Parry Sound Books celebrates 20 years with a reading from Peter Robinson
Peter Robinson, internationally acclaimed mystery novelist, will be in Parry Sound on April 1 to read from his work at the Charles W. Stockey Centre, and to join in our celebration of the 20th anniversary of Parry Sound Books. Twenty years ago, April 1, 1988, a few months before moving to Parry Sound, we registered a new business as Parry Sound Books. We had already arranged to purchase a house in Parry Sound, where we first opened the shop.
Peter Robinson did a reading there, early in his career and in ours. He has returned since then, always welcomed by his many readers, and it seemed appropriate that he be the author we chose to read for us as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Parry Sound Books.
Peter Robinson grew up in Yorkshire before coming to Canada to take his MA in English and Creative Writing at the University of Windsor, and staying on to teach at York University. He has made Toronto his home, although he now spends part of the year back in Yorkshire since his retirement from teaching.
Gallows View, the first novel in the Inspector Banks mystery series was published in 1987 and has been followed in the twenty years since by 19 more, soon to be joined by another, I am sure.
Over those years the Inspector Banks novels have won many awards and have become massively popular, as has the author, travelling worldwide to read from his work at literary festivals.
We have all aged since 1987 – the years of our adult lives – and so has Inspector Banks. Banks is now middle-aged (we like to think that in our 50s, we are still middle-aged although it is not likely!), he is divorced and drinks perhaps more than is healthy, although he has given up smoking. His job is his priority, although his personal life is very much a part of the novels.
I decided to re-read Gallows View, the first in the series, published in 1987. After reading the most recent, Friend of the Devil, I wondered how Banks, and Peter Robinson's writing, had changed in 20 years. I suspected that the novels had become tougher over the years as the real world has become a tougher place in which to live.
I was amazed to discover that the writing then was as good as it is now, Gallows View was no beginner's book; no wonder it was so successful. Alan Banks is a fully formed character, as are all of the others in the novel.
We meet Banks' superior officer, Gristhorpe, building a dry stone wall - he has long since retired so it was delightful to find him again in this first novel. Banks is happily married, even though he finds himself attracted to another woman he encounters professionally.
His children are young, they go on family excursions, and they play trains together. Over the course of the novels the children have, of course, grown up, we went through the worrisome teenage years together - thankfully they are behind us all now.
Peter and I have met at various events over these years and kept in touch, he is still married to the same person after 30 some odd years, as am I.
He is content with his life, personally and professionally, yet he has allowed the man he created, Alan Banks, to experience a difficult divorce and several relationships since then.
We have learned more about Banks' family over the years, his estrangement from his brother, the aging of his parents; we know the man. These novels are mystery novels - there is a murder - or two - to be solved, but they are also novels in which the protagonist is dealing with personal issues that are part of all of our lives.
There is little graphic violence - you know it has happened but it is not too difficult to read.
Although, as I suspected, the cases that Banks now investigates are sometimes much more difficult than the peeping tom and house break-ins that kept him busy in Gallows View.
The very cold-blooded murders that take place in Friend of the Devil are, without being too graphic, a little too horribly real for comfort, as are the perpetrators.
It is in the more recent novels that the story of Banks' personal life cushions the reader from a story that seems a little too much like true crime for my squeamish taste.
This is not to say that they are not terrific books - they are truly very well written. Suspense is held throughout and the structure and the plot are perfectly controlled.
They are thoroughly satisfying novels to read, but they have taken on a harder edge over the years.
Don't miss the opportunity to meet Peter Robinson on April 1 at 7:30 p.m. at the Charles W. Stockey Centre.
Please join us for a very special evening to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Parry Sound Books.