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.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Publisher Pressure to Put Mysteries in America

An exchange of comments on my review of No Time to Say Goodbye by Linwood Barclay and a subsequent comment by blogger, Maxine Clarke, regretted the author’s decision to set all of his mysteries in the United States when he is a Canadian writer.

The comments prompted me to think of a couple of examples of the pressures put on Canadian authors to set series outside Canada.

At the book launch this past spring of his new Russell Quant mystery, Dos Equis, Anthony Bidulka said it would have been much easier for him to have moved Quant out of Saskatoon and even Canada. Publishers are reluctant to have mystery series set in Canada, let alone outside big city Canada.

David Rotenberg in his first book of the Junction Chronicles, The Placebo Effect, has a Canadian hero. In a post on Q and A with David my first question was:

1.) Why a Canadian action hero in a book that bounces between Canada and the United States? My reading experience would generally have the hero an American if the series was even partially placed in the United States.

Having the lead character as a Canadian allows a perspective on America that often Americans don’t have. I lived in the United States for many years. My wife is a Puerto Rican American. Both of my kids are dual citizens. One lives in the States; the other has the knee jerk hatred of America that is pretty common here.

Our relationship with the elephant down there is pretty darned important for us to understand past the knee jerk stuff. Hence, start in Toronto and work south. I was born and raised in Toronto, although I left for 15 years I’ve been back for 22, and this is the first I’ve been able to write about Toronto. Although, to be honest, it’s more about the Junction than Toronto.

Your insight is true, and there are times that publishers want to push for American Heroes. Decker’s an outsider, we as Canadians are outsiders to the world’s most powerful entity, crumbling as it may be.

I like, even prefer, mysteries set outside the major cities of the world. I expect it is because I reside in a community of 6,000 people far from a huge city.

None of the mysteries of Saskatchewan which are at the core of my blog are set in a big city since there are only 1,000,000 people in the whole province.

Still, when an author with as many books to his credit as Rotenberg notes the pressure to set books in the United States it is very much an issue for new authors of Canada.

I hope that the great success of Canadian authors such as Louise Penny with the Inspector Gamache series focused on the mythical village of Three Pines in the Eastern Townships will allow 21st century authors to place their characters where they speak to the authors. Still I doubt there will be a change. L.R. Wright won an Edgar in 1986 for her Karl Alberg mystery, The Suspect, set on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast in the village of Sechelt. The pressure put on Anthony Bidulka and David Rotenberg noted above took place long after Wright’s triumph. I wonder if Miss Marple would ever have been published if Agatha Christie had lived in Saskatchewan and wrote about one of the villages of my province.


  1. Bill - What an interesting topic! I couldn't agree more that stories are best if they take place where the author imagines them to take place, wherever that is. For me, part of the pleasure in reading Anthony Bidulka's novels, and Gail Bowen's too, is the Saskatchewan setting. Why take such an essential part of a story away?

  2. what's going on in the mind of editors and publishers? Do they really think that people choose to read novels based on setting alone? Sometimes I think business people waste their time thinking up phoney reasons and excuses for lack of sales. Soon publishers will go the route of movies with trial audiences sampling books in preview format before they actually get published and follwoing up with marketing questions like these: Did you like the ending? Did you identify with the lead character? What would make him/her more likeable? What about the setting? Did that ring true? Ugh. Art by committee always fails.

  3. Very interesting post. When picking a book for the Canadian Reading Challenge, I would rather go for Canadian author and Canadian setting. I want to learn more about the country. But if a Canadian author writes a good series not set in Canada, I can't ignore that (such as Alan Bradley). Does Peter Robinson count as a Canadian author?

  4. John: Thanks for the comment. I hope no publishers are reading lest they be inspired to follow your thoughts. Mysteries are indeed written by a person (once in awhile a couple) not a management team.

  5. TracyK: You ask an excellent question. I am going to put up a post shortly of my thoughts on who is a Canadian author.