Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Summer Crime

Sharon Wildwind

Happy Canada Day and, for those south of the border, Happy 4th of July in a few days.

To celebrate Canada Day, here’s a list of the 2008 winners of the Arthur Ellis Award, announced last month by Crime Writers of Canada. The best of the best in Canadian crime fiction, these books and stories would make a nice addition to your summer reading list.

Best novel
Jon Redfern, Trumpets Sound No More, RendezVous Crime

Best first novel
Liam Durcan, Garcia’s Heart, McClelland & Stewart

Best juvenile
Shane Peacock, Eye of the Crow, Tundra

Best crime novel in French
Mario Bolduc, Tsiganes, Libre Expression

Best short story
Leslie Watts, “Turners,” printed in the Kingston (Ontario) Whig-Standard, July 7, 2007 as part of their summer mystery series from Ontario authors

Best crime non-fiction
Julian Sher, One Child at a Time: The Global Fight to Rescue Children from Online Predators, Vintage Canada/Random House of Canada

This last one you won’t be able to read—yet, but hopefully winning the Best Unpublished First Novel award will soon land Dorothy McIntosh a contract for The Witch of Babylon

I’m devoting my summer to watching as well as reading. I’ve just finished season four of A Touch of Frost. This wonderful British police procedural, first aired in 1992, still makes an occasional appearance with a new made-for-TV movie. All of the seasons are available on DVD from Granada International.

Jack Frost—okay, the name on his medal for bravery is William Edward Frost, but everyone calls him Jack—is an aging, rumpled cop in the mythical English town of Denton (For Denton, imagine Reading, a town of between 100,000 and 200,000 people, 41 miles due west of London.)

Jack never does paperwork, has trouble remembering the revised caution format, and burns his own house down by leaving a chip pan (deep fat fryer) on the stove when he hurries out to answer a call. But he also knows life on the street, sometimes from a too-personal perspective. He is the bane of his Superintendent’s existence and that of a slew of younger detectives assigned to him to either teach him a lesson or for him to teach them one.

One of the nice things about being able to watch multiple episodes in a short time is that patterns emerge. I’ve been particularly struck by just how tightly this series makes use of the traditional red herring. There is always a limited pool of suspects, but the story line keeps you guessing.

He did it. No, she did it. No, he had to have done it. Okay, it must be her, but Frost has got it all wrong about why she did it. No, it’s definitely him after all. Oh, shoot, it’s the secretary after all. She’s been there in the background and I missed her all along!

For a comedy accent, you can’t beat Police Constable Ernie Trigg. PC Trigg works—I suspect lives—in a file room, where he has the name of every “person of interest” ever picked up by the Denton Constabulary hand-written and cross-filed on 5 x 8 index cards. Trigg is played by Arthur White, the older brother of David Jason, who so ably stars as Jack Frost.

So I’m going to spend my Canada Day afternoon with a lovely cold buffet, some iced tea, and mayhem and crime on the streets of Denton. I wish you an equally enjoyable day.

And, if you have a few spare minutes, you might try http://www.internetvoicesradio.com/Arch-JanetESmith.htm, the June 30th program, where I was interviewed.

Writing quote for the week
The police procedural is not about what the cop does on the job, but what the job does to the cop.
~Joseph Wambaugh, police writer

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