Sunday, 30 September 2012

Canadian Peace and Police Officers Memorial 2012

Today we take a moment to honour the men and women who dedicate their careers and their lives to the protection of our homes and streets in Canada through the national Police and Peace Officers Memorial ceremony held on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

Special tribute was paid today to Constable Vincent Roy of the Bromont, Que., Police Service whose name was etched in a glass panel that stands at the Memorial Pavilion in the nation's capital, which now carries the names of 826 fallen officers. Roy was struck and killed during a routine traffic stop on December 1, 2011.

Also honoured this year were
  • Staff Sergeant George H. Bossange, killed June 21, 1919 as a member of the Royal North West Mounted Police, a force that was merged with Dominion Police in 1920 to the current Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
  • Constable George Armstrong who died while on duty with the Nipigon Police in northern Ontario on July 18, 1919.
  • Ontario Provincial Police County Constable Harry Fordham, who died February 2, 1942.
 Hats off to these brave law enforcement officers and their families.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Word on the Street 2012, Toronto

This past weekend I was fortunate to be able to attend Word on the Street, the annual book festival held each year at Queen's Park in downtown Toronto. Despite the threat of bad weather, a great crowd came out to enjoy Canada's largest literary event, featuring publishers, authors, associations, and book vendors. Each year this festival draws up to 200,000 people, and as I circulated around in the early afternoon I had a chance to listen to authors reading from their latest works, I browsed through countless books for sale, and chatted with authors making a special appearance to sign books for avid readers crowding the booths.

The Crime Writers of Canada were well represented in the afternoon in our booth close to the College Street entrance. Pictured on the right are (from left to right) authors N.J. Lindquist, Catherine Astolfo, Rosemary McCracken, and Mel Bradshaw. I was pleased to be able to meet an amazing number of people walking by the booth who are interested in crime fiction and love reading mysteries. My own book signing was scheduled for 3:00 PM but I spent two hours before that just meeting people, listening to their reading interests, and having fun talking with them. To each and every one of you who took a moment of your time to stop and chat with me, a big thank you. I hope you enjoyed the festival as much as I did.

At 3:00 PM I went behind the table to sign copies of Marcie's Murder and Blood Passage. I was honoured to share the table with the inimitable Hilary MacLeod (pictured with me: "It's not a hat, it's a fascinator!"), Rick Blechta (who told me a few great stories about book signing experiences in his past), and David Rotenberg, whose Detective Zhong Fong novels happen to be a personal favourite of mine (thanks for the autographs, David). It was a great experience to share the booth with these fine authors, and I thank them for their kindness.

Thanks very much as well to Nate Hendley, who helped organize the event for the Crime Writers of Canada, to Catherine Astolfo, who took me under her wing and refused to be embarrassed by my enthusiasm, and everyone else involved!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Sepia Saturday No. 144

It's once again Sepia Saturday, when I take a break from the business of crime fiction writing to indulge in my favourite hobby, collecting and admiring old photographs. This week's theme, as provided by Alan Burnett at, is based on a photo posted by Alan in which the photographer omitted some poor fellow's head. As a variation on the theme of photographer as decapitator, or omitter of other body parts, I found two photos in my collection that suggest the theme of amateur photographers as imperfect framers and shot composers.

This first photo is a family portrait:

I like this photo very much. An outdoor portrait of a very handsome man with, I'm guessing, his mother and his daughter. Everyone's very well dressed, but the photographer "spoiled" the shot by failing to clear away the timothy and clover in the foreground, not to mention the gigantic leaf on the right. Just the same, the photo was considered acceptable enough to have been mounted on an expensive-looking embossed black mounting board (cropped out of my scan) and kept with other family photos through the years. In pencil, on the back, the photo is dated "1912." I like this portrait not only because the man has a great mustache, but also because, unlike a studio shot, it puts these people right in the middle of the physical world in which they lived. In the middle of life.

This second photo is a group photo of an event of some kind:

I've included this picture in the theme of amateur frame-botching because of the sign or banner in the top left corner. Just enough to tantalize, far too little to let us know what kind of an event it was. Pencilled on the bottom of the mounting board (which I cropped out of this scan) is "Burt Grove." It could be anywhere, but I think it might be Burt's Grove, which was in Auburn, New York, a Google search of which turns up several references to picnics and other similar events there in the late nineteenth century/early twentieth century.

Now that we've dispensed with the theme, take a look at the people in this photo (click on it for a closer view). First we have the group of five girls under the tree on the right, who seem to be the only ones aware of the photographer. Next, look at the young lady in the centre, viewed in profile. She seems to be trying to talk to the young fellow sitting under the tree, who appears to be sulking. Oblivious, everyone else is helping themselves to the spread on the tables, which is supposed to be the main idea, in the first place! This one, folks, is an example of a picture that could easily support a thousand words and a hundred different stories.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

The Crime Fiction Grab Bag: Bloody Scotland Checks In

It's time for another Crime Fiction Grab Bag, and this time Bloody Scotland holds the spotlight.

