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There’s a new man in my life: Arthur Ellis.  He’s moved into my house and lives on my desk.

Last night, I received the 2017 Arthur Ellis Award for my short story, “A Death at the Parsonage“, from the Crime Writers of Canada.

I was in good company when I was shortlisted last month, along with fellow writers in The Whole She-Bang 3 anthology, Cathy Ace and Elizabeth Hosang.

And I’m in good company again with the other winners (below).  All the details about their winning books can be found at the CWC website.

It was an exciting night, meeting with other crime writers, and having Norman and my tablemates send good vibes my way.

Many, many thanks to the Crime Writers of Canada and their endless work in making the awards happen, and to their hard-reading judges.

I have to share here some of the commentary from the judges:

…Susan Daly combines all the familiar elements of Pride and Prejudice in a murder… following the conclusion of Jane Austen’s literary Classic.  Daly’s witty dialogue and sensitive attention to detail pull the reader back in the world of Elizabeth Darcy (née Bennet) and her hapless friend Charlotte, who now finds herself under suspcion after the violent and mysterious death of her husband. Daly’s characters all seem to have stepped gracefully out of the original novel as she seamlessly weaves old with new. …Most compelling is the author’s ability to make us believe in the world she has created.  Here is a well crafted story and a thoroughly entertaining reminder of what darkness human beings are capable of when they [dare to] read novels.

The winners: Donna Morrissey (not present), S.J. Jennings, Marie-Ève Bourassa, Elle Wild, Christina Jennings, Gordon Korman (not present), Jeremy Grimaldi, Rick Blechta and me.

And many more thanks to Toronto Sisters in Crime for pulling together the three Whole She-Bang anthologies.

Sisters in Crime: Janet Costello, me, Helen Nelson. With Arthur

Thanks also to Jane Austen for creating my characters.

Where to buy The Whole She-Bang 3

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Me and the Hangman

A Death at the Parsonage – exciting news.

I’m having a great time with my short stories this year. And now, can you believe it, “A Death at the Parsonage“, has been shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Award for best short story.

The story, included in The Whole She-Bang 3 Anthology, is based on characters from Pride and Prejudice characters (as if no one has done that before) because I feel that Charlotte deserves better in life than to be stuck with Mr. Collins forever, though she explains her low expectations to Elizabeth:

I am not romantic, you know; I never was. I ask only a comfortable home; and considering Mr. Collins’s character, connection, and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair as most people can boast on entering the marriage state. (P&P, Chapter 22)

The Collinses in Happier Times

It was inevitable, perhaps, that someday someone would get fed up with the “conceited, pompous, narrow-minded, silly man” (as Elizabeth so roundly describes him) and take a swing at him.

When the finger of guilt points to Mrs. Collins, it’s fortunate that her dearest friend is on hand to set matters straight.

 

The Whole She-Bang 3 is the collaborative work of members of Toronto Sisters in Crime, co-ordinated by Helen Nelson, edited by Janet Costello and brought to life by a tireless team of volunteers. The anthology features works by 20 Canadian crime writers, and is (can you tell by the title?) the third in the Whole She-Bang Series. All are available from your favourite on-line booktores.

The Arthur Ellis Awards for Excellence in Crime Writing are held every year by the Crime Writers of Canada. The shortlists were announced April 20, and include, as always, a glorious array of talented Canadian crime writers in a variety of categories.

The award gets its name from the Nom de Noose of Canada’s Official Hangmen, who were never known by their real names. The charming wooden statuette (to quote the CWC website) represents a “condemned man on a gibbet whose arms and legs flail when you pull a string – considered by some to be in execrable taste.”

Capital punishment was abolished in Canada in 1976; the last official hanging took place in 1962.

Link to Club Info

You’ve probably heard of Olive Higgins Prouty. Or at least of Stella Dallas and Now, Voyager, two movies that unabashedly qualify as four-hankie weepers. (I mean that in a good way. I enjoy four-hankie weepers.)

Prouty, born in 1882, flourished as a writer in the first half of the twentieth century. In 1931 she wrote The White Fawn, the first of her five-book series about the Vales of Boston. The series chiefly centres on Lisa Vale, who married into the rich and powerful family, and her children.  The third book, about Charlotte Vale and her toxic relationship with her mother, the overpowering matriarch of the family, is best-known as a 1942 movie starring Bette Davis, Paul Henreid and Claude Rains.

Far less known are the other four books, of which the final story (and Prouty’s final novel) is Fabia, 1951.

Fabia, in her early thirties at the start of the book, is the oldest of Lisa’s children. She’s already had her tormented story told in the first two books: how she fell in love with an Irish-American doctor from the wrong side of the tracks, and how the family (i.e., the hidebound Grandmother Vale and Fabia’s father Rupert) forced them apart.

