Re: RARA-AVIS: Canadian Noir

From: Sandra Ruttan (
Date: 12 Apr 2007

Kerry said: I had recently hoped to serve as editor for a book, very well written, nice gritty style, the narrative involving street gangs here in Hamilton. There's a long history of gang activity in this city. None of the larger publishers would touch it, probably because they felt there wasn't a market for it outside Hamilton. There's a lot of Canadians figure this city is exceptional for this type of thing.

Hamilton is a brilliant choice. I grew up in Muskoka, so I¹m quite familiar with southern Ontario. And if you could work in political corruption in Hamilton you could really have some fun.

One of the main things that bothers me is that we have a lot of presses here propped up by government grant money. I appreciate the fact that, were it not for these grants, these publishers wouldn¹t be in business. And I accept that as a reality, but it means they do not need to concern themselves with marketability and sales. In my wildest quirk outside of my usual reading I actually really enjoy H. Mel Malton¹s Polly Deacon series, but publishers like Rendezvous depress me. They would have us think the cops are all stereotypical donut-eating, bumbling idiots who can¹t connect two dots, and thank goodness the realtors and puppet makers are out there solving murders.


Okay, so I cut slack for Mel¹s series, because Polly is so delightfully irreverent, but it¹s no wonder people don¹t take Canadian crime fiction seriously. A huge percentage of it is barely one step removed from Murder She Wrote. The last Canadian crime fiction book I read I threw against the wall, and I¹m actually opposed to book abuse.

Why doesn¹t someone start a publishing company that does some dark Canadian crime? My husband and I spend hundreds annually on books. We still buy a good chunk of what we review, but we finally gave up on doing a Canadian issue this year. Two years running almost impossible to get cooperation. I emailed publishers and agents last year to try to get authors interested in being interviewed... I just don¹t have the time for it anymore.

The reality is that authors such as Giles Blunt have demonstrated that the setting can sell to readers if the writing is strong.

Margaret Laurence was about as bleak as it gets. Toss in a crime and I could write books set in Canada... I¹d just have to call it literature.

Cheers, Sandra

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