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On a cold, snowy winter day, a group of six gathers in a cozy East York café to share stories of murder, mystery, sensuality, romance, revenge and humour. They’re stories that grab your attention, wrapping themselves around the crevices and corners of your mind, leaving your fingers anxiously waiting to turn the page — themes that the Crime Writers of Canada are no strangers to.
Eager patrons grab their coffee and gluten-free cookies and pull up a chair at Du Café on O’Connor Drive. They listen attentively to live readings of excerpts from seasoned writers, many of whom are journalists-turned-authors.
Hosted by Sharon A. Crawford, author of Beyond the Tripping Point, readers at a recent session included Rosemary McCracken, a Toronto-based freelance journalist and author of Safe Harbour; Catherine Dunphy, Ryerson print journalism and magazine professor and author of Morgentaler: A Difficult Hero; Madeleine Harris-Callway, award-winning mystery author and contributor for Thirteen: An Anthology of Crime Stories by Mesdames of Mayhem; Karen Blake-Hall, author of Nefarious North: A Collection of Crime Short Stories; and Steve Shrott, an award-winning comedy writer and author of Audition for Death.
“I really hate reading out loud,” said romantic suspense author Blake-Hall. “It’s the worst part of writing.”
Since opening its doors almost a year ago, Du Café has been involved in helping and providing a venue for the events put on by the Crime Writers of Canada, such as Murder and Mayhem.
“It’s a little community within the community,” said Crystal Holmes, owner of Du Café.
Crawford approached Holmes in September with the idea of hosting the events.
Mesdames of Mayhem is a group of 15 female Canadian crime writers. Founded by Harris-Callway in 2013, Thirteen is their first anthology, consisting of 13 of the 15 authors.
Harris-Callway said they have been working together a very long time.
“When Madeleine had this wonderful idea, I just thought, we have to support her,” McCracken said. “I love writing. I always wanted to be a fiction writer.”
So, why are women intrigued by mystery?
“I think the reason so many journalists have segued into mystery writing is because the ultimate mystery is ‘who the heck are we?’” Dunphy said. “It’s motivation. It’s character study.”
Shrott, who has written jokes for Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers, found his niche by combining comedy with mystery.
Crawford said one of the greatest rewards of being a writer is having people read your work.
Organized by Nate Henley, Crime Writers of Canada Books and Beverages takes place once a month, with the exception of December, each at a different venue.