Re: RARA-AVIS: Canadian Noir

From: Charlie Williams (
Date: 12 Apr 2007

That sure is a good case for having crime books set in Canada, but I'm not sure it follows that *noir* has a place there. At the risk of flaring up the old definition war again, I think noir is an idea rather than a subject. It's like a pair of coloured spectacles you put on and through which you experience the world in a certain way. You don't need a high percentage of murders to have noir going on. It helps, but you don't need that. You could set a noir novel in Canada no problem, as long as you have a doomed protagonist there and a set of circumstances that lend themselves to that kind of story. You could set a noir novel in Lapland. Or Lichtenstein.

As for the Scots, they have an outlook that lends itself to noir. Not saying they all do, but it's certainly in evidence there. The desperate hope followed by the tragic reality, and descent into the bottle. Just watch their football supporters and you'll see it.
(Especially in Euro 1996 when Gazza scored that goal... Ouch!)

Charlie Williams.


--- In, Sandra Ruttan <sandra.ruttan@...> wrote:
> 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 ­
> 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.
> has given us a number of leading hard-boiled noir crime fiction
> Ian Rankin remains if not the top seller in the UK, one of the
> sellers. Other Scottish authors include Allan Guthrie, Stuart
> Carol Anne Davis, Denise Mina, and we¹re just scratching the
> Yet look at the statistics. ³Figures published today by the
> 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
> 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
> 62. But the Edmonton region's homicide rate was 4.3 per 100,000
> 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
> Scotland. But let¹s be fair and consider the national statistics:
> 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
> out there. Karla Homolka. Pickton. Wayne Clifford Boden. John
> 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
> 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
> 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.
> is one of the biggest sellers in Canada, so there¹s no reason to
> murder can¹t move books here.
> Sandra
> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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