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.

Monday, October 15, 2012

“V” is for Michael Van Rooy

The end of the 2012 Alphabet in Crime Fiction meme hosted by Kerrie Smith at Mysteries in Paradise is near with the letter “V” this week. I have chosen to profile Canadian writer, Michael Van Rooy for “V”.

Van Rooy  was a Winnipeg, Manitoba writer who sadly died last year at 42 of a heart attack. He had been gaining fame for his series of books featuring Monty Haaviko who had become Sam Parker in an effort to escape his criminal past.

It was a subject with which Van Rooy was on personal terms. Morley Walker explained in the Books section of The Winnipeg Free Press in a column in 2010: 
After graduating from Sisler High School, he studied history at the University of Manitoba and moonlighted as a blackjack dealer in one of the province's early casinos. 
This put him in the vicinity of some disreputable characters. At age 21 he was found guilty of two charges of armed robbery.

"I didn't do it," he insists, despite some caginess about this chapter in his life. "I was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

He spent nearly two years as a guest of the criminal justice system, doing time in Stony Mountain and Rockwood Institution before receiving parole.

But the experience, which he recommends to no one, haunted him for more than a decade after and obviously informs his writing even now.

"Who will hire you?" he says. "You can't be bonded. Nobody trusts you."

At six-foot-six and 290 pounds, he worked as a bouncer and a bartender, then a bar manager and restaurant manager. In the early 2000s he managed the McNally Robinson Booksellers' Prairie Ink Cafés. And he wrote novels on the side.

Van Rooy spent a great deal of time in organizations devoted to writing. The obituary in The Winnipeg Free Press stated:

He served as audience development co-ordinator and publicist for the Thin Air Winnipeg writers festival, he was a board member for the Manitoba Writers' Guild and Prairie Fire magazine and an administrator with the Winnipeg Writers' Collective and the Canadian Mennonite University writing school.

The year before his death he was designated "arts ambassador" for literature for the 2010 Cultural Capital program of the City of Winnipeg.

His writing skills had been recognized in 2009 when he won the John Hirsch Award as the Most Promising Writer in Manitoba.

Following his death the Manitoba Books Award organization established the Michael van Rooy Award for Genre Fiction. Genres covered by the Award include horror, mystery, thriller and graphic novels.

The photo above from The Winnipeg Free Press accompanied an article featuring some of his favourite things:

       If your house were on fire, heaven forbid, what's the one
       item contained within that you would try to take with
       you? (People and pets not included.)

      My laptop. (I'm a writer... I gotta be honest here!) 

      What's the oldest thing you own?

      A 40,000-year-old mammoth tusk.

      Describe your most beloved piece of furniture.
      My most beloved piece of furniture is a treadle Singer
      sewing machine that currently holds up the television
      with the Xbox on the treadle. It's godawful heavy but I
      treasure it for the memories of bringing it to and from the
      cabin, balanced precariously in an open boat.

I read and reviewed the first book in the series, An Ordinary Decent Criminal. In it Haaviko / Parker struggles to escape the stereotype society has of an ex-con. In particular, his treatment by the police is striking and frightening. It is a powerful book. I said in my review:

It is hard boiled fiction with a character seeking to change in a world that refuses to believe he has changed.


  1. Bill - An excellent choice for V. And thanks for sharing his story; what an interesting person he was! It is a shame that he died as young as he did.

  2. I like it when you profile Canadian writers, and especially such as interesting one. What an interesting life, even though short.

  3. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I wish I could have met Michael. He sounds like he would have been fun to be around.

  4. TracyK: Thanks for commenting and noting my Canadian mystery author profiles. I have been trying to profile Canadians in this year's meme.

  5. Great profile. I am working on the Canadian Books Challenge this year and will look for a Michael Van Rooy book to read.

  6. Mary R.: Thanks for the comment. I hope you find one or more of his books. It is worth the effort.

  7. What a great tribute to a warm and caring man. I had the good fortune to speak with him on occasion, as a writer who had been recently published. He was very supportive and gave me some good advice - no matter what, keep writing. His books are fun to read as he had a wry sense of humour that was reflected in his writing. The reader really wants his character to triumph over the hardships and villains he faces. Thanks for writing this profile. :)

  8. mywithershins: Thanks for the comment. I appreciate your personal knowledge of Michael and your kind words. From his life story I can see he exemplified the word perseverance.

  9. Hello,

    Michael Van Rooy was my father. I found this blog by accident but I was very touched to see him, and his writing, referred to with such fondness. Thank you.

    (His laptop has been put aside but my siblings and I still have the tusk and sewing machine.)

    Seanin Van Rooy

  10. Seanin: Thanks for the comment. I appreciated hearing from you.

    Your father was a gifted writer.

    I was moved to know you have kept the tusk and sewing machine. I can tell he left you with good memories.

    Best wishes.