Media and mystery

The Bidding by Bill Haugland is a chilling blend of crime, the media, and the occult in Montréal’s swinging seventies. 

News is not yet digital, there are no satellite uplinks, and no one uploads video shot on a smartphone. So Haugland’s apparent alter ego, reporter Ty Davis, relies on low-tech radio-phones, film, and his wits, as he solves a series of murder-kidnappings in Quebec’s tony Laurentian Mountains.
 
Haugland captures the grit of a busy newsroom, as well as the rush of covering a breaking story. He knows his material so well because he lived it. He not only anchored Montreal’s leading newscast for years, he earned his spurs there as a street reporter.
 
Haugland centers his tale on Flash News, a thinly-veiled version of his own time at CFCF-TV. Pulse News, in those days, bore little relation to today’s hyper-produced, homogenized local newscasts. The people were real, from the tough, rotund news director, to the driven, crime-obsessed assignment editor. They were not airbrushed, not much concerned with their hair and teeth.
 
Haugland covered all kinds of huge stories in Quebec.
 
Bill HauglandHe was there during the October Crisis, when terrorists planted bombs in mail boxes, killed a provincial cabinet minister, and kidnapped the British trade commissioner. Until the Air India flight was bombed and hundreds killed, it was Canada’s worst case of terrorism in the 20th century. Bill brought us that airline tragedy, too.
 
Haugland could handle social stories with equal ease. He interviewed John Lennon and Yoko Ono, at their famous bed-in in Montreal, where the Beatle composed and recorded his anthem Give Peace a Chance. The Vietnam War was still raging, so this wasn’t just entertainment fluff.
 
Bill also anchored election coverage with encyclopedic knowledge (he crammed with his own index cards) and silken on-air ease. “That Bill,” CFCF News Director Mike Donegan once told my husband, who worked with them both, “he’s one hell of a traffic cop.”
 
Haugland’s novel brought back memories for me. I still remember those radio cars, that cramped newsroom with assignments written on a blackboard, and the time the reporters spent waiting for film to come back from the lab.
 
This book will delight mystery buffs and news junkies. It is actually Haugland’s second novel, the second in his Ty Davis series. His earlier book, Mobile 9, has a lovely last-page twist, and the same realism of The Bidding.
 
Both are trips worth taking to a compelling era in television news.
 
And this note: Haugland dedicates The Bidding to his son. Hugh Haugland followed in his dad’s footsteps, not as an anchor, but as a very talented camera operator. He died in a helicopter crash while doing what he loved — covering a story for CFCF-TV. Like his father, Hugh was regarded by his colleagues as a really nice guy and a true professional. This book is a fitting tribute to a beloved son.
 
 
Share