Monday, August 20, 2012
Scenes of the Crime It’s been a week now since the annual Wolfe Island Mystery Lover’s Festival, Scene of the Crime. This was my second go at it, the first as a speaker, panelist, and honoured guest. And the guests were honoured, no question of that. In a setting that is somehow outside the normal sweep of time, where tourists and mystery buffs wander the main streets of the idyllic island village in search of ice cream cones and tales of murder, we were befriended, celebrated, and applauded by people who love books. For the writers and readers alike, it was sheer delight. The four writers featured in the readings Saturday morning were D.J. McIntosh, whose debut novel, “The Witch of Babylon,” has captured accolades and stellar sales in the historical thriller market. Dorothy read and spoke about her background research. Thomas Rendell Curran gripped the audience of close to one hundred with a background discussion and brief reading from his Eric Stride series, while Y.S. Lee offered a lovely entry into her Agency novels, set in Victorian London. Ostensibly written for the Young Adult reader, her Mary Quinn novels charm all ages (as the best YA fiction does). For my own allotted twelve minutes I read a story of grim retribution taken from a work in progress. Chair of our reading session was the charming and exacting fantasy writer, Violette Malan, who is also President of the Festival Board. Her cohort on the board, the celebrated mystery writer, Vicki Delany, chaired the afternoon panel which featured the same four writers. Five writers on a stage, each as different from one another as possibly imaginable, gave a performance that seemed to enthrall the audience. It certainly was satisfying, from my perspective in the midst of the spirited wordfest. Throughout the day, book sales were brisk, with the business end of things arranged by the hard-working folks from Novel Idea in Kingston. Like any writer, I love signing books. It makes that extra connection that offsets the hours of isolated labour exploring the possibilities of an empty page. Much as I like the affirmation of selling, I like even more that my books are going to be read. The annual Grant Allen Award, named after the British writer and Wolfe Island native, was given this year to a fiendish cluster of women from the Ottawa area, The Ladies Killing Circle. Authors of a series of anthologies with names like ‘Menopause Is Murder’ and ‘When Boomers Go Bad,’ as well as a huge range of mystery novels on their own, ranging from cosies to police procedurals, the Ladies were an absolute delight as they simultaneously thanked the Board for the honour, entertained with accounts of their history, and excoriated their perceived enemies with gleefully venomous wit. I have not read all of them but I will. Vicki Cameron, Joan Boswell, Linda Wicken, Barbara Fradkin, Sue Pike, and Mary Jane Maffini are individually lovely and gracious, and collectively they’re lethal. The organizers of the Wolfe Island Mystery Lover’s Festival include writers, the effervescent Violette Malan, the poised and stalwart Barbara Fradkin, and one of my favourite people, the estimable Vicki Delany. They also include many local people, including the Carr family, Ken Keyes, and my ‘handler’ Judy Reid, all of whom deserve the most sincere thanks from writers and readers alike, all of us bound by our love of a good mystery or two. Bev and I will be back, for sure.