Every year, on the second Saturday in August, the members of a criminal cohort make their way by ferry to peaceful, bucolic Wolfe Island, the largest of the Thousand Islands. They come from all parts of Eastern Ontario and Upstate New York, from distant provinces, states, and countries. They may board the ferry in Kingston, in Canada, or from Cape St. Vincent in the U.S. but they all have one thing on their mind.
Murder most foul.
It’s time for the annual Wolfe Island Scene of the Crime Mystery Lovers Festival.
Now in its eleventh year, the festival is the premier festival devoted to the art of Canadian crime writing.
Festival founders Violette Malan and Therese Greenwood chose the site carefully, for Wolfe Island is the birthplace and boyhood home of Canada’s first crime writer, Grant Allen. Later in life, Allen moved to the UK, where he achieved some considerable fame as a writer. He was a friend and contemporary of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and is recognized as, among other things, being one of the first writers to create a female detective in Miss Cayley’s Adventures (1899).
With this heritage in mind, Malan and Greenwood set about creating a festival that would showcase the best Canadian writers working in the field of crime fiction today. An important part of that showcase is the annual granting of the Grant Allen award to a writer who has made a significant contribution to the field of Canadian crime writing. Guest authors have included Peter Robinson, Joy Fielding, Linwood Barclay, William Deverell, Louise Penny, Mary Jane Maffini. The list is almost endless.
And, thanks to the steady popularity and increasing recognition of crime writing in Canada, the Festival shows no signs of running out of guests soon.
The Festival Board consists of three prominent authors as well as a selection of Wolfe Island residents. Violette Malan now serves as Chair of the board. She has largely diverted her focus as a writer from crime to Fantasy and is the author of the popular Dhulyn and Parno series, as well as other fantasy novels, but she remains an avid lover of the crime genre. Violette works closely with the crime-writing board members to ensure the festival gets a stellar line-up of experienced and beginning writers every year. Violette explains her devotion to the Festival saying, “I like the idea that I’m doing something for Canadian writing, that I’m putting readers and writers together in a way that they both find fun and beneficial.”
Ottawa’s Barbara Fradkin has served on the board since 2008. Barbara is a two-time Arthur Ellis Award Winner for her Inspector Michael Green series, set in Canada’s Capital, Ottawa. She also writes the Cedric O’Toole series for the Rapid Reads line of books for reluctant readers. A former president of Crime Writers of Canada, Barbara brings a wealth of knowledge of the crime wiring scene to the festival. Barbara enjoys her involvement in the festival because of its deep roots on the island. She says, “I love the unique sense of history, connectedness and pride that Wolfe Islanders share."
The Festival Board includes authors and Islanders including long-time Island resident Betty Doyle; former Kingston Mayor and former area MPP, Ken Keyes; Canon Chris Carr who actually lives in the same house that Grant Allen did, and serves the Anglican church where Allen’s father preached. Newcomer, to the board and to Wolfe Island, as well as to Canada, is David Murakami Wood, Canada research chair in surveillance studies at Queens University in Kingston.
The Islanders love of the Island shines though in their enthusiasm for the Festival. Betty Doyle, whose husband is Mayor of the Township, explains her participation, “The generosity of time and expertise of the board members and volunteers, the venue which epitomized the Wolfe Island community all coming together to celebrate Grant Allen and Canadian mystery writers for a day. It is a lot of fun.” Ken Keyes enjoys being on the board because it provides him with “the opportunity of working with talented authors, while maintaining close contact with Island institutions which benefit from the annual festival, as well as celebrating the recognized contribution to crime writing by an Island-born author, Grant Allen.
David Murakami Wood explains, "The Scene of the Crime festival is something that people don't expect about Wolfe Island. People might think it's a quiet place and not much happens, but the people who have lived here have always been remarkably varied, and before moving here I would never have pictured it as the birthplace of crime writing in Canada."
The 2012 festival will be held on August 11th. The Grant Allen Award Winner is the Ladies Killing Circle. This marks the first time the award has been presented to more than one writer. The Ladies are Mary Jane Maffini, Barbara Fradkin, Sue Pike, Linda Wiken, Vicki Cameron, and Joan Boswell. The 2012 author guests are D.J. McIntosh, John Moss, Thomas Rendell Curran, and Y.S. Lee.
In another first for the festival, this is the first time it features an author of young adult novels (Kingston’s Y.S. Lee). With the increase in popularity of books for young adults, this seemed like an idea whose time had come.
The day long festival includes author readings, panel discussions, and the presentation of the Grant Allen Award. Throughout the day, guests have the opportunity to mingle with the authors in a casual, relaxed setting. Perhaps over coffee and a muffin at the morning meet ‘n greet, or sitting on the lawn for the full church lunch (including homemade pie!), or over the famous church supper.
Hope to see you on August 11th on Wolfe Island, Ontario.
By Vicki Delany
“It’s a crime not to read Delany,” so says the London Free Press.
Vicki Delany, who is also the newest author board member for the Festival, is one of Canada’s most varied and prolific crime writers. Her popular Constable Molly Smith series (including In the Shadow of the Glacier and Among the Departed) have been optioned for TV by Brightlight Pictures. She writes standalone novels of modern gothic suspense such as Burden of Memory and More than Sorrow, as well as a light-hearted historical series, (Gold Digger, Gold Mountain), set in the raucous heyday of the Klondike Gold Rush. She is also the author of a novel for reluctant readers, titled A Winter Kill.
Vicki is also on the Festival Board. “The board is effective,” she says, because there are two types of board members, writers and Islanders, and they get along so well together.
Having taken early retirement from her job as a systems analyst in the high-pressure financial world, Vicki is settling down to the rural life in bucolic, Prince Edward County, Ontario where she rarely wears a watch.
Visit Vicki at www.vickidelany.com , www.facebook.com/vicki.delany, and twitter: @vickidelany She blogs about the writing life at One Woman Crime Wave (http://klondikeandtrafalgar.blogspot.com)