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Stephen and John Atkins

Stephen and John Atkins

My next Quantum Detective (Nick Sands) novel, Rules of the Game, is set in Vancouver, British Columbia. I have been fascinated by Vancouver ever since a film company sent me there in the late 80s to re-set my L.A.-based novel (Voices in the Night) in Vancouver. I’ve been there several times since and I’ve enjoyed the city every time.

I wanted to see some things I would not see on an ordinary tour and, after some research, I found John Atkins who, among many things, is a Vancouver historian who conducts tours of the city he loves. Besides great insight about the destinations on the tour, John provided interesting details during our 3-hour walk and answered many questions about Vancouver, from its founding to present day. He debunked lots of common myths. Yet, as I told John, I’m writing fiction, so an intriguing mystery, provable or not, is often just what I’m looking for.

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Underground Vancouver

One thing I wanted to do was set part of the novel in the underground tunnels of Vancouver. Do they exist? Yes and no. They did at one time and some of them still exist, but for all practical purposes they are inaccessible to the public. Many of the tunnels have been filled and many others have been made permanently inaccessible. The ones that do exist require literally years of red tape to get into.

That said, John knows where they were and where some still are — though we could not enter them. He took us to a few places and described what was on the other side of the walls and how they could be accessed.

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My friend Liz, John, and my buddy, Louis (a guitar player in our band)

John pointed out Bryan Adams’ recording studio (at left). Probably the closest I’ll ever get to recording with one of my favorite singer/songwriters. John said that Adams restored the building faithfully after he bought it.

One thing we all found fascinating were the glass tiles embedded in a sidewalk. At the turn of the century they provided  lighting to many Vancouver basements and “areaways.”

In the NEXT blog I will post several photographs of this unique system, some taken from beneath the sidewalk in the areaway.

In the LAST Vancouver Tunnel Tour post, I will post some photos and stories about Chinatown, including John’s take on Chinatown’s notorious underground tunnels.