Canadian Crime Fiction
David Skene-Melvin
Illustrated by Jean Pierre Cagnat

This is the first comprehensive bibliography of Canadian crime writing ever compiled. It covers virtually every book published between 1817-1996, and includes a biographical dictionary of Canadian crime writers.

Canadian Crime Fiction covers both English- and French-language crime fiction, which is defined as adventure, crime, detective, espionage, mystery, suspense, and thrillers, as well as tales of intrigue, violence and investigation, and covers both adult and juvenile novels and plays.

This bibliography is arranged alphabetically by author, and contains two major appendices dealing respectively with crime fiction by non-Canadians set in Canada, and crime fiction with Canadian connections. It is extensively indexed by title, date of publication, setting, main character(s), criminous roman a clefs, speculative fiction on a criminous theme, series, juveniles, the Matter of Canada, pseudonyms, and Mountie novels. Also included a list of winners of Crime Writers of Canada "Arthur Ellis" wards.

The biographical entries for authors (which includes authors who were born in Canada but lived elsewhere), contains a wealth of social history, plus fascinating snippets of Canadian crime lore. With its breadth and depth of knowledge, Canadian Crime Fiction will become the standard reference tool for collectors, and libraries.

Canadian Crime Fiction, which took more than 10 years to compile, is eclectic, idiosyncratic, eccentric, and opinionated. It will inform, entertain, delight, and annoy. It is more entertaining than the latest thriller or whodunnit.

