Saturday, September 17, 2011

Canada Calling: Adopt a Province

Set a mystery in Scandinavia? Wonderful. Ireland? Terrific. Ditto Spain, Italy, Thailand, or South America. Set a mystery in Canada? Whoa, better think twice. Readers won’t buy books set in Canada. Believe it or not, this is still the advice that some agents and publishers give to Canadian writers. No one has ever been able to explain why. Is it because Canadians are too bland and boring? Or are they too weird to be believed?

Kidding aside, access is one of the major problems for books set north of the 49th parallel. Many Canadian writers publish with small Canadian presses, so distribution becomes a problem, effectively shutting Canadian books out of bookstores and off of library shelves.

Try this Canadian mystery scavenger hunt.

Print out this blog and take it with you the next time you go to the library. Pick a province and see how many of the authors who set their mysteries in that province are in your library. My guess is, unfortunately, not many. Go one step further. Ask for books by one of these authors on inter-library loan.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it will get you started reading some great Canadian crime. The list is limited to novels. Canadian writers are prolific short-story writers, too, but the short stories would be even more difficult to find than the books.

British Columbia
Lou Allain
Vickey Delaney
William Deverell
Stanley Evans
Gayleen Froese
Michael Grayston
Donald Hauka
Roy Innes
Ken Merkley
Sharon Rowse
David Russell
Shirley Skidmore
L. R. Wright

Catherine Astolfo
Giles Blunt
Jake Doherty
Howard Engle
C. B. Forrest
John McFetridge
John Moss
Ross Pennie
Sylvia Multash Warsh
Eric Wright

Trevor Ferguson , a.k.a John Farrow
N.A.T. (Nancy) Grant
R. J. Harlick
Louise Penny

Gale Bowen
Nelson Brunanski
Jeni Mayer

Susan Calder
Stephen Legault
Garry Ryan

Thomas Rendell Curran
Barbara Murray

Ottawa (so this isn’t a province, it’s the capital of Canada)
Barbara Fradkin
Mary Jane Maffini

Prince Edward Island
Hilary MacLeod (at least one)

Nova Scotia
Anne Emery

Yukon Territory
Jessica Simon

Northwest Territory
Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Nunavut Territory, Manitoba, and New Brunswick didn’t turn up as mystery locations, though I’m certain there must be some stories set there. I would be delighted if someone reading this blog could send us in the right direction to find them. You can always fall back on Eric Wilson’s mystery series for young adults. He brags that he’s set a mystery in every Canadian province and territory.

Happy Canadian reading.


Diane said...

Loved your post and of course, love Canadian authors, one of whom is number 4 on the NY Times best sellers list! And its about time the staid, boring image went the way of all misguided, hasty judgement.

Sandra Ruttan said...

US readers would have a better chance if the Canadian authors list had more named who've been published by US publishers.

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

It's a good list for "six degrees," too. I can identify two or three onlne friends or acquaintances, two authors I was reading long before writing mysteries myself, two friends I'm on hugging terms with when I see them at conferences, one more I've been on a panel with--and unaccountably missing from the list, my blog sister Sharon Wildwind. :)

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Missed one: a partner in Malice-Go-Round a couple of years ago.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you, Sandra. Part of the problem is that U.S. publishers are still stuck in the no Americans want to read about Canadian settings myth. Move the story to a U.S. city and we might consider it.

Yes, Liz, I'm a Canadian author, but so far I haven't published a book with a Canadian setting. But I'm working on one right now.

Kent Morgan said...

Ever hear of the Province of Manitoba?

Anonymous said...

Kent, my apologies. It was one of the provinces for which I couldn't find any mysteries set there, and I was hoping someone reading this could send me in the right direction to find them

Kent Morgan said...

Manitoba writers who have written mysteries would include Michael Von Rooy, Allan Levine, Karen Dudley, Alison Preston, Catherine Hunter, Wayne Tefs and C.C. Benison. Of course, not all their books are set in Manitoba. Alison Gordon, Marianne McDonald and Taylor Smith also are from Manitoba, but their books are set elsewhere. While she was living in Manitoba, Carol Shields wrote Swann a Mystery, but it's not set in our province. Two non-fiction books set in Manitoba that won Arthur Ellis Awards are Conspiracy of Silence by Lisa Prest and Cowboys and Indians by Gordon Sinclair Jr. I can highly recommend both books that are about the killing of Aboriginals.

Julie Godfrey Miller said...

I love books set in Canada or by Canadian authors. I'll check out my library and see if they do any better than those in other places with Canadian books. I live in Duluth, Minn., so Ontario is our neighbor.

Anonymous said...

Kent, thanks for that list of names.