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Top Canadian Crime Writers Attend Wolfe Island Festival

Image: Photo of James Powell Foremost among the invited guests at Scene of the Crime 2006 was our Grant Allen recipient, James Powell — without doubt Canada's mystery short story master.

Jim's first short story appeared in the April 1966 issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, and since then more than 120 of his unique tales have appeared in Ellery Queen and Playboy magazines. As well, his stories continue to be reprinted in collections as diverse as Sherlock Holmes Through Space and Time, edited by Isaac Asimov, which featured one of his classic Christmas stores, and more recently Dead in the Water, edited by our own Therese Greenwood and Violette Malan, which contains one of Jim's signature stories featuring Acting Sergeant Maynard Bullock of the RCMP.

Short story writers are often not as well known as their novel-writing peers, but due to the format's availability to readers -- in magazines as well as in collections -- writers such as Jim Powell often have a much broader influence on the reading public and other writers than might be suspected. We at Scene of the Crime are proud to honour this pioneer of great Canadian mystery fiction.

The Grant Allen Award takes the form of a kaleidoscope, specially designed for each author honoured. The kaleidoscope was chosen as an award because of its cherished place in the drawing rooms where Grant Allen's novels and stories were popular. The award also includes a cash prize of $500.

Jim Powell was interviewed for festival-going fans by former CBC Television host Roy Bonisteel.

Sharing the scene with Jim was cross-over writer Tanya Huff. Tanya lives in Prince Edward County and is an internationally recognized author of fantasy and science fiction. Her "Blood" series, set in Toronto, features ex-police officer Vicki Nelson who investigates other-worldly crimes with the help of her partner, the vampire Henry Fitzroy, bastard son of Henry VIII. "Blood Ties", a television series based on these characters, is in production with CHUM TV in Vancouver and will air in the fall of 2007. Look for it on the SPACE channel in Canada, and Lifetime in the US.

Award-winning author Joan Boswell is known to the mystery community as one of the founding members of the Ladies Killing Circle -- a group which, as editors and creators of the Ladies Killing Circle anthologies is responsible for launching the careers of many of today's Canadian crime writers. Joan has written numerous short stories of the cosy variety -- one of which won the $10,000 Toronto Star Short Story Contest in 2000. She has more recently turned her talents to novel writing with Cut off His Tail, and the next in the series, Cut to the Quick will be out in May of 2007.

Jeffrey Miller has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. A graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School, his writing frequently combines both the legal and the humorous. Among his works are the novels Murder at Osgoode Hall and Murder's out of Tune as well as the non-fiction works Ardor in the Court: Sex and the Law and the Arthur Ellis Award-nominated Where There's Life, There's Lawsuits. Jeffrey gave one of our lectures this year, and entertained a rapt crowd with anecdotes from the experiences which led him to write Ardor in the Court.

Tim Wynne-Jones is the author of 3 suspense novels, including Odd's End, winner of the Seal First Novel Award in 1979. He has also written many acclaimed books for children and young adults, including the 2001 Edgar Award-winning "The Boy in the Burning House".

Also on hand were our own "Crime Squad", Board President Peter Sellers, Vice-President Glenn Mosier and Secretary-Treasurer Maureen Lollar, along with Chris Carr, Sue Pike, Therese Greenwood, Ken Keyes, Captain Brian Johnson and Violette Malan, who organized the Short Story Contest again this year. We were happy to welcome among our registered guests Cheryl Freedman, Secretary of the Crime Writers of Canada, and her sister Elaine, another staunch supporter of Canadian crime writing.

Full-day events in 2006 included:

  • The all-new Writers Workshop
  • A talk on famous escapes from Kingston Penitentiary by Museum Curator David St. Onge. David knows a disturbing amount about fabricating weapons, brewing alcohol, and planning escapes while behind bars. In short, he's the ideal cell-mate.

The Scene of the Crime Festival was launched to honour Canada's first crime writer, Grant Allen, born on Wolfe Island at his family home, the manor of the Baron de Longueuil family. The first Canadian to write crime stories, Allen invented one of the most popular plot conceits of the genre, the thief who is actually the hero of the story. Allen went on to become one of the most prolific writers of the Victorian period.