The Queen of Canadian Mystery

Which female Canadian author has written the best mystery novel? Who’s the Queen of Canadian Mystery? Many will say Maureen Jennings, author of the Detective Murdoch series. Others will say Louise Penny, author of the Inspector Gamache series. I say Margaret Atwood. “What the &^$#!” you say. You’re an idiot.” I know. An opinionated idiot. Let the mud fly. 😉

Before I reveal the mystery novel, I’ll relate a few arguments I’ve heard from friends. “Atwood isn’t a mystery writer.” Correct, in as much as she’s not labeled a mystery writer. “Atwood doesn’t need kudos from anyone. She’s already famous.” Also correct. “Pick someone more current.” I will, when the new Queen comes along.

Now, to the question at hand. The best mystery novel written by a female Canadian author is …. Robber Bride.

Get &^$%,” you say, “Robber Bride isn’t a genre novel. It’s literary fiction.” Yep. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a mystery, and a damn fine one. I admit, it’s not noir. I’m also stretching the definition of “mystery novel.” Robber Bride doesn’t feature a detective or a parade of murderees. The reader knows the villain (Zenia) from the start. But you don’t know what she did, or how she did it. That’s the mystery – the howdunit, you might say.

Atwood delivers enough plot twists and obfuscation to please the most demanding of mystery fans. She deploys wry humour and strong prose. She makes you think. However, Robber Bride has its limitations. It isn’t for the hard-boiled. Too much literary description, too much talk of “feelings.” Oh, those dreaded feelings. Me, I like a good dose of feelings now and then. I don’t want noir all the time.

Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood. McClelland and Stewart. 1993.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Robber_Bride

CBC Radio One ‘Ontario Morning’ Interview

Ontario Morning‘ host Wei Chen (CBC Radio) invited me to talk about North Noir and Bay of Blood on Tuesday, April 30, 2019.

Interview Introduction: Author Andy Potter’s new book Bay of Blood recently hit shelves across the province and is the first in a series that follows fictional OPP Detective Eva Naslund.

To listen to the audio clip on ‘Ontario Morning,’ click the following link. The North Noir/Bay of Blood interview starts at 13:40 of Part 3.

https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-112-ontario-morning-from-cbc-radio/clip/15693931-ontario-morning-tuesday-april-30-2019-part-3

If you have any trouble finding the audio clip, go to the ‘Ontario Morning’ homepage and then navigate to the Episodes tab. You’ll see an entry titled Ontario Morning – Tuesday April 30, 2019 – Part 3 (27:00). The North Noir/Bay of Blood interview starts at 13:40 of Part 3.

Bay of Blood Press Release

NB: The audio clip of my interview with Wei Chen on CBC Radio’s ‘Ontario Morning’ on Tuesday, April 30, 2019 is available via the link below. The interview starts at 13:40 of Part 3.
https://www.cbc.ca/listen/live-radio/1-112-ontario-morning-from-cbc-radio/clip/15693931-ontario-morning-tuesday-april-30-2019-part-3

‘OrilliaMatters’ Press Release: Novel based on bizarre death of Canadian icon set in Georgian Bay.

Bay of Blood, a new novel set in Georgian Bay, is based on the mysterious death of renowned Canadian painter Tom Thomson.

The book’s idea came to author Andy Potter when he was watching a documentary about Thomson’s life and mysterious death called West Wind: The Vision of Tom Thomson. This would make a great novel, Potter thought. Then he thought, No, it wouldn’t. You can’t fly too close to the Tom Thomson myth. It’s sacred. He’s a Canadian icon.

So, Potter wrote a mystery novel based on Thomson’s death. Thomson died on July 8, 1917. The famous painter murdered in Bay of Blood died on July 8, 2017. There are other similarities, but the painter in the novel is not Thomson, and he’s not the main character. The novel’s main character is OPP Detective Sergeant Eva Naslund.

As one of the book’s reviewers says, “Potter takes his readers on a fascinating 21st-century chase, with bells and whistles never dreamt of 100 years ago: cellphones, female detectives, Russian operatives, and shady Toronto art dealers.”

Click here to see the full story.

Lexicography: What Can You Write with 50 Words? … Web 3.0

For many years, I worked in IT and wrote web-based software – mostly middleware – using various programming languages, among them Java and .NET. “OK, AMP, but what’s that got to do with writing fiction or Web 3.0?” Patience, Grasshopper.

Most computer languages have no more than 100 keywords or ‘reserved’ words, and fifty or so main ones, such as if, then, for, etc. I used those fifty words over and over again. In essence, the world was reduced to fifty words.

How would that work with human language? Fifty words in English? Not a good thing. Are fifty computer keywords really enough? You’d think the paucity of computer lexicons would render the IT world flat and colourless. It could, and it did – from the 1950s to the 1980s. Think mainframes and keypunch cards.

Then came the UX (User eXperience) Revolution: user-friendly interfaces and web browsers. Next came smartphones and apps. Consider what’s been created with a fifty-word base: Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. Of course, you could say that IT has pauperized the world, reduced it to two-dimensional screens, to a virtual realm, to a hell of trolls. Yeah, there IS all that. But there is much more. For instance, there’s blog space. You and I are ‘talking’ now. Well, I imagine you talking with me. That’s how I think of it.

Let’s do a very cursory comparison of a human language and a computer language. When learning a new human language, say English, if you master 1000 words you’re well on your way – not to being a poet, but to being functionally literate. The Oxford English Dictionary has about 200,000 entries. When learning to program in C++, you master less than fifty keywords. Only fifty! It’s amazing what a CPU can do with fifty keywords.

Think of human culture as a whole. Human languages have spawned millions of books. Computer languages have spawned millions of URLs. I’m not suggesting we can compare human lexicons to computer lexicons. It’d be like comparing a book to a byte. So, let’s move on. At the moment, Web 3.0 is in its infancy. It will use the same fifty keywords. Can you expect them to accurately mirror the real world? No. But coders will keep trying.

PS: To all the code warriors and IT professionals out there: You’re right, you use thousands of variables and elements, not fifty. But I’m referring to reserved words. Look what you’ve done with them. Billions of humans are glued to their phones. Hehe. Which brings new meaning to the old maxim: “Words are powerful.”