Fabia, Spanish edition 1955

Now, in early December 1941, she hasn’t seen or contacted Doctor Dan Regan for 12 years. She no longer loves him. Because for the past seven years (yes, seven years)  she’s been in love with Oliver Baird, another doctor, though this time from the right side of the tracks. Too bad he’s 25 years her senior, and is married with two daughters.

At the start of the novel, she is sitting her her rather nice brownstone apartment in New York, obsessing over whether or not Dr. B will call her at 2:00, as he said he might, if he could. Unfortunately, she obsesses a lot throughout this book. Over her fantasy life as Dr. Baird’s secret lover. Over their fantasy son, also named Oliver. Over taking a walk in the evenings so she can see the lights in his apartment. If the light is on in the library, she knows he’s sleeping on the cot there, instead of in the twin-bedded bedroom with his wife Irma. It’s their own arranged signal. They have lots of these, since they work at the same hospital. She’s head of the nursing staff there.

My copy – Houghton Mifflin, 1951

After Oliver has come and gone (yes, he did eventually call) Fabia visits her mother, Lisa Vale, now Mrs. “Barry” Firth, (because they did things that way then) who is in town for a few days,  and they have a deep heart-to-heart, involving a full disclosure flashback of how Fabia’s romance began and how it’s gone on and where things stand today (pretty much as they stood seven years ago).

For seven years, this has been a perfectly chaste affair. Because of this half life Fabia is floating in, she has given up her social life, her family life and good job offers.

However, now Lisa knows and Lisa’s friend Renée Beauchamp knows. And so does Doctor Jaquith. (Both these people turned up in Now, Voyager. Dr J was that all-wise psychiatrist who helped Charlotte find her way, and Renée is the friend who gave Charlotte her cruise ticket and loaned her her name and her clothes, so she could make a splash on board ship.)

Sorry, I digress. After seven years of nothing changing, Fabia’s life gets stirred up, and everyone meets Oliver and his wife Irma. It gets complicated.

Irma, of course, is Awful. But Oliver is Noble and Faithful (in his way). Oliver’s marriage is nearly a repeat of Jerry’s from Now, Voyager. Essentially, he married her because he felt sorry for her, and if her left her now, she would suffer unbearably. And his adolescent daughters Couldn’t Take It. And then…. Oh dear, I would be spoiling things if I told you more, but it involves a Blessed Event.

Really, I just wanted to knock all their heads together.

Then, it being December 1941 and all, the US enters WWII, and Fabia takes her nursing skills into the Armed Forces. Where she meets an old friend. Hint: he’s a doctor.

To quote the jacket flap: Fabia’s final decision is unpredictable up to the last few pages.

I wish I could say this is a wonderful final act of the saga of the Vales of Boston. But as you might guess, I’m fairly lukewarm about this story.  I haven’t read the first two in the series (and don’t feel any great need to).

I own a Dell Mapback copy of Now, Voyager, which I quite like, along with a hardcover, jacketed first edition of Home Port, the fourth book in the series.

I enjoyed Home Port, a lot, and will undoubtedly read that one again. Published in 1947, it doesn’t qualify for the 1951 Club. You can read a review of it here at Another Look Books, and it’s quite affordable at AbeBooks.

My copy of Fabia is apparently a first edition with a nearly intact dust jacket, which I found at the same book barn clearance sale as Home Port.

Availability:  Well, I wouldn’t recommend it myself unless, as I did, you can pick it up for the price of a coffee. A number of copies can be found on AbeBooks, at asking prices ranging from 4.39 to 500.00 USD. Warning: nearly all of them are in French or Spanish.

To find out more about The Vales of Boston and All Things Prouty, check out this intriguing website.

1951 Reading Club

I’ve spent a lot of time reading other people’s wonderful book blogs  and commenting copiously, all the while adding to my teetering TBR pile.

But really, I have to start doing a little reviewing myself.  And so I’ve been sparked by the 1951  Club, introduced by Simon Stuck in a Book, Karen at Kaggsy’s Booking Ramblings.

It’s simple, I think. Read and review books published in 1951. And share the lovely logo.

The 1951 Club

So, I went through my Books Catalogue and my Books Read (since 2010) and found a clutch of 1951 Books asking to be reviewed. Which I will get to.

In the meantime, I’ll link to a few existing mystery reviews I’ve come across in my blog wanderings.

Stranglehold, by Mary McMullen, at Clothes in Books. A delicious step back in time to the world of 1950s Madison Avenue. As soon as I read this review, I knew I had to buy it. Here’s my comment at Moira’s blog:

I just loved it. All those cigarettes and cocktails and fashion plates and office politics and product pushing. I liked the bit where the client is all about making America fall in love with cold breakfast cereal again, and weaning them away from bacon and eggs.

