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Bidulka, Anthony (b. 1962)  
 
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Lambda Award-winning novelist Anthony Bidulka is the author of the Russell Quant detective series, which thus far includes eight titles: Amuse Bouche (2003), Flight of Aquavit (2004), Tapas on the Ramblas (2005), Stain of the Berry (2006), Sundowner Ubuntu (2007), Aloha, Candy Hearts (2009), Date with a Sheesha (2010), and Dos Equis (2012).

Quant is a private investigator who lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, but whose cases lead him to such comparatively exotic locales as the south of France, a luxury hotel in Manhattan, a fortress-like chateau in the Arctic, a cruise ship stopping in ports around the western Mediterranean, an African game preserve, Waikiki Beach, the sand dunes of Saudi Arabia, and Mexico's Costa Grande.

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Much of the comic pleasure of the series comes from challenges presented by the larger world that disrupt Russell's otherwise parochial life as a no-longer-young gay man on the Canadian prairie. The eagerness with which he embraces the finer things in life is suggested by the gustatory metaphor contained in each novel's title.

As in the noir tradition, Bidulka's narratives are told in the detective's own voice. But unlike the somber, world-weary voice of the iconic Sam Spade, or of Joseph Hansen's groundbreaking gay insurance claims investigator Dave Brandstetter, Russell's is chatty, and occasionally even campy. While forced to endure his share of the physical altercations that come with his profession, he is more likely to negotiate danger with a quip than with his fists.

As a result, Bidulka's detective offers a significant departure from his generic counterparts. "Life is short, but it can be wide," Bidulka is fond of saying. And Russell is more likely to question the hindrances that people create to their own enjoyment of life than resign himself to negotiating the dark side of human nature. It is his emotional buoyancy that saves the day, not his hard-boiled cynicism or fire power.

Biography

Born July 24, 1962 (the same birth date that he has given his protagonist), Anthony Bidulka was raised as the youngest of three children on a farm outside of Prud'homme, Saskatchewan.

Portions of the Canadian plains had been settled by Ukranian immigrants, whose culture continues to be evident in the restaurants, Orthodox churches, and art and design in the province's capital, Saskatoon. Bidulka celebrates his Ukranian heritage in his novels, where the idiomatic expressions spoken by, and the meals prepared by, Russell's mother may seem as exotic to Russell's non-ethnic friends (and to the reader) as those that Russell encounters on his far-flung travels. In addition, Bidulka acknowledges the continuing presence of the native Cree people, who named Saskatchewan's principal places.

In 1980 Bidulka entered the University of Saskatchewan, initially to study optometry, but graduated in 1983 with a B.A. in psychology. Dissatisfied with his job prospects, he returned to school several times during the next decade, obtaining first a teaching license, then a business degree and, eventually, certification as a public accountant.

In 1999, he summoned the courage to leave a successful career as a corporate auditor and to fulfill what he terms his "boyhood dream" of writing. (In an interview he describes his adolescent attempts to write a novel by typing out what he could recall of a television program he had watched earlier.) After his first novel was rejected by a variety of publishers, he hit upon the formula which has established the popularity of the Russell Quant series.

In a committed relationship since 1991, Bidulka and his partner continue to live in Saskatoon. Their love of entertaining makes its way into Bidulka's novels, where parts of the action are played out over meals or while sipping wines that are identified with a gourmand's finesse. Their love of travel has its place as well, Anthony and his partner's vacations informing the background of Russell's cases.

Detective as Clown

"Melodrama--it's just one of those things you need to pull out of your purse once in a while," Russell quips at the close of a sexually charged encounter with a suspect in Amuse Bouche, the first novel in the series. The comment suggests both the moral dimensions of Russell's world and the manner in which Bidulka skirts the detective novel's dark, melodramatic, and easily satirized conventions.

On each of his cases, Russell negotiates a threat to his client's happiness. In Amuse Bouche, for example, he is hired by a wealthy local businessman to locate the boyfriend who disappeared on the day of the commitment ceremony to which sixty of their friends and relatives had been invited.

Similarly, in Flight of Aquavit, a married, closeted accountant who only recently began experimenting sexually is being blackmailed, seemingly by one of his tricks. And in Tapas on the Ramblas, eighty-year-old lesbian millionairess Charity Wiser is convinced that a member of her extended family--and overeager heir--is trying to kill her.

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Anthony Bidulka in 2007. Photograph by David Shankbone.
  
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