Link: Click to return to the Scene of the Crime home page Link: Contact Us
Link: Contact Us
Link: About the festival Link: About the festival
Link: About Grant Allen Link: About Grant Allen
Link: This year's event Link: This year's event

Press Release Backgrounder:
For immediate release, March 22, 2004


Howard Engel: First recipient
of festival's Grant Allen Award

The Scene Of The Crime Festival is delighted to welcome best-selling author Howard Engel as the winner of the inaugural Grant Allen Award for pioneering work in Canadian Crime Writing.

Engel will receive his award at Scene Of The Crime Festival on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2004. He will also participate in the day's events, including a panel discussion and one-on-one author chat with interviewer Wayne Grady highlighting Engel's 24-year career as one of Canada's premier crime writers.

Engel was the obvious choice for the inaugural award given his creative, pioneering work, including the creation of Canada's favourite private detective, Benny Cooperman.

"The main thing about Benny is that he is a Canadian private eye operating in an identifiable Canada," notes David Skene-Melvin, the Scene of the Crime's festival's resident scholar, in his Canadian Crime Fiction.

"With the 1980s and the introduction of Benny Cooperman," Skene-Melvin writes, "Engel proved that there could be and was a Canadian detective story with a Canadian hero that had international appeal. Canada was no longer an exotic locale; it was a country where real people lived, committed crimes, were detected, and died. There was truly Canadian crime fiction."

In addition, notes Skene-Melvin, Engel showed a imaginative flair in creating his unique and much-loved character: "Having chosen to create a professional private practitioner of justice, rather than a public policeman, Engel deliberately made his protagonist the antithesis of the traditional private eye. Benny Cooperman has been called "soft-boiled" in contrast to the tough guy attitudes of Dashiell Hammett's Sam Spade."

Although born and currently living in Toronto, Howard Engel will always be associated with St. Catharines, Ontario, in the Niagara Penninsula, his boyhood home, renamed "Grantham" as Benny's home town.

In 1960, Engel began his career as a CBC reporter from various locations in Europe, including Paris, London, Spain and Cyprus. In 1967, he became executive producer of Sunday Supplement, The Arts in Review, and Anthology.

He is a founder of The Crime Writers of Canada and acted as chairperson in 1986-87. In 1994 he received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Brock University. A year later, Howard accepted a position as the Barker Fairley Distinguished Visitor in Canadian Culture at the University of Toronto; he served in this position for two terms.

Engel was awarded the Arthur Ellis Best Novel Award for Murder Sees the Light in 1985 and the Derrick Murdoch Award in 1998 (with Eric Wright). In 1990 he was awarded the Harbourfront Festival Prize for Canadian literature.


The Suicide Murders (1980)
The Ransom Game (1981)
Murder On Location (1982)
Murder Sees The Light (1984)
A City Called July (1986)
A Victim Must Be Found (1988)
Dead and Buried (1990)
There Was An Old Woman (1993)
Getting Away With Murder (1995)
The Reading (short story in the Mystery Midrash anthology, 1999)
The Cooperman Variations(2002)


Murder in Montparnasse (1992)
There Was an Old Woman (1993)
Lord High Executioner (1996) (Non-fiction)
Mr. Doyle and Dr. Bell (1997)
A Child's Christmas in Scarborough (1997)
Short story: "The Summer Kidnapping Caper" (1984, Murder Sees the Light)
Short story: "My Vacation in the Numbers Racket" (1984, Cold Blood)
Short story: "The Three Wise Guys" (1989, Mistletoe Mysteries)
Short story: "The Whole Megillah" (1992, BookCity)
Short story: "The Ant Trap" (1999, Mystery Midrash)


"Mr. Engel is a born writer, a natural stylist .... This is a writer who can bring a character to life in a few lines."

-- Ruth Rendell

"Benny Cooperman is a lot of fun to hang out with. I'm delighted to see him getting into trouble again."

-- Donald Westlake

"Engel can turn a phrase as neatly as Chandler."

-- Julian Symons

Benny Cooperman is back, and better than ever."

-- Tony Hillerman

Information and tickets for the Scene of the Crime Festival are available by email at



Link (from snapshots from the 2004 Scene of the Crime): Click to read what happened.