Trixie Belden and the Gatehouse Mystery, by Julie Campbell. Reviewed by Bev at My Reader’s Block.  I did comment, but I think it’s worth a review of my own. Coming soon.

 

Duplicate Death, a Georgette Heyer mystery, also reviewed by Bev. Again set in the big city post-war world. London this time. And one of my all-time favourite books.  Another one that’s begging for me to review it.

It’s worth noting that while these were all written contemporary to their time, they are now windows into the past. Authentic period pieces. Perhaps even historical mysteries.

But stay tuned, because first I will be featuring a non-mystery 1951 novel by Olive Higgins Prouty, best known for Stella Dallas (1923) and Now, Voyager (1941). Get your hankies ready.

 

Busy month.  The Guppy chapter of Sisters in Crime is about to release their 4th fishy anthology, Fish Out of Water.

All of the talented writers in this collection have started with the title theme, focussing on a character who is swimming outside their comfort zone and getting in deeper.

I’m so pleased my own story “Gossip” is part of this collection.

Amy, a successful artist, returns to the small town she left behind her nearly twenty years ago, having heard a surprising revelation about her reputation.

She’s back to set the story straight, but soon finds it’s not easy to root out what really happened.

Especially when the Church Bazaar Ladies get down and dirty with the gossip.

Amy Hartmann parked on the main street near the Co-op and lit a cigarette and waited. How stupid was it to come back? What could she achieve? Although no one had said anything to her face, she knew half the town—the half over forty—remembered her as the girl who stole Louise Mathieson’s husband.

She’d felt like a fish out of water in this hole since the moment she was born. Too smart, too ambitious, too full of ideas. Eighteen years ago, she’d vowed never to return. Carpathia wasn’t Vancouver. Hell, it wasn’t even Vernon. It was the dreariest dump in Canada, and she’d seen a lot of dreary dumps in her hungry years.

Damn the luck anyway, running into Leon Briggs last month. If only she’d looked through him, instead of letting herself wonder where she knew him from. Leon, in no way memorable except for how he would hang around outside the high school, eyeing the girls. They’d all made fun of him. Creepy old Leon.

Though no creepier than a lot of the men in the town. Her father included.

Leon had remembered her, all right. Along with the unknown history she’d left behind. That had been the shocker.

There she was. Louise Mathieson hadn’t changed in all these years, except to look even more dowdy and plain. Jesus, was that the same coat she’d worn eighteen years ago? Amy stubbed out her cigarette and got out of the car.

Louise knew her immediately. She didn’t appear surprised. Just angry.

Fish Out of Water, edited by Ramona Defilice Long, is published by Wildside Press, and is available there in paperback.

Where else to buy Fish Out of Water.

Another exciting publication date is coming up for me at the end of April. My short mystery “The Lady’s Maid Vanishes” will be part of Malice Domestic’s latest anthology, Mystery Most Historical.

The 29th annual Malice Domestic Conference is being held April 28-30 in Maryland. This year’s theme is historical mystery, and I’m in good company with 29 other mystery writers, including Catriona McPherson, Marcia Talley and Martin Edwards.

“The Lady’s Maid Vanishes” takes place in 1931, when Lady Byng, wife of the former Governor General of Canada, and her entourage are staying at a rustic lodge in the Rockies. Her maid, Vaughan, goes for a walk in the woods, and vanishes.

The story was inspired by an incident I read in the memoirs of Evelyn, Lady Byng, Up The Stream of Time. In real life, Vaughan was found safe, though terrified, long after nightfall.

Evelyn Byng, Viscountess Byng of Vimy

My story, however, takes quite a different turn.

The collection is published by Wildside Press and will be available at the conference (at the end of April) and afterwards at their website.

I suppose my youthful enthusiasm is showing…. January 14’s Toronto Star had a great review for The Whole She-Bang 3. And somehow, Jack Batten put little glitter lights all over my story.

The antholowsb3-jack-battens-review-dategy is a huge collaborative effort by a lot of Sisters in Crime, expecially Helen Nelson, co-ordinator in chief, and editor Janet Costello. We had volunteers dealing with receiving and juggling all the submissions and judges and proof-readers and a crackerjack cover artist.  And 17 other terrific writers.

And the column was picked up by the Waterloo Region Record too, so my cousin John emailed me to tell me I’m famous. (Well, in a few households anyway.)

I have to say I’m feeling pretty chuffed over Jack’s singling me out.

Where to buy a copy

 

 

 

 

 

Flashback:

Read about my earlier story in The Whole She-Bang 2

where Jack Batten also gave me a mention: “Susan Daly presents a juicy story of confrontations between characters based on Rob Ford and Margaret Atwood.”

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