Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Crime, in Canada?

Today I'm giving a reading at the Toronto Public Library and I prepared a little introduction. Here it is:

A little while ago there was an article in the Calgary Herald and Rick Blechta, a mystery writer and president of the Crime Writers of Canada said that right now Canadian crime writing is really coming into its own internationally. He mentioned Giles Blunt as proof, and I certainly have to agree. With people like Mike Harrison and Louise Penney and Maureen Jennings leading the way.

Then, I was looking at a website that's all about Canadian writing and writers. They had a link to the Calgary Herald article and then in the comment section of the website, some Canadian writers made sarcastic remarks, mostly about the whole idea of crime in Canada. My favourite was the guy who wrote, "The only thing I can think of when I think of Crime in Canada is unlicensed lemonade stands resulting in allowances being revoked for a week." I thought, wow, is that guy ever out of it. And he calls himself a writer.

This is a country where right now in BC there's a trial going on for a guy who probably killed fifty women. It was the Montreal mafia that started the whole French Connection heroin smuggling, bringing in pretty much all of North America's heroin. When some biker gangs went to war in Quebec they killed over two hundred guys and when they came to Ontario they killed eight in one night. Last year we called it the summer of the gun in Toronto.

So, maybe there's a little more going on than unlicensed lemonade stands.

And maybe that's why there's such an interest in crime fiction. Of course, fiction itself is a great way for people to try and better understand the world in which they live. That's why I wrote a crime novel. I wanted to write a book that was all about Toronto, right now.

And right now, Toronto is all about opportunity.

People come to Toronto from all over the country and from all over the world. We all have a love hate relationship with Toronto. Mostly. But people come here, a million people live here who were born somewhere else, they come here for the opprtunities. That's what stuck out for me, that's what I kept coming across. I'm one of those people. I was born and raised in Montreal. I was thirty years old when I moved to Toronto.

So when I started to write a book about Toronto I knew it would be a book about opprtunity. About chance. And I thought the best way to approach that theme, to illustrate it in the most dramatic way, was by following crime. I like crime novels because they're really about actions. Someone commits a crime, someone tries to find out who did it.

In the case of "Dirty Sweet," someone commits a crime and everyone involed finds a little opportunity. Because that's Toronto.


Anonymous said...

I'm thinking Sikh terrorists, heroin in B.C. plus the possibility of money fleeing anti-corruption campaigns in China and winding up in Vancouver, not to mention the odd school being shot up in Montreal and sex killings that would make world headlines if they happened in the U.S. or Western Europe.

I'm a Canadian living in the U.S. and maintaining a blog on "international" crime fiction. Maybe I ought to start reading some Canadians.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Peter Rozovsky said...

I thought I'd just discovered your blog, and now I see that I've been here before. Those sarcastic remarks seem even stupider now than they did then. There's crime just as horrible in Canada, but perhaps it doesn't capture the public imagination as much. Perhaps there's just not as great a tradition of talking about crime, thinking about it, and writing about it.

In any case, the current issue of Mystery Readers Journal (table of contents at, includes an article called "Writing Toronto—As Ethnic As It Gets!"
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Anonymous said...

Great work.