After Agatha & The Women Of Crime

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I was reading an article on female crime writers this morning entitled, “After Agatha Christie” and I stumbled across the following quote by Laura Lippman,

Thinking about crime is very personal for women because they know what it’s like to be prey.

That’s both true and fascinating to me. Fascinating because if we consider the statement in reference to crime fiction written by women, we can’t help but agree. For as long as we can remember, women have been prey. Physically and socially. All one has to do is look at the #MeToo movement that was long overdue and cast an eye over the media. Rapes, assaults, psychological crimes like stalking, domestic assaults…and the list goes on. So it’s no surprise that crime novels written from domestic, psychological and police procedural perspectives are ever-rising in popularity. As is pointed out in the article mentioned above, who better to write female-centric crime than a female?

The big names in this genre are household names, and I love that there’s plenty of room for up and coming authors here too. (A fact that reassures me as a writer). Even more satisfying? Our arc has swung so far that the field is populated with men writing women’s crime fiction under female pseudonyms.

Now if we could just get to a point where women-centric crime falls off, we’d all start to breathe a little easier.

Do you read any female authors? Who? What genre do they write in?

What keeps you reading them? Let me know in the comments section below!

What Happened to Tom Thompson?

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There is a mystery surrounding painter Tom Thompson’s death. Last time, I shared with you a letter written by his friend to Thompson’s benefactor.

Tom left here on sunday about one o’clock for a fishing trip down the lake and at three oclock his Canoe was found floating a short distance from my place with both paddles tied tight in the canoe also his provision were found packed in the canoe. The Canoe was up side down We can find no trace of where he landed or what happend to him Everything is being done that can be done his brother arrived this morning Will let you know at once if we find him.

Yours Truly

S. Fraser

 

Thompson’s body was found July 16th. 

 

Copy of Dr. G.W. Howland’s affidavit of July 17, 1917

Canoe Lake

July 17-17.

Dr. G. W. Howland qualified medical practitioner of Toronto, Ont., Sworn, Said:

I saw body of man floating in Canoe Lake Monday, July 16th, at about 10 A. M. and notified Mr. George Rowe a resident who removed body to shore. On 17th Tuesday, I examined boyd and found it to be that of a man aged about 40 years in advanced stage of decomposition, face abdomen and limbs swollen, blisters on limbs, was a bruise on right temple size of 4” long, no other sign of external marks visible on body, air issuing from mouth, some bleeding from right ear, cause of death drowning.

(Sgd.) Gordon W. Howland, 

 

Fraser sent Thompson’s father a letter dated July 18, 1917 (copied as it was written, spelling mistakes and all)

Mr. John Thomson

Owen Sound

Dear Sir:

We found your son floating in Canoe Lake on Monday moring about nine o clock in a most dreadful condition the flesh was coming of his hands. I sent for the undertaker and they found him in such a condition [illegible] he had to be buried at once he is buried in a little grave yard over looking Canoe Lake a beautiful spot. The Dr found a bruse over his eye and thinks he fell and and was hurt and this is how the accident happend.

Yours Truly

S. Fraser

 

Today, a lot of controversy still swirls around Thompson’s death. Some believe he ran afoul of poachers, others believe his canoe hit an underwater stump left over from logging. There were no witnesses to the actual cause of the canoe overturning. But while he was buried in the park at first, he was dug up the next day and reburied in Owen Sound in his family’s plot.

T.J Harkness was tasked with settling the estate of Thompson. While doing so, he accused Fraser via letter of “not dealing square”. The letter seems to imply that Harkness thought Fraser was trying to profit from Thompson’s death. Here’s an interesting excerpt,

‘…Surely Tom had some personal property. Had he no trunk or grip or clothes except what you showed Geo Thomson and how do you account for Tom only having .60 cts when found. I know what he drew from the bank when he was away, and he was guiding a few weeks and no doubt was paid for it and where do you suppose his money went to. I tell you frankly Mr. Fraser I am suspicious that you are not dealing square and I hope you will be able to give a satisfactory explanation of everything…’ 

In a letter from Winifred Trainor (a friend of Thomspon’s, and some speculated a sweetheart) to George Thomspon, dated September 17th 1917, both Frasers characters are maligned. What follows are excerpts.

