Re: RARA-AVIS: Canadian Noir

From: Sandra Ruttan (
Date: 12 Apr 2007

Willow said: Fortunately, the number of fictional murders far exceeds the number of real murders, making it harder to do noir. We are just not a noir country - far too polite and civilized. How do you have a mystery in rural Saskatchewan...

I must respectfully disagree that it is hard to do noir realistically in Canada, and I strongly doubt the number of murders in Canadian fiction is coming close to the real number. The issue is only in perception ­ we¹re such a ³nice² country ­ and the tired mantra authors face is Œset your book south of the border¹.

Let us consider Scotland for a moment, birthplace of Tartan Noir. Scotland has given us a number of leading hard-boiled noir crime fiction authors. Ian Rankin remains if not the top seller in the UK, one of the highest sellers. Other Scottish authors include Allan Guthrie, Stuart MacBride, Carol Anne Davis, Denise Mina, and we¹re just scratching the surface.

Yet look at the statistics. ³Figures published today by the Scottish Executive reveal that Scottish police recorded 93 victims of homicide in 2005/06, 44 fewer than in 2004/05 and the lowest annual total since 1990/91.²

93 victims of homicide... And probably outnumbering that in crime fiction offerings on an annual basis. In 2005 Scotland¹s murder rate was cited as 2.33 deaths per 100,000 people each year.

By comparison, the city of Edmonton alone almost doubles that: ³That number was significantly lower than greater Toronto's 104 or greater Vancouver's 62. But the Edmonton region's homicide rate was 4.3 per 100,000 people, compared to Toronto's 2.0 and Vancouver's 2.9.² 282-4a25-a409-e6deea5f3acd&k=6523

Not one Canadian city cited on that list was under the entire rate for Scotland. But let¹s be fair and consider the national statistics: ³The national homicide rate increased for the second consecutive year in 2005 to its highest point in nearly a decade, after reaching a 30-year low in 2003. The number of homicides committed with a firearm rose for the third year in a row.

Police services reported 658 homicides last year, 34 more than in 2004. Of these, 222 were committed with a firearm, up from 173 in 2004.²

To be fair, our national average comes out lower than Scotland¹s, but we¹re comparing a population of just over 5 million Scots to 30+ million Canadians. Our actual body count do to homicide is more than 7 times that of Scotland.

Canada is a rife with murder and crime as any so-called Œcivilized¹ country out there. Karla Homolka. Pickton. Wayne Clifford Boden. John Martin Crawford. William Patrick Fyfe. Clifford Olson... The girl arrested for murdering her parents and sibling in Medicine Hat last year. Today in the news, ³Winnipeg police have taken the rare step of identifying a teenage murder suspect, in their quest to arrest him.² We could be here all day. Val McDermid¹s ŒWire in the Blood¹ could have been moved to Ontario with the name changed to Bernardo.

I¹d say the real mystery is why there isn¹t more Canadian noir hitting the shelves. Of course, I have my opinions on the answer to that, but there are some of us determined to see things change. John McFetridge made a great contribution last year with his debut, ŒDirty Sweet¹. He¹s got a way of making sleazy characters sizzle and nobody shows Toronto¹s seedy side like he does. John¹s my hope that this country is finally catching on. Rankin is one of the biggest sellers in Canada, so there¹s no reason to think murder can¹t move books here.


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