Sgt LockeSgt James Locke got quite a surprise this morning when he walked into the conference room of his Ontario Provincial Police detachment. Not only were his colleagues there, but his wife and daughters had also come to see him feted. The surprise gathering was organized to thank him for his generous help with my research for The Medal.

In the course of writing the novel, I had a number of questions about police and court procedures. (Fortunately I had no personal knowledge on which to draw!) Unfortunately I had found no officer with the time to answer them. In May 2011, when I was driving home along Highway 7, I came across the Madoc detachment. “What have I got to lose?” I thought as I presented myself at the desk. I was hoping to make an appointment for a later date if someone would agree to assist me.

Enter Sgt. Locke. He ushered me into the conference room and seemed very interested in my story. He had written articles for a local newspaper when he lived out west, and hoped one day to write a novel himself. When I left the detachment half an hour later, he had not only answered my questions, he had given me his business card in case I needed more information.

I did.

A while later I came to a roadblock in the plot: I needed Kilian’s car to come to the attention of the police, but I couldn’t figure out how that would happen since the Mustang had been in the garage for months. Sgt Locke explained that when the police are initially called to investigate a matter, they often discover other issues. He wondered what could happen in The Medal that would bring the police into the picture. Aha! I could have the two younger boys sneak out to the garage late at night. I won’t give away what they were doing; I’ll only say that a neighbour, seeing the unusual lights late at night, called the police to investigate. Guess whose car was in the garage?

When I finished the first draft, I contacted Sgt Locke again. I hoped he would agree to review the parts of the book that involved the police and the trial, but he ended up reading the entire manuscript and giving me useful feedback.

With all the time and effort that James devoted to helping me bring the story to life, it seemed only fitting to present him with an autographed copy of The Medal in front of his colleagues, and to read part of Chapter 18, where “Detective Locke” first appears. If you wondered where I got the name for the detective in the book, now you know.

Many thanks also to Staff Sgt Peter Valiquette for allowing us to hold the thank you celebration at the detachment, and to Constable Alana Deubel, who helped organize the surprise gathering, invited Sgt Locke’s family and swore everyone to secrecy.