Eric Volmers wrote a Feature article about Tough Tiddlywinks in The Calgary Herald on April 26, 2013.

Caroline Zentner also wrote a Feature article about Tough Tiddlywinks on April 26, 2013, in The Lethbridge Herald.

Tracy Sherlock wrote the following piece in The Vancouver Sun on March 21, 2014:

Crime yarn wrapped in city politics

Vancouver author, artist and criminal lawyer tackles larger social issues in a murder mystery

By Tracy Sherlock, Vancouver Sun March 21, 2014 9:28 AM

Crime yarn wrapped in city politics

Tough Tiddlywinks by Christopher Nowlin.

Vancouver author, artist and criminal lawyer Christopher Nowlin’s Tough Tiddlywinks is a mystery novel with clever illustrations included. The story is set in Vancouver, post-2008 economic crisis and begins with the murder of “Condo King” Donald Dickerson, a sleazy real estate developer. Nowlin is a painter who taught himself to paint. He also teaches law at Langara College and has written on a wide range of legal issues including constitutional law, expert evidence and undercover operations. His first novel was To See The Sky, and he also wrote Judging Obscenity: A Critical History of Expert Evidence, which was nominated for the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing.

Q Tell us about your book.

A It’s the story of Hannah Verso, a woman who has glided through life as a trophy girlfriend. Now in her mid-30s she has become unsettled by her dependency on that identity just when a fork appears in her road. An older, wealthy suitor draws her rightward. A younger, feisty activist draws her leftward. Torn between old and new she takes both trails and soon finds herself implicated in a high-profile murder and the political shenanigans of The Resistance, a hard-core group of bicyclists from East Van. She also finds herself pregnant. Her belly expands as the murder mystery unfolds and the cyclists “occupy” Shaughnessy Estates. When Hannah is assaulted one afternoon a teacher from Detroit helps her out. He’s a little confused, not like other men she has dated, and the two become friends.

Q Why did you write this book?

A In the broadest terms I wrote Tough Tiddlywinks because I wanted to stimulate discussion about certain issues among a wide variety of readers, in an entertaining way. I wanted to engage debate, for example, about our culture’s penchant for “leveraging” its way to success. This is a culture of indebtedness that seems to thrive so precariously, like a house of cards. Many of us feel obliged to follow the financiers’ mantra: keep investing or else the great economic machine in the sky will come crashing catastrophically onto our mortal heads. In my novel I wanted to address this article of faith, just as I wanted to explore the fragile, symbiotic tension between economics and the environment in the 21st century. These are serious issues, so I’ve added tablespoons of sugar — sex, drugs and hockey (who needs rock ’n’ roll when you’ve got hockey?) — to help the medicine go down.

Q What should people expect to find in your book?

A Apart from a few curse words, in French and English, and lots of multimedia illustrations, the reader can expect to encounter a number of individuals suspected of fatally stabbing a Vancouver real estate tycoon. These include the tycoon’s well-tanned wife, a young First Nations man, a hockey-loving contractor from Quebec, an anti-development radical, and others. The reader will also join the flow of the Friday rush-hour “critical mass” bike ride as it winds through Vancouver, sparking honks of support and anger along the way. Eventually the reader will meet the narrator, a female who loves Halloween, but who isn’t even born until halfway through the book — no kidding.

Q You have an interesting background as a criminal lawyer, a painter, a teacher at Langara and now a novelist. Tell us something about how those all work together in this book:

A My experiences defending First Nations people, sometimes for murder, have exposed me to some of the distinct challenges First Nations individuals face in Canada and in relation to the justice system specifically. I wanted to bring some of these troubles to light for others to see. As regards my painting, my earliest images tended to incorporate text, almost in the way of collage. With Tough Tiddlywinks I wanted to create a similar feel, but in book form, so readers can expect a kind of collage of visual surprises as they move through the story. I do have a teacher in my story — or two teachers. One is from Detroit. The other is the city itself. The tumultuous history of the Motor City holds a genuine fascination for me. From its timber walls as a French fort in a forest, through its massive economic and technological influence across America, through its racial strife to its current struggle to survive, I recognize more than a few apt lessons in urban growth, progress, transportation, liberty, and ecological sustainability.

Christopher Nowlin will be launching Tough Tiddlywinks and exhibiting his paintings on Sunday, March 23 at Havana Cafe, 1212 Commercial Dr. tsherlock@vancouversun.comSun Books editor

Tracy Sherlock’s piece is also available on-line in:  Michigan Detroit Crime News, The Windsor Star, The Province, The Regina Leader Post, The Edmonton Journal, The Saskatoon StarPhoenix, The Ottawa Citizen, The Calgary Herald, and The Montreal Gazette


David La Riviere wrote the following piece about Tough Tiddlywinks in The Voice, the newspaper for Langara College, on February 26, 2014:

Langara instructor publishes second novel, an illustrated murder-mystery : Tough Tiddlywinks

February 26, 2014 5:42 pm  (from Langara College’s The Voice)
by David La Riviere

Langara criminal justice instructor and part-time criminal lawyer Christopher Nowlin published his second murder mystery novel this January.