The verdict is in! Bloody Scotland, the first crime fiction festival held in Scotland, is reported to have been a great success. The local paper, the Stirling Observer, were very pleased to have had this event take place in their back yard.

The brainchild of Lin Anderson and Alex Gray, the festival ran from Sept. 14 to 16. The BBC News online provides a look at novelists Alex Gray and Caro Ramsay.

The Daily Record hailed the festival as a success, providing links to several interesting video clips in which festival participants are interviewed.

The Daily Record also focused on Alex Gray, and how she consulted with a pathologist while researching her novel.

Finally, online blogger Bookwitch provides an excellent summary of the festival, complete with many photographs.

On another note, in case you missed it, here's the Guardian UK on an author's apparent descent from near-fame to shame as a result of the sock puppet scandal.

Finally, I invite you to read my recent interview with New York-based book manager Lori Higham on Newsblog, in which I discuss the writing process, influences, and more:

Friday, 14 September 2012

Sepia Saturday No. 143

Well, it's Saturday again, which means two things. First, I haven't posted since last Saturday, which isn't a good thing, but my excuse is that I'm getting The Fregoli Delusion ready for publication and it's a very exciting, exhausting time. The second thing? It's Sepia Saturday again!

This week's theme is grocery stores and food, based on a photo provided by Alan Burnett, the host of this blog hop, which you can view here: (Follow the links on his page to view the contributions of other participants. It's great fun!) While I actually have no photos of grocery stores in my collection, and almost no photos of interest featuring food, I do have the following store interior shot I'd like to share:

While today I might walk into a Gap or a similar store to buy menswear, one hundred years ago I would have come to this establishment to buy a new shirt, new collars or collar studs, or perhaps even a new tie for 69 cents! This particular store is very neat and organized, and the tin ceiling looks immaculate.   From the football pennant hanging in the background I'd guess that the store's name was Stein and Callen, and I believe the date on it is 1917. Interesting is the fact that the store clerk is wearing low-cut trousers and a belt, which became more popular after World War I as men became accustomed to uniforms and began to move away from high-cut trousers with suspenders.

I scoured my collection for something food related, and found this happy-looking fellow:

If I'm reading his insignia correctly, he was a captain in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and if I had to guess, he got some very good news about a new addition at home. I'd say his buddies detailed him to "dig up" some chow for the new mouth to feed, hence the package of Pillsbury's Enriched Farina and the clever visual pun!

Friday, 7 September 2012

A Person Needs a Hobby: Sepia Saturday

Followers of the Donaghue and Stainer Crime Novel series will be interested to know that edits are about to begin in earnest on The Fregoli Delusion. I have to say, though, that getting this latest book done has been like walking from Ireland to Canada across the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, one step at a time.

My God, Newfoundland should be somewhere up ahead, shouldn't it?

But wait. A person needs a hobby, and now it's time to confess to one of mine. With thanks to Kat Mortensen and Alan Burnett, creators of Sepia Saturday ("Using old images as prompts for new reflections"), I'd like to sign on to their blog hop and invite everyone to check them out at

I collect old photographs. I'm an amateur genealogist and have gathered a few family photos, but my collection is predominantly made up of strangers. Expressed in terms of the famous Ws, I don't know Who, Where, When or even, sometimes Why. Their photos have been removed from family albums and sold individually in many cases. Scattered to the four winds. So I'm gathering them up and bringing them together, these migrant faces, and wondering what stories they might tell me.

Without further ado, I give you my first offering on Sepia Saturday:

This tintype came to me in a job lot of twenty-six that I picked up for five dollars because they were all "hurtin' and in need of tender lovin' care." If you click on it for a closer look, you'll see that the image has chipped away quite a bit around the edges and the metal has rusted. (Quick tutorial for those more interested in crime fiction than antique photography: tintypes were made by placing a collodion emulsion on a piece of enameled or painted iron metal. They were, as Debra Clifford aptly puts it, the real workhorse of popular photography in the last half of the nineteenth century.)

When I look closely at the wear and rust on this tintype, however, I see that it actually enhances the beauty of the photo for me. It reminds me that although time does its work on us, something in the human spirit endures. These two young women, perhaps close friends, no doubt cherished the bond between them that lasted, hopefully, throughout their long lives. They're gone now, to wherever it is that we all go when time finishes with us, but this symbol of their friendship has tumbled down the years into my hands to appreciate as a true work of art. I'm glad to be able to share with you.

Or to put it another way, I'm glad to be able to reintroduce these two fine young ladies to the world, through a medium they couldn't possible have imagined in their wildest dreams.