Duke Ellington, The Palmolive Boy, Zombies - Just Some Facts @CuffedSaturday, March 12, 2016
|Daniel Tessy at Cuffed Festival, March 12 2016
On my second day attendance to Cuffed Festival at Performance Works on Granville Island I again learned that I should pay closer attention to Marilyn Statio’s now a tad more infrequent column on mystery books in my Sunday’s NY Times Book Review.
When you hit over 70 (I am 73) I seem to thrive on comfort music (Gerry Mulligan) and comfort crime writers like Colin Dexter, Reginald Hill, P.D. James, Michael Dibdin and Arthur Upfield. The problem with those writers is that they will not be writing any more books. But I do enjoy some of the still alive ones like Ian Rankin, Jerome Charyn and that now almost forgotten Canadian treasure J. Robert Janes. Unfortunately that other fave of mine Paco Ignacio Taibo II (whom Alma Lee brought to Vancouver some years ago) no longer writes crime novels. So I depend on Donna Leon, Arturo Perez-Reverte and of course Andrea Camilleri.
But until now I never got to know or meet brand new (and very exciting) crime writers and particularly a large crop of Canadians. Many of these writers have been recommended by Marilyn Stasio but I have to confess that in the last few years I avoided the names of authors that I did not know in her column. Obviously I have been an idiot and I can now correct my ways.
And that is going to happen thanks to the Cuffed Vancouver International Crime Writers Festival.
In today’s program in Event 3 – Take Us Away I was pleasantly surprised by Caterina Edwards (she is married to a Sicilian) who writes about mafia doings on that island as they relate to (!) Edmonton, Ian Hamilton (the yet to be outed spy) whose protagonist is a Canadian/Chinese forensic accountant who happens to be a lesbian and third in that list is my author/actor/playwright/swordsman C. C. Humphreys whose latest novel is about a serial murderer during London’s plague. Globe & Mail Western Arts Correspondent, Marsha Lederman was a most efficient moderator who ran everything like clockwork in a busy newsroom.
The second event of my day was New Sisters in Crime which featured four female writers Kristi Charish, Claudine Dumont and Rachel Greenaway (a first novelist) and Ausma Zehanat Khan whose Middle Eastern heritage has now brought us one protagonist a Muslim policeman. This is a nice contrast to Greenway’s experience in telling us about BC’s North from her point of view of having been a court reporter in Nelson and beyond. Claudine Dumont, who writes her novels in French (she is from Quebec) but has English translations spoke in a beautifully evocative English. I also know she is a photographer and has just started a café in Montreal. I have a special affinity to Dumont because I too, get very dizzy in anything that moves and if I don’t drive the car I am in I would coat the interior. Kristi Charish writes something (new to me!) called urban fantasy that features zombies, ghosts and vampires in real cities. She has impressive diplomas in esoteric and difficult sciences but I was also impressed by her brilliant red hair (and alas I was not close enough to notice if I could have admired her freckles). But salient in the too short one hour session was their urbanity and intelligence. Moderator (also an author) Robin Spano was effusive in her enthusiasm to question and contribute to the session.
William Deverell was the moderator of two journalists (Terry Gould a freelancer) and Kim Bolan (a Vancouver Sun reporter) who specialize in investigative reporting. Both journalists have received death threats and Gould has traveled to places where his life could have been sold for next to nothing. Impressive for me (Bolan’s slide presentation was brutally effective) was Bolan’s feeling that investigative journalism is here to stay and Gould seemed to have an almost permanent smile of enthusiasm for what he does. In different ways both writers showed a passion for getting the story. In Gould’s case there was that extra question to find out, the why people who are bad may do good things and why good people will do bad things. Deverell (why has nobody seen the connection between this man who shares those manly qualities that Norman Mailer had but with much more understated elegance) made the session seem to go much too quickly. I wanted more. I proudly told Bolan that I have been subscribed to the Vancouver Sun since 1975 and no matter what others might think about the decline of Vancouver’s journalism standards, Bolan is ample proof that good things happen in our city papers.
The last session of today Saturday featured three men with style who (because of my above mentioned ignorance) were completely new to me. These are Linwood Barclay (who could easily have a career in stand-up comedy), John Farrow a man of perfect diction who could have lectured me about economics for hours and I would not have fallen asleep, and Zagreb-born Alen Mattich who just may complement that investigative book Balkan Ghosts by Robert D Kaplan.
If anything this crop of Canadian and writers from other countries is proof that books are not moribund. It is much too easy to think that all the above were lucky in finding publishers and agents and to be given good contracts. The reason has to be that quality must rise to the top and every one of these writers is a testament to this. Alma Lee is correct in thinking that Vancouver is a sophisticated enough city to have room not only for a Writer's Festival but one dedicated exclusively to crime.
During the morning and afternoon I kept hearing, before and after the sessions one of my desert island jazz records, Money Jungle featuring Duke Ellington on piano, Charles Mingus on bass and Max Roach on drums. I had to enquire who was in charge of the sound. One of the sound men is Daniel Tessy. He chose the record and I was astounded to find out he is under 30! Yes, God exists!
Few would know that C.C. Humphreys wrote his swashbuckler Jack Absolute while crashing for the duration in Alma Lee’s house. And even fewer would know that Terry Gould’s teeth are perfect because he was a poster boy (and TV) for Colgate Palmolive toothpaste in his pre-teens.
I look forward to Cuffed Festival’s last day tomorrow Sunday and I hope the festival comes roaring back real soon.
Cuffed Festival and William Deverell