, phrases, and connections at a deeper level of thought than my conscious mind is capable of.

OB:

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

JH:

When I finished the manuscript I asked two professional writers for a critique of the book: my good friend journalist Gillian Shaw, and Robert Knuckle, the author of many books, including some on the RCMP.

They both agreed I had a story that was compelling and I was capable of telling it but not without the assistance of an editor. They also advised me “not to rush” - to take all the time I felt was needed to refine the draft.

OB:

Is there one book you think everyone should read?

JH:

Every Canadian should read Paul Palango’s book The Last Guardians. He is an investigative reporter and has documented a compelling account of politically motivated changes within the RCMP from a detached, academic perspective.

OB:

What are you reading right now?

JH:

A Master of Deception, by Robert Knuckle, the story of Carl MacLeod’s work as an undercover Mountie. It is a new release.

OB:

Describe the most memorable response you’ve received from a reader.

JH:

“Your book made me laugh, and it made me cry.”

OB:

What is your next project?

JH:

In January 2008 I plan to begin two books; a book of short stories and the sequel to The Red Wall.

The short stories book will be a collection of policing war stories purely meant to entertain. This book will be simple to write because it will require only my conscious mind.

The second book, the sequel to the Red Wall, will not be simple, it will not be easy, and it will be risky. I cannot say how long it will take, but I promise I will publish it only if I am as satisfied with it as I am with The Red Wall: A Woman in the RCMP.

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