Dear Mr. Thomson

Your letter received this am. and would say I had the pleasure of meeting your sister Margaret in Toronto Aug 31 — together with her niece Jessie Harkness and a little boy Charles – and she asked me about the $25000 Tom loaned J. S. Fraser. I told her all I knew about it and that is at the time, May or June 1915, the loan was made — and in July 1915 Tom bought a new chestnut canoe silk tent etc. and went from Canoe Lake on a long trip coming out at South River about Labor Day. Anyway he said just in time to send your brother who was being married a telegram of congratulation. I do not think Tom got his canoe from Hville. Frasers got theirs here. I also heard at the time he was trying to make the raise of a loan in town and was even asked by the agent if I would like to put it up and my reply was no. I did not know until July 1915, that Tom had made it or I would have said no for him not too as the thing was risky. They also were charging him a $ a day for his board when he could have got it anywhere for $4. You see the Frasers were money grabbing as usual but it will all come back to them. It was awful of Shannon Fraser to charge cartage on the casket. When Tom the day he was drowned helped to cadge a boat for Shannon to rent. Never mind they’ll get it yet. As far as Frasers good faith he has none. Mark Robinson the Ranger hates him.

Well Tom said this spring while at our house that he had loaned Fraser $25000 for canoes, but that he had got it all back but in little bits though. Again if I had known, I could have got them all wholesale instead of retail and Tom might have realized $5000 on the out lay instead of nothing. I suppose Frasers thought he would board on till Fall with them. I did not know the amount until this spring. When we happened to bring up Shan’s financial standing.

About the overcoat I am enclosing a snap with the one he wore this spring. It was a green plaid Mackinaw. He also bought the Mackinaw trousers, socks & shoepacks he has on, here this spring. I would think the best way would be to have the executor send for all his belongings, saying the estate required them, as Shan will sell the things & keep the money. The things we have can be had next year when we go back. Your sister Margaret may go with me sometime. Hoping this will be some information to you. You could ask Frasers about it, saying you had come upon some correspondence about this transaction.

I am so sorry I burned my letters that I had left after our home was burned. I had this one where he left the Frasers dissatisfied but he did not tell the reason till the Fall 1915. Then again Tom did not care for Martin Blecher. […] Mrs. Fraser I think would see you got everything should you request it. I do not think Frasers deserve one thing. Tom no doubt was paying his board well, supplying fish work & etc. His canoes can be easily stored at the Lake. Tom ploughed and planted their garden & ploughed Larry Dixon’s garden too-

To add to all of this suspicion, a letter was penned by George Thompson to Fraser, dated December 25th, 1917. I find this letter both fascinating and very telling.

Dec. 25th, 1917

The Quinnipiack club

New Haven, Conn.

Dear Sir:- I am the brother of Tom Thomson who visited Canoe Lake last July. Only a few weeks ago I was informed for the first time that the coroner’s conclusion at the inquest was that Tom had taken his own life based on evidence given soley by you and Mrs Fraser. While I was there both you and Mrs Fraser protested over and over your great friendship for Tom, and from what I learn from various sources there was reason that you should entertain some such feeling, as a mighty good friend he had apparently been to you. […]

Now I want to say in passing that I have from various sources a pretty accurate account of what happened at the inquest and in common with other friends and relatives of Tom’s am more firmly convinced than ever that his death was caused either by accident or foul play and not by suicide. He had altogether too much to live for — many true friends and a remarkable success in his chosen profession.

Yours etc.

George Thomson

The letters all seem to imply that the Frasers were not the wonderful friends they reported to be and that J.S Fraser may have had something to do with Thompson’s death. On Dec 29th, Fraser wrote back to say ‘There is not an atom of truth in your accusations & as sincere friends of Tom’s, it hurt us not a little that you, his brother, should accuse us of desecrating his memory.’   (Clearly the post moved faster in those days than it does today!)

