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Islands: Perfect Settings for Stories

Islands offer wonderful settings for stories, real and imagined. They’re enisled, separate, away. They inspire intriguing metaphors. They attract interesting, some might say “quirky,” people. Surrounding waters present lulling beauty and hidden danger. And when things happen on islands, insularity stirs up complex social dynamics and demands local solutions. With islands on three coasts and scattered throughout rivers and lakes, it’s hardly surprising that these compelling literary devices have a powerful presence in Canadian fiction and creative non-fiction.

As a rule of thumb (grounded in observation, rather than any systematic analysis) the size of an island tends to shape the nature of the story. Large islands are settings for tales of distinctive communities, defined at least in part by their distance from urbanity. Lucy Maude Montgomery placed her stories of Anne of Green Gables on Prince Edward Island as it encapsulates a nurturing rural lifestyle preserved in a changing world by its sandy shorelines. As Anne says, “Look at that sea, …

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Crime Novels: Noir by Northwest

Book Cover Cut You Down

Sam Wiebe (whose most recent novel is Cut You Down, which “convincingly brings Raymond Chandler into the twenty-first century," according to a starred review in Publishers Weekly) recommends eight other crime novels set in the Pacific Northwest. 

*****

Find You in the Dark, by Nathan Ripley 

Seattle: Martin Reese is a retired tech millionaire who spends his free time searching for the bodies of undiscovered serial killer victims. Is he a heroic benefactor, doing what the police can’t, or is he motivated by something darker? Find You In the Dark captures the uncomfortable overlap of Seattle’s business and culture sectors.

*

Zero Avenue, by Dietrick Kalteis

Vancouver and the US/Canada border: Kalteis’s tale of 70s’ Vancouver focuses on the emerging punk scene, as well as the cross-border pot trade. His work has been compared to Elmore …

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