What I wanted to write about is the Canadian mystery scene. It was actually a new blog I just found, Crime Watch, that triggered this. I was fascinated to discover that he had posted about Canadian mystery writing! Here is the link to his post, and here is the link to the newspaper article by William Deverell in the National Post that he quotes from. William Deverell is a Canadian mystery writer, and a lawyer, and I thought his article expressed well the dilemma we have in Canada regarding mysteries: they are ignored by our judges and book committees and except for writing programs at universities, ignored by them also. Mysteries aren't worthy of literate discussion in Canada.
I find this sad. I realize this is the state with all countries and their 'literature' vs mystery books being written. The US and England do a great job of promoting the best in crime writing though - the Edgars, the Agathas, the Crime Daggers. Sometimes I base my mystery reading on the award winners! And on the whole, this is excellence in mystery writing. The article and post got me thinking: what do we have in Canada? And why do we wait for others to recognize what writing is good here? And why is it so hard to break out of the genre world into the book world in general?
I don't have all the answers, of course! I'm a reader, a writer, and a former bookseller. I know something of how publishers promote books, I know a lot about people who read mysteries. However, I do not understand why our media pays so little attention to our own crime writers. Very occasionally is a piece done on the more popular writers, like Louise Penny - I found her because there was story on her in one of our newspapers. This was after of course she had won the Anthony and Crime Dagger for the first in the series, Still Life.
So what do we have in Canada? The Arthur Ellis Award. Haven't heard of it? I'm not surprised It's never promoted in the papers, or in the media. There is no spotlight for crime writing excellence in Canada. However, as soon as we are recognized outside our borders, then suddenly there is a newspaper article, or a tiny piece (maybe) on CBC, our national radio/tv broadcaster (but this is not likely), on the author. Here is a link to the Arthur Ellis Awards, from the Crime Writers of Canada site.
And here is something: I went to Louise Penny's website to get a list of her books for you, and she is nominated for another award!!! The Cruellest Month has been nominated for The Anthony Award and the Macavity Awards! Dead Cold (out as A Fatal Grace in the US) won the Agatha award last year, and this year The Cruellest Month won it. But do we celebrate this in Canada? Is it announced in the media? No. I had to go to her site to find this out!!
We write very good mysteries. We write some excellent fantasy and science fiction. But our authors don't get respected or acknowledged within Canada, by the media or by the Canadian Literature establishment.
Here is the link to the Agatha Awards, which are given for the best mystery written in the tradition of Agatha Christie. Fans of Maisie Dobbs will be glad to know Jacqueline Winspear won for Birds of a Feather in 2004. So it is quite an honour for Louise Penny to win for two books in this category, in two years.
So I've decided that as well as reading and talking about mysteries from other countries, I'm going to talk about Canadian mysteries. I thought I would spotlight some of my favourite Canadian mystery writers. I do have to caution you here: I too, had fallen victim to the view that Canada doesn't have good mystery writers. I was wrong. It's taken me a while, but I can finally say (and very happily and proudly): We have a really strong field of mystery writers, some of whom are among my favourite authors now. Every week I will post on a Canadian mystery writer. In honour of Louise Penny's nominations, I'm going to be spotlighting her next week.
One last thing: mystery is in the air. Nymeth over at Things Mean Alot has a post yesterday inquiring about what a good mystery would be to start with. If you have a favourite mystery that meets some of what she is looking for (atmosphere, not too graphic, good characters and not every questioned answered) please go and leave her a comment with your suggestion.