TomTomsonCairn

TO THE MEMORY OF 

TOM THOMSON

ARTIST, WOODSMAN

AND GUIDE

WHO WAS DROWNED IN CANOE LAKE

JULY 8TH, 1917

HE LIVED HUMBLY BUT PASSIONATELY

WITH THE WILD IT MADE HIM BROTHER

TO ALL UNTAMED THINGS OF NATURE

IT DREW HIM APART AND REVEALED

ITSELF WONDERFULLY TO HIM

IT SENT HIM OUT FROM THE WOODS

ONLY TO SHOW THESE REVELATIONS

THROUGH HIS ART AND IT TOOK 

HIM TO ITSELF AT LAST.

HIS FELLOW ARTISTS AND OTHER FRIENDS AND ADMIRERS

JOIN GLADLY IN THIS TRIBUTE TO

HIS CHARACTER AND GENIUS

HIS BODY IS BURIED AT

OWEN SOUND ONTARIO NEAR

WHERE HE WAS BORN

AUGUST 1877

The official account lists Thompson’s death as caused by drowning. But all of the correspondence flying back and forth certainly makes one wonder if perhaps the painter’s death was not accidental, but came about as a result of money. Perhaps Fraser owed Thompson money and did not want to pay it back? Perhaps Thompson knew something he shouldn’t have?  Many writers have investigated the matter, and as a result, there are a number of books that discuss Tom Thompson’s life and death. If you have found my brief series of blog posts concerning this mystery interesting, I encourage you to seek out the books.

Does your hometown have an unsolved mystery? Or perhaps one steeped in lore and controversy? 

The Enduring Mystery of Tom Thompson’s Death

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I’ve mentioned Tom Thompson on this blog before and his connection to a near-ghost town in Algonquin Park. 

Tom was born in Claremont, Ontario in 1877 and by 1905 was working as a designer and illustrator in Toronto. His friends and co-workers encouraged him to explore a part of the province known as ‘New Ontario’, the part of the province lying between Georgian Bay and Ottawa, by canoe. He fell in love with the land and returned often to Algonquin Park to paint scenes he saw there. He also encouraged his friends to come and paint as well. 

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Tom Thompson, ‘Drowned Land’ 1912

Tom was an avid outdoorsman, despite being employed The Photo Engraving Co. in Toronto. Many artists during that time needed to have ‘day jobs’ to support them while they painted in their spare time. But in September of 1912, Tom and his friend W.S Broadhead spent two months in the wild region of ‘New Ontario’. A journalist interviewed them for an article in the Owen Sound Sun that was printed on Sept 27th of that year. What follows is an excerpt from the article that captures perfectly the wildness of the region back then.

‘Wolves are plentiful all through the Reserve and Mr. Broadhead was fortunate enough to be within about five feet of one, a splendid specimen of the Canadian timber wolf and of which he got a photograph. Deer and bear are also plentiful and ducks and partridge are in abundance. The fishing was not very good although the two young men got some fine speckled trout in Clear Lake. In the upper waters of the Hudson Bay only pike are to be caught and the trout and bass are a minus quality there.’

Thompson is recognized across Canada as an important artist, even though he was only active as a ‘creative’ painter for about five years. Although he had not sold many works by the time of his death, his reputation quickly began to grow soon thereafter. Is he more famous posthumously than he was alive? Many people believe so.

In the spring and summer of 1917, he was in Algonquin Park attempting to produce one sketch a day, so that he might show others the many faces of the park throughout the seasons. In a letter dated July 7th, 1912 mailed from Mowat, Ontario to Dr. James McCallum, he reported, 

I am still around Frasers and have not done any sketching since the flies started. The weather has been wet and cold all spring and the flies and mosquitos much worse than I have seen them any year and the fly dope doesnt have any effect on them. This however is the second warm day we have had this year and another day or so like this will finish them. Will send my winter sketches down in a day or two and have every intention of making some more but it has been almost impossible lately. […] Have done some guiding this spring and will have some other trips this month and next with probably sketching in between…’

On July 12th, mere days later another letter was written to Dr. McCallum by J.S Fraser.

