by Alison Wong
“Every city has their dirty laundry. I’m the laundry man.”
~Michael J. Clark
Michael J. Clark’s first novel, Clean Sweep, was on display in today’s reading at the Good Will Social Club. He presented the audience with a gripping excerpt from the book, taking us down the familiar streets of Winnipeg in our infamous winter weather right alongside his characters, on their way to dispose of a body. Clark finished his reading leaving his audience hanging; we would just have to read his book if we wanted more. So many crime novels are set in places like Chicago or elsewhere, but they have immediate parallels to places close to home, like Winnipeg’s own Exchange District. So, Clark knew that he wanted his novel set locally, in the neighborhoods of the city he lives in. He wanted to take his readers into the side of Winnipeg that is not seen on the surface; there is a darker side to this city, just like any other, and he explores this in his writing. Crime fiction is an interesting genre. When asked about the appeal of crime fiction to readers, Clark said, “Most people never consider crossing the line of crime, but everybody wants to read about it.” And through reading his book, people are allowed to lawfully explore a life of crime from the safety of their homes.
Vancouver author Sam Wiebe gave a reading of his novel Cut You Down, the second in his series, Wakeland. Set in his local neighborhood in BC, this crime novel details a college funding scandal involving a missing university student, her professor, and various other mysterious twists. When asked about his take on the popularity of crime novels, Wiebe postulated that the genre of crime fiction is a good place to address real social issues in a way that people will want to read about. One can be both subtle and upfront about such issues, and still present it in a manner that reaches wide audiences.
Today’s theme of crime was tied together with a fondness for staying local. You don’t have to go as far as Chicago’s south side for a good crime story; they can exist in every city, including your own.