I arrived at the Shebeen Whiskey House right in the heart of Gastown in great anticipation for the crime fiction literary event of the year so far in Vancouver, Noir in the Bar, an opportunity for fellow writers and fans of crime fiction to meet and listen to selected readings off eight accomplished BC/Vancouver crime writers.
The venue was just the right size and the atmosphere was informal and relaxed but no less professionally and seamlessly conducted. There was no stage or a barrier between the featured writers and the audience which added to the democratic and collegiate manner of proceedings. The writers introduced themselves from the floor from where they read excerpts from their work. The audience were within stabbing distance (figuratively speaking of course) of the writers and this added to the intimacy of the event.
I perched myself on a tall chair and sat my favourite cocktail, an Old Fashioned (having delusions of being Don Draper from Mad Men fame) on the brown leatherette table top and settled down into the literary joy of noir that awaited and what a magnificent evening it was.
The featured writers, in order of appearence were:
E.R. Brown (http://www.erbrown.com/) read from his Edgar-nominated Almost Criminal.
Deitrich Kalteis (http://dietrichkalteis.blogspot.ca/) who read from his wonderful debut novel Ride the Lightning
Owen Laukkanen (http://owenlaukkanen.com/) who read from his third and critically acclaimed novel Killing Fee.
I had a good conversation with Owen before the reading about Vancouver and writing in general and is a very warm and approachable chap.
Linda L Richards (http://www.lindalrichards.com/) gave a wonderful preamble to her reading about how her father, an immigrant from Germany, learnt to perfect his English from watching old gangstermovies which led to his speaking in the manner of the colourful characters who graced the silver screen in their suits, cocked trilbies and a gun tucked in their belt. The audience reeled with her anecdote of her father telling her when a child to go to sleep:
“Shut your peepers and go to sleep or you’ll be in trouble like nobody’s business’ (apoligies Linda if I didn’t get that 100% correct! but I think that was it! Feel free to correct me though…)
Linda’s novels are all set in 1931 during the height of the Great Depression. She read from one of her many novels and the language was pure lean noir with a good dose of sparkling clever dialogue and wry humour.
Robin Spano (http://www.robinspano.com/)is the author of several novels that feature the enigmatic female detective Clare Vengel. I confess to only discovering Robin’s work last week when I picked up her novel Death Plays Poker at the John Forte library in Denman St but what a discovery. I was reeled in by the neo-pulp cover art and I just had to take it from the shelf and read it within a day. Her writing reminds me of the work of Krista Faust which features strong plot, edgy characters, shady dealings and a strong female protagonist with cajones and a heavy dollop of clever humour and turns of phrase.
This evening, Robin read not from her novels but a stand alone short story based upon the colourful and notorious Mayor of Toronto Rob Ford. In fact, Mr Ford has inspired a flurry of fan fiction and even a musical based on his esoteric and eccentric style of governence. The story was rip roaringly funny and showed Robin’s versatility in turning her craft to any subject matter.
Sam Wiebe (http://www.samwiebe.com/)is the recipient of the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Unpublished Canadian crime novel for his debut work Last of the Indepedents.
One of the last remaining indepedant booksellers in Vancouver, White Dwarf Books who specialize in crime and mystery literature, were in the room, giving those present an opportunity to buy some of the books written by the authors featured in the evening’s billing.
I’ve been to many book events, big and small but this was one of the best I’ve ever been to. The authors freely mingled with the audience and were generous with their time and were willing to engage. As a writer who is still trying to clinch that prize of a conventional bookdeal, I find this generousity of spirit to be uplifting and encouraging as all writers, even those who with many books on the shelves off our bookstores, have a story to tell about their struggles at the start of their own careers.
Very very few published writers have had it easy at the start. Their tales of rejection letters and self doubt serve to show us that perserverence and the encouragement of our nearest and dearest are the winds that can steer our wind-blown ships to the harbour of success only if we work hard enough at writing and improving our craft.
Many thanks to the organizers and most of all to the authors who took part.