Tom left here on sunday about one o’clock for a fishing trip down the lake and at three oclock his Canoe was found floating a short distance from my place with both paddles tied tight in the canoe also his provision were found packed in the canoe. The Canoe was up side down We can find no trace of where he landed or what happend to him Everything is being done that can be done his brother arrived this morning Will let you know at once if we find him.

Yours Truly

S. Fraser

What happened? That’s a blog post for tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Show Me Your Ways! ~ A Review

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I enjoyed this book, not only for its anecdotal feel but the tips and suggestions for living lighter on the land.

We all need to leave less of a carbon footprint, but often, many of us have no idea just how to do that. The author provides suggestions for reducing one’s trash, being less reliant on plastic-based food preservation items (which is tough!) and how to think about the places we live in.
She also gives up intimate glimpses of her own life and how she changed her way of thinking so that she could be a positive role model for her grandchildren. She talks about cows, knowing her steak, and his dad. She talks about having a closer relationship with the trees that surround her home, and how intense the dark is out in the bush. She discusses the folly of expecting to be able to eat watermelon in January as well, something I didn’t give thought to until I read this book.

There are wonderful photos of the wild animals that visit her, drool-worthy recipes (many with photos) and guidance on how and why to cut white sugar out of our diets. There are so many pearls of wisdom, but this is one of my favourite lines,
Change scares the shit out of people

So true. So read this book, and the changes we all need to make in our lives will be less scary.

Can you name one way you might reduce your carbon/environmental footprint? Shout out in the comments section below!

Have You Heard?

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The Audio Publishers Association announced that they will be presenting bestselling author Stephen King with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Audie Awards in March in New York City. King is known for his horror novels such as The Shining and Carrie but also for his crime novels, the Mr. Mercedes Trilogy (Mr. MercedesFinders KeepersEnd of Watch), The OutsiderThe Colorado Kid, and Joyland.

 

“The best secrets are the most twisted”
― Sara Shepard, Twisted

Powerless & Cold

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Remember I promised that I was going to be more consistent about giving you behind-the-scenes peeks?

Last week, I had every intention of doing just that. But the Power grid here had other ideas. We were suddenly and without warning plunged into…

Want to know what happened? Look up at the top of the page and sign up for my newsletter. It’s entertaining, enlightening and you’ll learn something from the latest issue.

I promise not to use your email for nefarious purposes, ’cause that’s just slimy.

Body In The Bush…Wait…Where?

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Here in the North, I am surrounded by the bush, so it made sense to have my Detective Anais Quinn live here too. But non-Northern readers may not be familiar with “the bush”.

So let me explain.

Wikipedia explains it best, “In northern Canada, “the bush” refers to the massive expanse of primarily coniferous trees that sprawl undeveloped. The term is not generally used in the southern parts of the country.

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Bush flying refers to aircraft operations carried out in the bush. Bush flying involves operations in rough terrain where there are often no prepared landing strips or runways, frequently necessitating that bush planes be equipped with abnormally large tires, floats or skis. (This is what Anne’s (Anais’ aunt) boyfriend, Jackson Orr does for a living.) It is, even in this day and age, a hard reality that many Northern communities rely heavily on this form of transportation for everything from mail, groceries, building supplies, medical care, and much more.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into a small part of what makes us Canadian. If you did, I encourage you to sign up for my newsletter. It comes out approximately once a month and contains news about my writing, tidbits of my world like this one, behind-the-scenes looks at the process of writing a novel, and from time to time, newsletter subscriber-exclusive goodies! You can find a link to sign up at the top of this page. Or failing that, drop me an email and I can sign you up.

Until next time!