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Detecting Canada

Essays on Canadian Crime Fiction, Television, and Film

Edited by Jeannette Sloniowski & Marilyn Rose
Subjects Film & Media, Cultural Studies, Literary Criticism, Canadian Literature
Series Film and Media Studies Hide Details
Paperback : 9781554589265, 290 pages, February 2014
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781554589289, 290 pages, March 2014


Excerpt from Detecting Canada: Essays on Canadian Crime Fiction, Television, and Film edited by Jeannette Sloniowski and Marilyn Rose

From the Introduction

[T]his book represents, we hope, the beginning of more concentrated scholarly engagement with this particular field in Canadian popular narrative. The time seems right, especially given the potentialities of the increasingly rich electronic “archives” that characterize the Internet at present. Not only are books, television, and film increasingly available through online vendors such as chapters. indigo. ca and amazon. ca, but scholarly sleuths—many of them graduate students in our flourishing programs in popular culture in Canada—are now able to access a great deal of early Canadian crime writing directly online. . . .

Because crime writing is part of Canadian mass culture, then, it is to be expected that its iterations in the form of novels, films, and television will reflect certain overarching aspects of a Canadian national imaginary that reinforce national themes and stereotypes that permeate the popular media. The first of these is undoubtedly a preoccupation with law and order, which reflects the long- standing notion that Canada was founded on an ethic of “peace, order, and good government. ”. . .

All of this having been said—and in light of our opening comments about the size of the body of Canadian crime fiction that now exists and the fact that a single collection cannot possibly address its fullness and potential—Detecting Canada seeks to make available a body of critical commentary on a Canadian genre that, while vital and recognized in terms of sales and by book awards, has had little attention paid to its history and its accomplishments as a popular genre. . . .

Together this collection of essays presents a wide range of topics and approaches to Canadian crime fiction and seeks as a collection to shed light on this under-investigated Canadian genre in its various guises and modes. Our goal has been to start the ball rolling and to encourage others to attend critically to the development of this capacious and flexible genre as a way of expressing—and at times contending with—the complex national imaginary within which we continue to construe and negotiate our communal existence.

From Chapter 1 Coca-Colonials Write Back: Localizing the Global in Canadian Crime Fiction by Beryl Langer

Canadian crime fiction is particularly rich in strategic potential given its “realist” codes and the importance of “law and order” in the discursive formation of Canadian difference—remember we are in the realm of myth here, not the actual social formation that has its share of crime, violence, and killers whose bizarre acts of creative sadism equal any in the world. . . .

The popularity of crime fiction in the 1980s and 1990s, and the emergence of regional, feminist, and national variants on the American hard-boiled genre, is in that sense not surprising. For Canadian nationalists, this general sense of fin-de-siècle risk is compounded by anxiety about national survival, generated by separatist pressure from within and the permeability of the U. S. —Canadian border—a mere line on the map, which offers no protection against “pollution” from the south, which, whether in the form of acid rain or crime and violence, will gradually obliterate Canadian difference altogether.

Table of contents

Table of Contents for
Detecting Canada: Essays on Canadian Crime Fiction, Television, and Film, edited by Jeannette Sloniowski and Marilyn Rose

Introduction | Jeannette Sloniowski and Marilyn Rose

History and Theory

1. Coca-Colonialists Write Back: Localizing the Global in Canadian Crime Fiction | Beryl Langer

2. Canadian Crime Writing in English | David Skene-Melvin

Essays on Fiction

3. Canadian Psycho: Genre, Nation, and Colonial Violence in Michael Slade's Gothic RCMP Procedurals | Brian Johnson

4. Northern Procedures: Policing the Nation in Giles Blunt's The Delicate Storm | Manina Jones

5. Revisioning the Dick: Reading Thomas King's Thumps DreadfulWater Mysteries | Jennifer Andrews and Priscilla L. Walton

6. Generic Play and Gender Trouble in Peter Robinson's In a Dry Season | Jeannette Sloniowski

7. A Colder Kind of Gender Politics: Intersections of Feminism and Detection in Gail Bowen's Joanne Kilbourn Series | Pamela Bedore

8. Queer Eye for the Private Eye: Homonationalism and the Regulation of Queer Difference in Anthony Bidulka's Russell Quant Mystery Series | Péter Balogh

9. Under/Cover: Strategies of Detection and Evasion in Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace | Marilyn Rose

Essays on Television

10. Televising Toronto in the 1960s: Wojeck and the Urban Crime Genre | Sarah A. Matheson

11. North of Quality? “Quality” Television and the Suburban Crimeworld of Durham County | Lindsay Steenberg and Yvonne Tasker

12. Mounties and Metaphysics in Canadian Film and Television | Patricia Gruben




The first serious book-length study of crime writing in Canada, Detecting Canada Canada’s most popular crime writers, including Peter Robinson, Giles Blunt, Gail Bowen, Thomas King, Michael Slade, Margaret Atwood, and Anthony Bidulka.

Genres examined range from the well-loved police procedural and the amateur sleuth to those less well known, such as anti-detection and contemporary noir novels. The book looks critically at the esteemed sixties’ television show Wojeck, as well as the more recent series Da Vinci’s InquestDa Vinci’s City Hall, and Intelligence, and the controversial Durham County, a critically acclaimed but violent television series that ran successfully in both Canada and the United States.

The essays in Detecting Canada look at texts from a variety of perspectives, including postcolonial studies, gender and queer studies, feminist studies, Indigenous studies, and critical race and class studies. Crime fiction, enjoyed by so many around the world, speaks to all of us about justice, citizenship, and important social issues in an uncertain world.


``Detecting Canada is an indispensable landmark in the study of Canadian crime narratives. Its range is remarkable, with the essays covering not only the major practitioners of Canadian crime fiction but also television crime shows and films. This collection will remain a standard resource for many years to come. ''

- David Schmid, Department of English, University at Buffalo, author of Natural Born Celebrities: Serial Killers in American Culture

``Writers of Canadian crime fiction have learned to gird our loins when we are asked a question that is as irritating as it is inevitable: When are you going to write a real novel? By offering not simply an overview of the history of crime fiction in Canada but thoughtful essays on the themes Canadian crime writers explore and on the roles played by landscape, gender, class, race, and community in our works, Detecting Canada answers that question decisively. Canadian crime writers are writing real novels, and Detecting Canada offers solid evidence to prove the point. ''

- Gail Bowen, author of The Gifted, the latest in the Joanne Kilbourn mystery series