What do you call a collection of Canada’s top mystery writers? Since the grandaddy of dark and twisted tales, Edgar Allen Poe, was heavily influenced by the raven, why not call this nefarious bunch a ‘murder’ of writers. Descending on Victoria’s Hotel Grand Pacific this weekend, some 200 mystery writers, readers, agents and publishers will be cackling into the night as they plot their next diabolical deeds — and let everyone in on the creative process along the way.
Headlining the festivities is International Guest of Honour and NY Times bestselling author Tess Gerritsen, Canada’s king of thrills and chills Michael Slade and local celebrity writer William Deverell.
While most attendees have already purchased full weekend passes, the Crime Writers of Canada — which is hosting the event — has opened the door to Victorians by offering a day pass for Friday evening and Saturday events.
The $100 pass offers admittance to any of the 23 panels in the hotel’s Vancouver Island Ballrooms Friday night and Saturday; Read Dating and Mystery Café sessions in the South Pender Ballroom; plus Sunday workshops on either crime scene investigation or social media. Pass holders are also invited to visit the Dealers’ Room for booksellers, autograph sessions and more.
There are also eight Mystery Café sessions open to the public for free. These sessions will be held in the South Pender Ballroom of the Hotel Grand Pacific. On Friday, the free sessions include: William Deverell at 6:30 p.m., Debra Purdy Kong and John Moss at 7:30 p.m., and headliner Tess Gerritsen will be interviewed by Monday editor and fellow crime writer Grant McKenzie at 8:30 p.m.
On Saturday: R. J. Harlick and Stephen Legault at 10 a.m., Barbara Fradkin and Garry Ryan at 11 a.m., Michael Slade at 1 p.m., Anthony Bidulka and Joan Donaldson-Yarmey at 2 p.m. and Roberta Rich at 3:30 p.m.
International bestselling author, Tess Gerritsen, is making her first appearance in Victoria as the International Guest of Honour for Bloody Words.
“I’ve never been to Victoria, but I hear it’s just gorgeous,” Gerritsen says on the phone. “I’m looking forward to meeting some Canadian writers and talking to some Canadian readers, and seeing how the genre does up there. What are the interests up there and how are they different from the U.S.? Because there are so many international differences in publishing, in the genre, in what the readers want and it always surprises me when I go abroad and find out that the books on the shelves are completely different than those on the (U.S.) bestsellers’ list.”
Gerritsen is no stranger to the coveted list. She has sold more than 15 million copies of her more than 20 novels, which have been published in 38 languages in more than 30 countries.
Gerritsen’s best known work, a series about detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles, has been made into a T.V. show, much to the author’s surprise.
“I’ve sold the rights to all my books and nothing has happened, so when somebody optioned the TV rights to the Rizzoli and Isles series, I sort of ignored it,” she says. “I cashed my cheque and didn’t think about it, but a year later they had a great script, they filmed the pilot, and you know every step of the way things can fall apart . . . So when it did get picked up for the first season, it was quite a surprise.”
The newest novel in that series, The Silent Girl, to be released July 5, is the first of Gerritsen’s novels to use her ethnic background as part of the story.
“I’m Chinese-American. I’ve never written about that . . . I just didn’t think that the North American readership was interested in what it’s like to be Asian American, but I think it is finally time to explore that a little bit,” she says.
Using the folk tales her mother told her as a child, she incorporated some of her family’s heritage into the story.
“One of the most famous ones is called The Monkey King and every Chinese kid knows the tale. He’s a creature that is born from stone and turns into a living, breathing monkey and becomes king of the monkeys. . . . It’s about a murder in Boston’s Chinatown and the only clues are monkey hairs that are left on the body. So Jane Rizzoli, over the course of the story, realizes that the key to unlocking this mystery lies in that ancient legend,” she says. Gerritsen also introduces her first Asian-American character, detective Johnny Tam into the mix.
