Author Tags: Fiction
Raised on a Shawnigan Lake horse ranch, Rene Unischewski is the real name of a former Nanaimo realtor who signed a three-book deal with St. Martin’s Press under the name Chevy Stevens.
Even though her kidnapping thriller Still Missing (H.B. Fenn $29.99) was four months before publication, it was hyped big-time in Quill & Quire. The key was having a New York literary agent, Mel Berger, at William Morris. Unichewski, age 37, also had the smarts to hire Renni Brown, author of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, to help edit the manuscript. Still Missing debuted at #19 on the NYT bestseller list and stayed on the list for four weeks.
Still Missing is the story of a real estate agent named Annie O’Sullivan, age 32, who is kidnapped for a year by a psychopath nicknamed The Freak. Told in flashbacks, Annie recalls her hellish year in a remote cabin during her visits with a therapist. The kidnap victim realizes, “I was going to have to help him rape me.” Stevens’ New York publisher has reportedly printed 150,000 copies. It was pre-sold in 20 countries, including Canada. The book has been criticized by some as verging on torture porn, but most have enthusiastically endorsed this grim and unsettling thriller as a page-turner. The dangers envisioned are not entirely far-fetched. In 2008, a Re/Max realtor Lindsay Buziak was murdered in Victoria while showing an empty house. A Duncan realtor was raped and slain in 1991. Unischewski’s pseudonym is a blend of her father’s nickname and her brother’s first name. Reviewed in People and O magazines, Unischewski/Stevens took some time for a book launch on July 10, 2010, in Nanaimo. 978-0-312-59567-8, ISBN10: 0-312-59567-0
Chevy Stevens' follow up thriller is Never Knowing (St. Martin's $28.99 CDN 2011). The promotional material states, "All her life, Sara Gallagher has wondered about her birth parents. As an adopted child with two sisters who were born naturally to her parents, Sara did not have an ideal home life. The question of why she was given up for adoption has always haunted her. Finally, she is ready to take steps and to find closure. But some questions are better left unanswered. After months of research, Sara locates her birth mother---only to be met with horror and rejection. Then she discovers the devastating truth: Her mother was the only victim ever to escape a killer who has been hunting women every summer for decades. But Sara soon realizes the only thing worse than finding out about her father is him finding out about her. What if murder is in your blood?"
The third release for Nanaimo realtor Chevy Stevens' three-book deal with St. Martin's Press is Always Watching (St. Martin's / Macmillan), set in Victoria, focussing on the personal demons that beset Dr. Nadine Lavoie, the psychiatrist for Chase's first heroine, realtor Annie O'Sullivan, who was kidnapped, raped and tortured, and her second heroine, Sara Gallagher, who discovered her father was a killer of women for thirty years.
Ex-realtor Chevy Stevens' fourth novel, That Night (St. Martin's 2014) is not about the fictional realtor Annie O'Sullivan, the protagonist in her earlier thrillers. Instead it's about Toni Murphy who, at eighteen, was wrongly convicted of the murder of her younger sister. Her boyfriend at the time was also convicted. Out of prison by age thirty-four, Toni returns to her hometown on Vancouver Island, very anxious not to violate any terms of her parole. While her former boyfriend, Ryan, is convinced he can unravel the murder case, her own mother is less sure about her innocence. In order to clear her name, Toni must re-engage with a nasty cabal of women who once made her life miserable in high school.
Still Missing (St. Martin's 2010)
Never Knowing (St. Martin's 2011) 9780312595685 |
Always Watching (St. Martin's / Macmillan 2013 $29.99 978-0-312-59569-2
That Night (St. Martin's 2014) $19.95 9781250057518
Those Girls by Chevy Stevens (St. Martin’s Press / Raincoast Books $21.99)
from Cherie Theissen
So far, the greatest danger facing the three teenage sisters in Those Girls, after their mother has died, has been their father when he reappears on one of his infrequent trips back from the Alberta oilrigs.
But the world can turn into an exceptionally nasty place when you’re young, female, and prone to making very foolish decisions.
Dainelle (Dani) is almost 18, Courtney is 16½, and Jess is about to have her 15th birthday.
They live in an old ranch- hand’s house in a small town called Littlefield in British Columbia’s interior.
Five years earlier they lost their home when their mother was killed and their father took off, presumably on a five-month binge.
Each sister was sent to a separate foster home until their father staggered home and somehow managed to get them back. The sisters were happily re-united, but unhappily their father was still a brutal drunk.
They could relax when their father was off on the rigs. They could work hard on the neighbour’s ranch on the weekends and make scant money stretch for food. They could steal the odd egg, or some makeup. They could go about their lives.
While occasionally the neighbours would look in on them, those girls must have been excellent liars, as no one followed up after seeing the bruises, the black eyes and the various injuries the girls suffered whenever their father returned home; not the teachers, not anyone from foster care services, and not even those neighbours, who accepted the explanations with some suspicion but no action.
Dani, Courtney and Jess wouldn’t have wanted action anyway. It would probably have led to still more foster homes, and another separation from one another, which would have devastated them.
If only they could have hung on a little longer.
Dani was responsible and could have taken care of them and she was almost of age. Jess was a serious, dreamy adolescent. But then there was Courtney—sexy, beautiful, Courtney, who ran around with the boys, drank, partied and frequently stayed out all night.
Then Courteney took up with the wrong man and her father found out. You could say that everything that subsequently happened was her fault.
The girls lost more than their home when they drove away in the old truck with the gun under the seat. They lost their dreams.
Dani had dreamt of a serene home and a marriage to her steady beau, Corey, and now she had to break up with him and invent a reason.
Jess had her precious camera and was going to travel and be a photographer. Until her camera was ripped from her hands and smashed on the ground along with her future.
Courtney had been going to hit the big city and break into the music world. She had the voice, the looks and the guitar. Until she had to sell the guitar for money to help the sisters get away and use her good looks for more nefarious purposes.
People do very bad things in Chevy Stevens’ books. Once again, the foster parents, the fathers and the strangers in Those Girls are often despicable. Or incredibly inept.
The Cash Creek police and the Ministry of Children and Family Development (foster care services) don’t get high marks. And kindly Sergeant Gibbs in Littlefield should have sent Courteney to the hospital when he saw the burn on her face.
Balanced with all the evil and ineptitude, however, there are heroes. There’s the pub owner in Cash Creek, Allen, and his son, Owen, who help “those girls” when they are again running away—this time from an even worse situation than the first time.
Patrick and his wife, Karen, give the Campbell sisters a new lease on life in Vancouver, with new identities. Dani becomes Dallas, Courtney becomes Crystal and Jess becomes Jamie.
Nine months later, it all unravels into another nightmare.
Chevy Stevens, Rene Unischewski’s pen name, not
surprisingly, was inspired by Stephen King. She lives on Vancouver Island with her husband and daughter, having made a very successful transition from a realtor to a writer of thrillers, penning Still Missing in 2010, which won the International Thriller Award for Best First Novel, and was a New York Times bestseller. Her books have been published in more than 30 countries.
Cherie Thiessen reviews fiction from Pender Island.