Re: RARA-AVIS: Canadian Noir

From: Willow Arune (
Date: 12 Apr 2007

Aw shucks!

After all my efforts to spin the Canadian image, along comes Sandra with her black glasses.

(A brief aside for the moment - Edmonton's murder rate is no surprise. At least not from one who lived there for a considerable time. I think it is still accurate to say that the murder rate increases during the winter months when little if any outdoor activity is possible).

Noir could indeed be anywhere, but the key is reader perception. It is easy to believe that horrible things happen in large American cities. It is dark and mysterious in London; small village life in England is rife with dark struggles as Minette Walters shows so well. But Canada's reputation is contrary to noir in so many ways. Calm, the "peaceful kingdom", the "conscience of the United States", peacekeeper, boring, cold - ice and snow year round, polite, kind and caring. Contrast that with Bangkok and the Thai cowboy culture. It is not that it does not happen here - and the examples Sandra cities are valid indeed - but it seems so in contest to the image the country has around the world. Let's face it - exotic is not the word you first think of when thinking of Canada, nor mysterious.

A Canadian noir writer must overcome that when trying to sell to a foreign publisher or audience. Like the movies - the script says Seattle (big and bad) but the location shots are all done in Vancouver. I imagine even Blunt had problems that way ("Can't you move this to Lake Champlain?")

Add to that the lack of knowledge of the country. Now, with a country such as Thailand, lack of knowledge gives room to play. Both Moore and Burnett have great fun emphasising the sex trade of Thailand, almost to the point of comedy. Take Bangkok, mix in exotic sex, add some jungle and perhaps a beach or two. Done deal. But Canada does not have exotic things like jungles and it looks pretty much like the States, only cleaner. And any villain would leave his footprints in the snow, n'est-ce pas?

Late note: Hamilton? I wrote an outline that was based in Kelowna! Half the first chapter had to explain where it was and what it was...

Noir? Giles Blunt is one of us. Granted, he spent some time in the USA, but still...



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