About Me

My photo
Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Q & A with Michael Redhill on his Pseudonym Inger Ash Wolfe

Last Friday Canadian author, Michael Redhill, wrote an article for the Globe & Mail newspaper in which he revealed he is the author of the Inger Ash Wolfe mystery series featuring sleuth, Hazel Micallef.

His bio on the University of Toronto website shows he was and is a prolific writer in many genres before and after he started writing mysteries:

Michael Redhill is a poet, playwright and novelist whom has written two novels, a collection of short fiction, three plays, and five collections of poetry. His play, Building Jerusalem (2001) garnered him the Dora Award, the Chalmers Award, and a nomination for the Governor General’s award. His first novel, Martin Sloane (2001), won the Books in Canada First Novel Award, the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, and was also nominated for the Giller Prize, the City of Toronto Book Award, and the Trillium Book Award. His most recent novel, Consolation (2006), won the City of Toronto Book Award and was also longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. He has acted as an editorial board member for Coach House Press, and is one of the editors, and former publisher, of Brick Magazine.

After reading the article I sent some questions to Michael to which he promptly replied. This post has my email and his reply. I very much appreciate his quick reply and candid answers.

Dear Bill,

Thanks for your message and your questions. I've visited your site a number of times in the past and read many of your posts with interest. I've answered your questions below as best I can. Please feel free to write back with anything else you might want to know.




I was very interested to read your article in the Globe identifying yourself as Inger Ash Wolfe.

I have been writing a blog Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan for over 1 1/2 years and have written posts about Who is Inger Ash Wolfe?

I also participate in a forum of mystery review bloggers from around the world.

I would like to ask you a few questions. I am putting up a post tomorrow about Inger Ash Wolfe's identity now being public. If you have time to answer the questions by tomorrow I will put your answers in the post. If you are able to answer later I will post them at that time.

My questions are:

1.) When the first book was published you were noted as the potential author. You provided a carefully worded reply that on the advice of a lawyer you were not going to say anything. Why did you not reveal yourself at that time?

I still can't talk about the circumstances around which I had to get legal advice since it concerns a criminal act by a third party. At the time, I was advised to say "no comment" about anything regarding the series for my own safety. However, I would not have "revealed" myself at that time anyway, for that reason or any other, as I intended, at the time, to keep my authorship of the IAW books to myself permanently.

2.) At the same time I was writing about the speculation on who is Inger Ash Wolfe in New Zealand there was a flurry over author, Greg McGee, coming out as the mystery author, Alix Bosco. In my post I described his original reasons for a pseudonym:

"He said that he had used the pseudonym as he was   convinced the book would not get a fair chance to succeed if readers knew the author was a man, especially a man known as a rugby player, whose lead character was a woman. His decision was confirmed by a panel of readers. The two who knew he was a man did not find it credible. The three who did not know had no problems with credibility."

Did you have any comparable concerns? Did you get any responses that suggested it was better for reader credibility to have a female author creating the female sleuth?

None at all. The decision to have a female protagonist was organic to my own writing process and the decision to create Inger as the author happened exactly as described in the Globe essay. I don't know if the process is different for rugby players, but my feeling is that unless you are writing pure autobiography, every character a writer puts on the page is an act of embodiment, whether the character is male, female, old, young, of another race or from another planet. Verisimilitude in writing character comes from the writer's willingness to get close, and his or her ability to see from another's point of view; creating the author for the series followed the same process. I never hesitated in creating a female detective or a female writer, just as I didn't hesitate to write in female first person in Martin Sloane, or create female characters for the stage. I also would never offer my work to a "panel of readers" to help me make creative decisions.

3.) You have prominence as a literary writer. I know your article in the Globe did not attribute any reason for the pseudonym to that background but did your literary background have any influence on going with a pseudonym when you chose to write mysteries?

No. I wanted to experiment with my career, and experiment with my writing process. There was a lot of speculation about this, and no doubt it will continue, but I am not so well known as a literary writer that changing gears would have any effect on me or my readership. Or at least I didn't think so at the time. I guess I'll find out now.

4.) Did your publisher ask that Inger Ash Wolfe not be considered for any literary awards for women? I would request the reasoning whether the answer is yes or no.

I'm not aware that they did or didn't.

5.) Did you enjoy the speculation swirling around the identity of Inger Ash Wolfe?

Not particularly. It was not a publicity stunt, and although I knew people would try to guess, I'd hoped the interest would die off and Inger would go on just as herself. Perhaps it was a mistake in the first place to admit it was a pseudonym. If I could do it again, I would simply have sent her out into the world without any connection to anything or anyone.

6.) Do you think using a pseudonym is a good idea for a writer in our digital age?

I don't know if I have an opinion. In our digital age, I think writing is even harder (as is publishing) than it's ever been, and any impediment you put between yourself and the reader could be something you spend precious energy fighting against. But if an author finds a reason organic to their writing life to do it, it can be freeing, engaging, and enjoyable.

Thank very much for your interest, Bill. I appreciate it.

Thank you for considering my questions.

I am looking forward to reading the 3rd in the series.

Best wishes.

Bill Selnes


  1. Bill - Thank you for this interesting interview and for following up on this revelation. I am especially interested in Mr. Redhill's comments about really seeing the world through one's character's eyes and in that sense, becoming the character. It's a mark of real passion for writing and integrity about one's own writing in my opinion. This was really an interesting interview.

  2. Yes, a fascinating Q/A - great questions and what an intelligent set of answers. I did not much like the first one of this series because of the violence, but good luck to the author. I thought his portrayal of Hazel was good, but then I am one of those people who (like Michael Redhill) does not think the gender of the author is relevant to how well that person portrays characters of one gender or the other....it's talent and ability to write that readers like ;-)

  3. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I appreciate your perspective as a writer on Michael's remarks about writing.

  4. Maxine: Thanks for the comment and kind remarks. I was glad Michael took a stand in favour of writing about characters without concern over their gender.

  5. Thanks Bill for posting this and to Michael for answering the questions so frankly and intelligently.

    Like Maxine (and Redhill) I don't think the gender of an author is relevant to the characters - I've read great female characters written by men (including Hazel) and terrible female characters written by women.

    I hope this 'coming out' does not unduly influence anyone one way or the other with regards to the Inger Ash Wolfe books, they should be taken at face value and judged on their content

  6. I have no problem with men writing about women protagonists or vice versa. I give kudos to Arnaldur Indridason featuring Elinborg in Outrage -- and it's about a crime against women. Well-done.

    And I certainly love Donna Leon's Guido Brunetti and Fred Vargas' Inspector Adamsberg.

    And definitely, any writer can write badly about a character of either gender.

    What I find problematic is a male author using a woman's name as a pseudonym. A gender-neutral name or initials would be a better idea -- to me.

    However, this won't put me off reading the books. A good book is a good book. A woman in her early 60s is interesting to me.

  7. Bernadette: Thanks for the comment. Reading about Inger Ash Wolfe and Alix Bosco has reminded me to be gender neutral with regard to the sleuths of authors.

  8. kathy d.: Thanks for your thoughts. I find men and women sleuths in their 50's and 60's more interesting than I did decades ago.

  9. Ditto! Enough said!