“He is asked to join Jane’s team as an interpreter to help out, but it turns out that he’s got some very interesting secrets.” M
Tess Gerritsen interview and public Q&A by Monday Magazine Editor-In-Chief Grant McKenzie during Bloody Words 2011 on Friday, June 3, at 8:30 p.m. in the Hotel Grand Pacific. This free event is open to the public.
Former journalist, turned lawyer, turned fiction writer William Deverell is one of the most recognizable masters of crime fiction in B.C.
And it’s fitting that the main character in most of his books is Arthur Beauchamp, a fictionalized criminal attorney from Vancouver, since Deverell himself spent many years as counsel in more than 1,000 criminal cases, including 30 murder trials.
Dividing his time between Pender Island and Costa Rica, Deverell — whose 14th novel is due out in the fall — will be celebrated as the Local Guest of Honour at Bloody Words.
At the ripe old age of 74, what does an honour like this mean to him? In his words, “Not much frankly.”
“I was the full guest of honour at the very first Bloody Words in Toronto, in 1999, so this is just kind of a little bow to me as a locally prominent writer,” explains Deverell. “Not that I’m not grateful for the honour.”
Deverell refers to himself as a “failed politician” and put his support behind Green Party leader Elizabeth May during her recent victory in the Saanich/Gulf Island riding.
“I do, almost as a matter of course, take political positions as an environmental left progressive in my writing,” he stresses. “Anyone that knows my career as a three-time-failed NDP politician in Vancouver will appreciate that I do have a political past and political interests.”
Deverell’s latest book slips into a younger pair of his main character’s shoes. “It is to be called I’ll See You In My Dreams and that’s coming out this fall. This book goes back to [Beauchamp’s] first murder trial, when he was 25 years old in 1962 and Canada still had the death penalty.”
With CTV optioning the character for a T.V. series, Deverell says, “I pretty much have to find ways for him to grow or to go back, as I’m doing in the current book, by creating stories about famous trials from the past.”
While Deverell acknowledges that he will be consulted in the television process, he has no expectations to move to Toronto. He is happy living out his days on Pender Island.
“People always ask me, ‘Bill, what would you do if you retired?’ I’d probably write,” he laughs. “That’s basically what I want to do with the rest of my life.” M
— Ragnar Haagen
Canadian thriller writer Michael Slade has worked hard to create his unique bag of tricks. His novels — especially his Special X thrillers involving the psycho-hunters of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police — can best be summed up as a three-ringed bull’s-eye: tricks and puzzles at the centre, ringed by psychological horror, and held together by an outer ring of police and legal procedure.
Slade is the pen name of Canadian novelist and criminal lawyer Jay Clarke, this year’s Canadian Guest of Honour at Bloody Words. Clarke has written or co-written 14 novels under the Slade name, including 13 Special X titles.
“This will be my fourth time at Bloody Words,” says Clarke. “Because I write to entertain, there’s nothing I like better than to spend time with those who read my books.”
Those fans that Clarke speaks of have come to be known as ‘Sladists’.
“Within the Sladists is a subgroup known as the Ghouls (named after the teenage punks in the first chapter of the Slade novel Ghoul),” says Clarke. “The first meeting of the Ghouls was in 2004, where we met in Baltimore for a reading of The Tell-Tale Heart at midnight on Friday the 13th around Edgar Allan Poe’s grave.”
Bloody Words will be the second meeting of the Ghouls, who are coming from as far away as London, England, and the U.S. East Coast.
“This year’s events will include Michael Slade’s Shock Theatre, a pair of acted-out spooky radio plays from the 1940s and Slade’s Ghost Walk of haunted Victoria,” says Clarke. “So there’s a lot to look forward to.”
Most of Clarke’s novels involve a historical event or reference, something from the past that ties the plot together. Those elements come from his pre-law days at UBC when he took an undergrad in history.
“I like mysteries with original motives, and the influence of historical events playing out now provides endless inspiration, and I like travelling to exotic places to research the details,” explains Clarke.
As for the future, Clarke is currently working on two novels — a yet untitled 14th installment to the Special X series, and his second book detailing the exploits of Wyatt Rook. M
— Ragnar Haagen