Phil Warner never sets out to be a writer.
But ever since the retired educator put pen to paper to create his inaugural Detroit Tigers-themed murder mystery novel, Undone, he hasn’t been able to stop.
Warner, who grew up in Windsor and moved to Lambton County after earning degrees at the University of Windsor and Western University, spent several decades in education, wearing numerous hats – high school mathematics and computer science teacher, vice principal, principal and finally superintendent of education.
Though many people hold dreams of writing a novel, Warner said he never had such aspirations as he approached the end of his career.
“No not really,” he said laughing. “It’s funny, as part of all my schooling I had to write a lot, especially when I was doing my Master’s degree, and when I was working too. Over the years I did a significant amount of writing. But it’s laborious when you’re doing it for a course or for work. Eventually I got quite proficient at writing, so I thought why don’t I try writing for fun?”
Eventually, circumstances led to Warner unexpectedly having a lot of free time on his hands, which allowed him to conceive and then write his first novel.
“I had major knee surgery in November 2020, during the height of the pandemic. I wasn’t doing much but was stuck at home and had to do tons of rehab. So I rode on my exercise bike a lot,” he said. “I have an iPad with a little keyboard, I put that on the exercise bike and started to write. I’d ride for hours each day and I’d write the whole time as I was exercising. I wrote for hours and hours and my first novel was done in less than three months. But the editing takes just as long as the writing … so it was ready to go some time later.”
Warner decided to write a murder mystery that involved the Detroit Tigers for two reasons. He has a lifelong love of sports and the Tigers, and jokes he has more than a passing knowledge about dealing with crime and punishment.
Well, I like crime and mysteries. And my educational career prepared me for the ‘crime’ side,” he said with a laugh. “As a principal and vice principal you come across a lot of different things … that happen. And when I was superintendent … let’s just say I dealt with a lot of issues in that role as well.”
Feedback for Undone was positive, which inspired him to publish the book, then work on a second one.
“I gave it to people to read and edit and they just loved it,” he said. “They told me I needed to get it out, so that was nice affirmation that I did a good job and it was worthwhile the efforts to get it published.”
Warner recently completed his second novel, entitled Michigan Fixer.
A sequel of sorts to Undone, Michigan Fixer follows the life of Kelly Fijador, a one-time class clown who eventually pursues a life of crime.
“I started (working) on it just before Christmas 2021. I was asked to submit a short story for a collection of crime-themed short stories. I was asked to put a story for consideration and my story was about how a fixer got to be a fixer – how things started in high school and how this individual went on to become a fixer,” he said. “It didn’t end up in the compilation, but it set the stage for me to launch into this book.
“Undone was a murder mystery about a Detroit Tiger getting killed. And at the end of the book, there’s a little cliffhanger, a little twist on the last page that there might be more to the story – that little twist on the last page was the launching point for Michigan Fixer.”
Warner’s second novel is different from his first.
“Undone was a traditional murder-mystery mixed with baseball, I kind of describe it as Columbo meets Bull Durham,” he said. “Michigan Fixer isn’t a murder mystery, it’s a crime novel. It’s about someone who makes a career out of fixing problems for the rich, basically, and how that connects with characters from Undone.
“There’s some corporate espionage, some revenge – there’s actually quite a lot of revenge in the book … I think readers will really enjoy it.”
Having finished his second novel, Warner is thinking about a third.
“I’m already getting some success with (my books). I suspect I’m going to write another one – I’m really enjoying it and I can see how a third book could come out of this.”
Even though becoming an author was an idea that came straight out of left field, Warner said he’s thoroughly enjoying it.
“It’s not so much about the writing itself; rather, for me, it’s a giant puzzle and figuring out how that puzzle comes together, that’s what’s so interesting for me,” the former math teacher said. “It’s a giant puzzle and the challenge is to bring all the pieces together in an entertaining way.”
Both Michigan Fixer and Undone are available on amazon.ca. Undone is also available on numerous other formats including Audible, Kobo and Kindle.