“Spirits Along the One North Road,” Photo Journal Edition

In the fall of 2017, I hopped on an Air Canada flight to Quebec. My sole purpose: to see Quebec. Because I hadn’t. Felt a need to go if I was to say I experienced this world. If I got a little writing done, great.


I got a little writing done. A lot of rewrites later, the story I wrote while traveling between Montreal and Quebec City became “Spirits Along the One North Road,” in the July/August 2023 Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.  The story follows a lost soul who has come to Quebec to find some last meaning in his life. I gave the guy much of my itinerary and many of my experiences, as warped through his growing disillusionment. 


Here are the very spots from his (my) journey north. All photos are your man’s own.


He starts where I started, in downtown Montreal. I’d expected a big world city, and that’s what I got. Technically, he starts in a subzero vodka bar I teleported from Midtown Manhattan, but I’m allowed  license.


I enjoyed Montreal in the way of big world cities, but cosmopolitan wasn’t what my main character sought. He wanted remnants of frontier and wild still lingering about the place.  He’d been fed stories of Quebec forests and natural majesty. 


I only felt that a nature’s power vibe one place on the main island. North of downtown, as you get into the McGill University neighborhood, older houses and trees pop up.  The town’s namesake Mont Royal looms ahead in microforest green. It’s both a tourist destination and the Olmstead-designed park for our urban locals. If you’re willing to climb or take one of the omnipresent tours, there is an entirely different perspective on Montreal.



I shlepped it there during the day. Later on an off-season day, but even then a crowd milled around the belvederes. The signs of looky-loo pandemonium were there: snack carts shuttered for the day, a cafe and gift shop, bus parking. It’s well worth the shlep. As for wild, the St. Lawrence sweeps past downtown, and beyond it is the first sense of something truly vast. 



My guy notices the same thing. He’d done the shlep after dark, so I needed ship traffic to help him trace the river. It flows northeasterly through Montreal, toward what he would’ve seen as a yawning black. Invitingly so. Next thing, he’s on a train in that direction. To Quebec City.


The same train I happened to take. He had a window seat. The private-ish writer type in me made sure I got a single. Here’s me (him) bravely crossing the St. Lawrence:


And here’s our bar cart.


Note the authorial mouse at bottom left. Quebec City had a whole new feel. An Old Europe feel, a fortress feel, a deeper feel of the river at work. Almost a Tolkien thing is going on with the port villages down low and the palatial town atop the cliffs above. There’s even an open battlefield plain outside the old fortress.



As for Quebec wilds, not so much. More like beer gardens and two cruise ship calls a day. Folks from all over the world are wandering around licking ice cream cones. But that old feel promises those wilds might be close, that this is the bastion before those forests close in. That’s how my character read it, anyway. 



My character and I broke company here. His destiny was that lure north, and he headed that way in a stolen car. My destiny was a flight home. Neither of our travel itches were scratched. But hey, we’ll always have Quebec. And now a crime fiction story I hope people enjoy.




  1. It is an excellent story, extremely well written. The single best part is the very last sentence, which indicates that Rem could scale the broken snow, get back on the lumber road and survive. You give the reader a choice of the ultimate resolution. I voted for Rem’s survival.

    1. Thank you for the kind words. I worked hard on this one. And yes, the ending is left a little open. I had a good idea about what he would do next, but I kept it out. This story is about reaching that particular point in life, not about what does or doesn’t come next.

      1. I certainly understand your perspective, but I grew to like Rem and was rooting for his survival.

      2. I certainly understand the perspective as indicated in your reply to my email, but I grew to like Rem and rooted for his survival. I hope that he reunites with his family. Even though Rem was a substantial thief, if his partner in crime survived so should Rem. He is sensitive enough to feel and perhaps show remorse.

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