Hard Cover with Dust jacket, 372p.
ISBN 1-896648-60-6    $125


Despite the boast that this is a "comprehensive" bibliography of Canadian crime fiction from 1817 to 1996, do not be deceived. It is nothing of the kind. No bibliography is ever complete. Besides, it is limited only to monographs, i.e., novels and plays, and ignores short stories unless published in anthologies or collections. Additionally, it lists only first appearance, and does not concern itself with reprints. However, it is as complete and up-to-date as any work of this nature can ever hope to be and the compilers are satisfied that they are presenting value.
    It is possible, if not even probable, that authors such as Lillian Beatrice JOHNSON, ("Lee JOHNSON"), (infra), for example, may not be Canadians, but the lack of information makes it impossible to verify. Consequently, they have been given the benefit of the doubt. If they are not fellow-countrypeople, the compiler apologizes to the reader for including them in this compilation. Conversely, there are some in the "Non-Canadian" section who may properly belong here for the same reasons; equally, the compiler apologizes both to them and the reader.
    The major lacunae are lack of biographical data about many of the Québécois crime writers. It is hoped these omissions will be rectified in future editions. Should any reader have or know about any biographical details concerning any author, anglo- or franco-phone, that would add to whatever is, or is not, given, as the case may be, please let us know care of the Publisher. All contributions gratefully received, as they say.
    Titles are marked:
+ Criminous fiction by Canadians set in Canada.
* Criminous fiction by Canadians set elsewhere.
? Unidentified or unidentifiable.
! Criminous fiction by non-Canadians set in Canada.
# Canadian connexions: crime novels featuring a Canadian protagonist, but written by a non-Canadian and set outside of Canada.
    This work is Canadian in content: it includes both Anglophone and Francophone authors plus other Canadians who first published in their mother tongue; thus, like the nation, it is multicultural.
It is a work of literary archaeology and history, a prologue to literary criticism of Canadian crime writing.
Crime writing, criminous literature, (we use the words literature and fiction interchangeably all imaginative writing is "fiction" and literature is a convenient term to collectively describe the fiction of a particular time or place or type), embraces adventure, crime, detective, espionage, intrigue, mystery, suspense, and thriller fiction, (with or without solution), including literary novels with a criminous theme, and includes nineteenth-century "sensational" novels and tales of intrigue and violence as well as those of crime and investigation. The generic rubric "crime criminous fiction" is very generously defined.
    It chooses to restrict "crime writing" to include only fiction and excludes true crime, i.e., factual accounts of actual crimes.
    It includes only monographs and writers thereof. Writers of short stories, no matter how prolific, have not been included unless a collection of their work has been published, (vide James POWELL). Neither articles nor material written for radio or tv broadcasts or film scripts are included. Under "Other works by", these exclusions are perpetuated and only books are listed.
    It is a hybrid of Allen J. Hubin's monumental Crime Fiction; A Comprehensive Bibliography; Jacques Barzun's and Wendell Taylor's A Catologue of Crime; and, Twentieth Century Crime and Mystery Writers. It is not, nor does it pretend to be, a compleat bibliography of all the writings of all the authors included. It concerns itself with monographs only and therefore does not attempt to gather an inclusive listing of short stories or articles in periodicals by the authors listed herein. It is highly personal in its comments, not to say idiosyncratic. The reader and the user have been warned.
    Our problem, within the self-imposed narrower boundaries of the scope of this compilation, is the same as Allen J. Hubin's as best expressed by him in his introduction to his masterwork, Crime Fiction 1749-1980; A Comprehensive Bibliography, (NY: Garland; 1984):
    "Since fiction all literature, in fact can be thought of as a continuum, any attempt to carve out a portion of it, like crime fiction, is almost impossible and necessarily raises troublesome questions of the categorization of borderline material. Mysteries and tales of Royal Canadian Mounted Police (covered in this book) merge into adventure fiction (not covered); romantic suspense (covered) merges into straight romance, historical fiction, and supernatural or horror fiction (not covered); crime fiction merges into mainstream fiction, science fiction and fantasy, westerns, pornography, and nonfiction (not covered). Since the line between any of the covered and not covered types is a fine one involving subjective individual judgment, users of this bibliography will probably find that coverage is extended at least a small way into some of these other types of literature, especially where crime or detection is significantly present."
    We quote this at length because it describes the general parameters we have worked within, although we have significantly departed from its strictures in one particular regard: "Mountie" novels. Where tales of the Northwest/Royal Northwest/Royal Canadian/Mounted Police have merged into adventure fiction we have, in an outburst of nationalistic ardour, included them, on the grounds that a novel concerning members of a police force can, albeit with some Procrustean adjustments, be considered a "police procedural"; additionally, the "Mountie" novel is quintesstionally Canadian. Besides, the definition of "crime" itself is a loose one. Does mere scallywagism or more elevated skulduggery, although short of an indictable offence, count? Or does one limit oneself only to depictions of felonies and ignore misdemeanours? We chose the former course.
    Our rule, then, has been eclecticism, and we have included romances novels of intrigue and adventure, for many were written before criminous fiction fixed itself in a rigid framework by writers who considered themselves sensational novelists in the tradition of Harrison Ainsworth, as Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, and Wilkie Collins thought of themselves.
As well, we have deliberately included juveniles, excluded by Hubin.
This combined biographical dictionary and bibliography attempts to chart the development of that criminous literature indigenous to British North America.
    It encompasses Canadian crime fiction by Canadians set in Canada (+); by Canadians set elsewhere (*); by foreigners set in Canada (!); by foreigners set outside of Canada, but with a Canadian protagonist (#); and, setting is unknown, but perhaps Canadian, by a query mark: (?).
Canadian is defined as:
(1) born in Canada;
(2) immigrated to and settled in Canada; or,
(3) resident in Canada for a significant portion of life, particularly where Canadian residence influenced the output and a considerable part of the work is set in Canada, i.e., the author is interpretative of the Canadian scene at a specific place or time in the nation's past and thus deserves a place in Canadian literary and social history.
    Where we have been unable to determine the nationality of authors, we have, where the content of their subject matter justifies it, given them the benefit of the doubt and considered them Canadians. If we have by this generosity, preferring to be eventually, if necessary, sorry, rather than safe now, advertently included foreigners we would appreciate documented correction.
