Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Remembering Peter Robinson

 I first discovered Peter back in the mists of time, a quarter century ago, when the Ladies Killing Circle was in its infancy and looking for a professional writer to critique a chapter of the debut novels we were all struggling to write. A group of us invited him up for a day workshop. He was informal, insightful, at times funny, and often blunt in his assessments, teaching us the first rule of writing; develop a thick skin and take the punches. 

He was, however, very encouraging about the first chapter of my first Inspector Green novel, and once I sold it to a publisher a couple of years later, I met him again at the inaugural Bloody Words Mystery Conference in Toronto, where I waylaid him in the bar (having a drink with Ian Rankin) and he agreed to write a cover blurb. By that time I had become a fan of his Inspector Banks series and have read almost all of them. He is the kind of writer I aspire to be, tackling human stories with intensity, compassion, and hope, creating intelligent, nuanced characters and making insightful commentaries on the human condition using one of the most powerful media I know - the crime novel.

Over the years, I met him frequently at Bloody Words conferences, Arthur Ellis banquets (now called Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence), and at various festivals and book signings that often ended up in a pub. That's a favourite writer pastime - the post-party in the pub to share insider war stories. Peter, like his protagonist, loved a good Scotch but also knew his way around beers. 

He was always friendly, talkative, funny, with a sardonic wit. I also knew he gave tirelessly to the Canadian and international crime writing community, supporting the efforts of writers both experienced and rookie, teaching creative writing at the University of Toronto, and giving workshops. He was a tremendous voice for the Canadian crime writing community, and indeed for the crime genre in general. In between he wrote an astonishing number of books while still managing to keep the Inspector Banks series fresh and intriguing, and over the years has garnered too many awards to mention here. I will just say that his Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence, won for both short stories and novels, probably fill not just a bookshelf but a whole book case. In 2020 CWC awarded him the Grand Master Award, given "to recognize a Canadian crime writer with a substantial body of work who has garnered national and international recognition."

Through all of this I've always known him to be humble, and maybe like most of us writers, to view his gift with a touch of disbelieving awe. One of my favourite memories of him was at a interview some years ago when he was asked how he plotted his books. Like myself, he was a "pantser" who made things up as he went along, and at a certain point in every novel, he'd say to himself "What am I doing? This is crap, I'm not a writer, what makes me think I can be a writer?" And his wife would say "Oh, you're on Page 280, aren't you?" Thus capturing the sentiment of every pantser I know.

His twenty-seventh Banks book, STANDING IN THE SHADOWS, will be published in March 2023. Peter Robinson died on October 4, 2022 at the age of 72. Far too soon. We've lost a great talent and a great friend to the writing community. But his soul lives on in his wonderful work.


blogcutter said...

Thank you for posting this - I was unaware that Peter Robinson had died. Like you, I have fond memories of seeing him at Bloody Words conferences, as well as at a Music and Beyond event.

Rick Blechta said...

Thanks for this, Barbara. Everything you've said describes so well the man many of us knew. It was an honour to have Peter call us a friend. We will not see his like again.