Nowlin teaches criminology at post-secondary institutions across the Lower Mainland and has been an instructor at Langara on and off for eight years.

He started casually writing detective stories in law school but only recently decided to get serious about the craft.

Nowlin published his first novel, To See The Sky, with Granville Island Publishing in 2008, and then began work on a second book.

A murder-mystery set in Vancouver

Tough Tiddlywinks, published under A Picture’s Worth Press, is an illustrated murder-mystery novel set in Vancouver during the 2008 recession. It follows a wide cast of characters from activist cyclists to a struggling model as they deal with the ailing economy and the murder of local real estate tycoon Don Dickerson.

The novel took four years to complete with Nowlin spending an entire year painting approximately 100 original illustrations for the book.

Nowlin wanted his book to be a hybrid between a graphic novel and a traditionally illustrated adult novel.

“My art tends to be surrealistic, it’s the style of art I like to create,” Nowlin said. “With my novel, Tough Tiddlywinks, I got the idea of adding another layer to it that’s kind of woven into it nicely. It’s not like a one-genre thing like a graphic novel, but it’s a story with this visual layer.”

Nowlin began to paint while teaching law in England at Newcastle-under-Lyme.

He enjoys the challenges teaching offers

Nowlin balances criminal law work and his teaching career, along with writing. Teaching can be difficult, Nowlin says, but he enjoys the challenge and it helps that he usually gets along well with his students.

Student Jacqueline Woo said she finds Nowlin approachable.

“I have gone to see him during office hours before and he sat down with me for about an hour going over questions with me,” she said.

“It is so difficult to find professors who genuinely care for students and see them as a priority among other life commitments.”

5 Questions with Christopher Nowlin (from The Calgary Herald, 2008)

For most people, one or two career paths in a lifetime is quite sufficient, thanks. Not Christopher Nowlin, though. In addition to being a practising criminal defence lawyer in Vancouver, he’s got an M.A. in philosophy, a PhD in criminology and a new novel, To See the Sky, on the shelves. Oh, and he’s also a visual artist, with an upcoming exhibition at the Gladstone in Toronto.

The Lethbridge-born Nowlin returns to his former stomping grounds (he studied philosophy at U of C) for a reading at Pages on Kensington this week.

Question: Why do you write?

Answer: In law school, I was encouraged by some friends to pen a crime novel. I was learning about forensics and I had the idea that instead of someone leaving a fingerprint at the scene, they left a lip-print. It was kind of sensuous, and it turned into If Lips Could Kill. Over a couple of years, I wrote If Lips Could Kill. I realized I could do this. . . . I’m very passionate about philosophy and thought that maybe I can bring philosophical ideas into the open through crime novels.

Q: How would you categorize To See the Sky?

A: I aspire to be literary in the novel, so it has that to it. It also has a mystery aspect to it, and it’s kind of couched in myth and fable and actual fairy tale . . . On one level, it can be read by anyone as a mystery novel. On another level, where you have to read between the lines, it’s simply a fairy tale that will be recognizable to those who read it. I’ve tweaked and inverted and manipulated it, but it’s recognizable. Also, it’s an ecologically inspired story with social, political and moral commentary.

Q: What inspired you to write “a dark satire about Vancouver’s inflated ego”?

A: The original inspiration was ecological.

I’d look across the water from the beach and it seemed that year by year, Hollyburn Mountain became more and more developed.

It was like a line of white freight cars going up the mountain, very dismal . . . Then the Olympics came up and it dovetails with that . . . I’ve lived in various cities across Canada and I’ve never witnessed the same sense of affluence, the same self-confidence that you get in Vancouver. I just wanted to question in a fairly satirical way the rational that we need the rest of the world to put Vancouver in the spotlight (with the Olympics).

Q: Does your visual work affect your writing?

A: They’re kind of mutually influential. I find that one can be as communicative with pictures, with art, as with words. . . . My paintings are what might be called figurative, surrealistic. They’re also conceptual in that they invoke ideas. I’m kind of presenting little philosophical ideas in each painting.

Q: If you could spend time with one character from your novel, who would it be?

A: Demme is who I’d like to hang out with. She’s kind of who I centred the novel around and I guess I created a bit of a foil. I wanted to draw a quirky, larger-than-life young woman who has an odd background. I wanted someone who is independently wealthy . . . as I wanted to explore the idea of somebody who didn’t have to work. What would they do with their life?

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