    There are some pedants who will scorn Robert W. Service as a "Canadian" crime writer, but as a poet he is indisputably thought of only as Canadian; to exclude his criminous fiction as being non-national would be to take parochialism beyond absurdity.
    Other purists will decry the inclusion of Kenneth Millar, (i.e., "(John) Ross Macdonald"), but when is a Canadian not a Canadian? Although born in the U.S.A., Millar was brought up and educated through his university undergraduate degree in Southwestern Ontario, a childhood that had an enormous formative influence on his writing. One cannot discuss Millar's oeuvre without discussing The Ferguson Affair and The Galton Case and one cannot discuss these two novels without investigating in depth Millar's Canadian background, for in these works he exorcizes some of the ghosts from his upbringing that drove his writing.
The insurmountable problem in researching popular culture is that libraries, either public or academic, did not even stock, let alone retain, genre fiction.
    As Keith Walden remarks in his introduction to his invaluable study, Visions of Order; The Canadian Mounties in Symbol and Myth, (Toronto: Butterworths; 1982), "often popular culture owes its existence to the profit motive rather than aesthetic or philosophic considerations, and consequently, while a few creators are accorded recognition, most remain anonymous. Their identities are not important ... For the most part though, the backgrounds of those who wrote ... are obscure ...[the novels are] the writings of a large number of obscure authors ... many of these people seem to have vanished leaving no trace other than the books they left behind". Not only have the authors vanished, but in most cases so too have their publications, leaving only a bare listing in an ancient bibliography, an entry in an antique catalogue.
The Greeks said that a person is immortal as long as his/her name is remembered, so by perpetuating a record of their one-time existence we are serving to preserve the immortality of these writers. It is an immortality they deserve. They would have been the last to claim they wrote great literature they wrote to entertain. They were storytellers, spinning yarns to be printed and read as their predecessors in the minstrelry recited and were listened to. And entertain they did! Through their countless tales of adventure and derring-do they brought romance and colour to the drab hard-scrabble lives of countless millions who could do no more than dream.
    These writers were the entertainment of a literate age, the age of reading, not just listening as with radio, but at least that required an active use of the imagination, or merely watching a flickering screen as with film and TV. No, these writers were the explorers of that country of the mind that the reader entered at his or her own peril, a country of infinite geography, for each time it was encountered it was individually interpreted.
    Popular fiction was considered declassé by libraries and crime fiction beyond the pale. Up through the 1940s, at least in Canada, the public library systems did not purchase popular fiction, (although they acquired "literature"). If you wanted to read that sort of thing, you frequented your neighbourhood private enterprise lending library, where you paid your five cents a day to take home the latest thriller or mystery or romance or western with which to entertain yourself. And the lending libraries certainly weren't in the retention business. They desecrated the books upon receipt to start with by cutting the blurb of the dust jacket and glueing it onto the front pastedown or free endpaper and destroying the remainder, and when a title's popularity waned, even before it was worn out, away it went into the rubbish bin. It was not until social pressure in the 1950s forced public libraries to realize that if they were to survive on tax support from the masses they had to cater to mass taste, rather than exist as an adjunct to adult education, that they began to offer "fiction" collections, shelved well away from the "literature" sections so as not to contaminate the latter. Even then, the policy was, and still is, that a particular branch library's stock will be static in quantity, but will be dynamic in content, which is to say that it will contain a set number of volumes, but the titles comprising that volume count will constantly change as current books replace once-current books through the flow of time. The books removed from the shelves are discarded to be pulped or shovelled into landfill. So much for safeguarding culture for posterity.
    As for academic libraries, when one contemplates that as late as the 1970s the most recently published book being studied in any literature course offered at Canadian universities had appeared in the 1940s, and was a so-called "mainstream" novel at that, one realizes the conservatism of their library acquisition policies. Indeed, universities in Canada during the post-war period were governed by the likes of the appointee on one board who spoke against an acquisitions budget for the library on the grounds that no-one had yet read all the books it already possessed.
    In the face of this, the bibliographers and students of popular culture stand in awe and wonderment before the great copyright deposit national libraries, gratefully amazed at the foresight of politicians who established them, whereto a copy of every book published in a country has to be sent. One cannot even begin to contemplate how poverty-stricken our understanding of ourselves would be without the opportunity to explore the holdings of popular fiction in the British Museum and the U. S. Library of Congress and, of course, although it is younger, the National Library of Canada. The only problem is that if you don't live in either London or Washington, D.C., or Ottawa, travel costs can be high. Inter-library loan helps, but is only an anodyne, not a panacea. At least the BM, LC, and NatLib have, and still do, publish catalogues of their holdings, (and long may they continue), so that a record exists of what has been published. Appallingly, even major retention libraries like the Metropolitan Toronto Central Reference Library, have disposed of these essential tools in a user friendly format. Alas, save for the copyright deposit copies, many books exist in actuality not at all, but only as lines of print in their respective national bibliographies.
    Consequently, the foregoing is our apologia for not having read every title listed herein and having relied for imprint details on the information given in the great national bibliographies without having actually inspected every title and copyright-page and having relied for an opinion of criminousness of the content on, inter alia, the immense and magnificent contribution of Allen Hubin and the explorations of Keith Walden, complemented by our own researches and our personal extensive collection of Canadian crime fiction. We did bibliographically verify in the sense as understood by qualified professional librarians every title we did not personally handle. Even so, there will be lacunae and errata, the responsibility for which we take entirely upon ourselves.
    Incidentally, if the user thinks it was difficult tracking down adult popular fiction, try finding juvenilia, especially series. Even today public libraries shun purchasing juvenile series, let alone retaining individual titles. Only in special collections of children's literature such as the Osborne/Lillian Smith at the Toronto Public Library has the student or researcher any hope of finding the childhood entertainment of yesteryear.

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