About Me

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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.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Anthony Bidulka on Canadian Cross-Border Crime Fiction

In my last post I discussed the number of Canadian fictional sleuths who are a part of cross-border mysteries. I wondered if publishers were part of the reason. I wrote to Saskatchewan author, Anthony Bidulka, and he responded. Our exchange follows:
I am in the process of reading and reviewing the shortlist for the 2016 Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Novel.
After reading The Storm Murders and Hungry Ghosts I was struck that both involved cross-border mysteries.
That led me to reflect on the number of Canadian authors who have cross-border stories.
Both your Russell Quant and Adam Saint series see the heroes in each book partly in Saskatchewan and partly in other parts of the world.
Other authors such as Ian Hamilton (the Ava Lee books) and Howard Shrier (Jonah Geller) also set their books in both Canada and other places.
You have previously indicated to me it is more difficult to have a published series set in a location such as Saskatchewan.
I would appreciate any comments, personally or generally, on whether the use of cross-border stories are simply inspiration by Canadian writers or whether they are "encouraged" by publishers to have settings in and out of Canada in their books.
I am looking forward to the publication of your new book.
Although I have certainly had numerous colleagues tell me of being heavily encouraged to change their settings (specifically from Canada to the U.S.) to appeal to a broader market, I can only publicly comment on my own experience. With both the Quant and Saint books, the multiple settings simply reflect my personal choice and desire to join together my love of writing with my love for both Saskatchewan and travel.

Writing about Saskatchewan is both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is in attracting readers unfamiliar with Saskatchewan and even Canada in general. Readers like to read about the familiar and characters and places they can relate to.

People love to see themselves in the books they read. My view and hope has always been that such challenges may be overcome through aggressive marketing and simply writing a good story.

Paradoxically, the opportunity comes from the same source: writing about a place so few people know about. Many readers love to read about the unknown, to learn, to experience something new through reading. In a way, my Saskatchewan settings are what set my two series apart, which can be a very good thing if you take advantage of it.

My new book, Set Free, will not have a Saskatchewan setting, with most of the action taking place in Boston and Morocco. This will be my first published work without an obvious Saskatchewan tie.

This choice was, again, my own. At this point in my career, fifteen plus years in, I am seeking creative challenge and change, and this is one of them. For Set Free, a stand-alone, the settings I chose 'felt right' for the story I wanted to tell. I've still incorporated some of my travel experiences, having travelled to Morocco, but I'm investigating writing main characters who do not have the prairie background which I am so familiar with.

That being said, I never say never, and may be back to writing a Saskatchewan set story next time around.



  1. This is really interesting! Thank you, both. It's interesting to see how setting plays a role in what makes a story work well. And it's quite true: the key is writing a good story, making the most of where it's set, and then letting people know about it. I, too, am very much looking forward to reading Set Free.

  2. Margot: I am glad Anthony made his decisions for setting on his own. I continue to wonder about other Canadian writers.

  3. I'll be interested to hear what you turn up from other writers, Bill.

    1. Anthony: I would be glad to hear from other members of the crime fiction writing community.

  4. My publisher at the time I wrote it wanted me to drop the Canadian content from HUNGRY GHOSTS and set it between the US and Cuba. I decided to find another publisher. I think there is an enormous amount of pressure on Canadian writers to set their books in the US, since that is the largest market for books. I had a TV show in Ottawa called Getting Published and many of the authors I interviewed indicated that they had to change their settings from Canada to the US to get published, which I think is a real shame, because if we can't tell our own stories, who will? Good for Anthony for staying true to his Canadian roots! Cheers, Peggy

    1. Peggy: Thank you for confirming what I feared. I look at my blog poage of books by Canadian authors and the number of books set outside Canada seems to grow every year. After reading your comment I wonder how many are setting their books out of Canada by choice. I hope publishers will look at Scandinavian crime fiction which has become extraordinarily successful at least partly by locating the books in Scandinavia.

  5. Bill, when I read Canadian books I prefer books by Canadian authors set in Canada, because I want to learn more about Canada. Geography and various cultures has never been my strong point so there is a lot to learn. However, I do hope to read the Ava Lee books by Ian Hamilton. And I have read some books by Canadian authors set in the US or in England.

    1. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. Your preference is my preference. I realize authors need to set books where they want but I will always prefer that they choose Canada for their setting.