I started this—our first—crime issue like a detective. My questions ranged from the literary, Can poetry go noir? Are hard-boiled stories ever highbrow? to the contextual, Are all femmes fatales sexist? Does crime writing fetishize violence against women? In spite of apparent answers, I pressed on, thinking we could subvert any shortcomings of the genre. So when it came time to call for submissions, we asked for feminist fatale tales, for writing that turns the tables on the tropes.
Our contributors, as always, delivered. The poems and stories in “Murder, Lust, and Larceny” present an unconventional cast that includes cunning canyon dwellers, a riddling shoplifter, Mata Hari, and two cat killers.
The writing provokes more questions, like about why we consume trials (Adrienne Weiss, page 22) when the “television dumps another murder” (Jayelle Bond, page 6) into our living rooms, while Angela Strassheim’s forensic art (page 51) raises conflicting queries, as she illuminates past tragedies in other living rooms.
When assembling our featured writers for the issue, it was satisfying to find mainstream crime literature already subverting itself. Both Alice Kuipers and Yasuko Thanh are winners of Arthur Ellis Awards, Canada’s biggest prize for the genre. Kuipers won for a book about the aftermath of a violent act, told by a poetic teenage diarist. In our interview with her (page 17), she touches on this expansion of the crime genre. And in “Jewel” (page 40), Thanh pushes the genre: crimes are committed, but not those seen at first glance. Today, celebrated crime writing does not need an open and shut case.
That doesn’t mean that we don’t need justice. One of my earlier questions is based on the fact that women are more likely to be on the receiving end of violent crime, and the knowledge that some groups of women are even more likely to be targeted. In our BackRoom interview, Michèle Audette talks about Canada’s missing and murdered Aboriginal women. The biggest crime? The lack of justice.
I hope “Murder, Lust, and Larceny” provokes questions from you, too. Bring out your inner detective and follow our trail of clues this way ...
Becky Blake is a Toronto-based writer who has worked as a journalist, script consultant, advice columnist, and playwright. She won The CBC Short Story Prize in 2013. Her short stories and articles have appeared in publications such as Kiss Machine, Front&Centre, NOW, and DailyXY.
Catherine Graham is the author of the poetry trilogy: Pupa, The Red Element, and Winterkill (2003, 2008, 2010, Insomniac Press). She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University and teaches creative writing at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies.
Jenny D. Smith is an artist and creative writer in her early thirties. She has divided her life between the Yukon, Alberta, and British Columbia, and considers all three home. She has no formal training in the arts. Jenny resides in West Vancouver with her daughter, the heart of her inspiration.
Born in Iowa, and now living in New York, Angela Strassheim started as a forensic photographer and went on to an MFA in Photography from Yale University. Her work has been exhibited globally, and was featured in the 2006 Whitney Biennial and the Musée de l’Elysée’s exhibit “reGeneration—50 Photographers of Tomorrow.”
Yasuko Thanh won an Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Short Story in Canada this year, and the Journey Prize in 2009. Her book, Floating Like the Dead (McClelland & Stewart, 2012) was nominated for the Ethel Wilson Prize for Fiction and was listed on Quill & Quire’s Best Books of 2012. She recently received her MFA from UVic. She has travelled widely and now lives with her husband and two daughters in Victoria, B.C.
Rachel Thompson joined Room’s collective in 2010. Her poetry collection, Galaxy (Anvil Press, 2011), won the Simon Fraser University First Book Prize. She divides her time between Canada and Egypt.
Shoshanna Wingate was raised in the U.S. and now makes her home in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Her debut poetry collection will be published by Vehicule Press in 2014. Her poems have appeared in Arc Poetry Magazine, The Fiddlehead, and The New Quarterly.