Vendredi, 12 juillet 2024
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    The mysteries of Jeffrey Round

    Mystery writer Jeffrey Round has been called a heir to famed mystery writer Agatha Christie, and is a Queen of Crime in his own right, the award-winning author of the seven-volume Dan Sharp mystery series and the Bradford Fairfax mystery series which feature Round’s beloved gay detectives Dan Sharp and Bradford Fairfax.

    The first Bradford Fairfax mystery, The P’Town Murders, was published in 2007, and the first Dan Sharp mystery, Lake On The Mountain, won the 2013 Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Mystery.

    Round is also a published poet and playwright, and from 1995 to 1998, directed Agatha Christie’s iconic play The Mousetrap during its North American record-breaking 27-year run at the Toronto Truck Theatre. “I have been a stage manager, TV producer and director,” says Round, who has worked for the CBC and Alliance Atlantis. “But my through-line has always been writing.”

    Round’s contributions to Canadian literature go beyond his bestselling mysteries: as an editor for Pink Triangle Press, in 1990 he founded the Church-Wellesley Review which published such legendary writers as Jane Rule, Timothy Findley, RM Vaughan, Shyam Selvadurai and Sky Gilbert.

    Round’s first novel, A Cage of Bones, based on his experiences as a fashion model in Italy and England, topped bestseller lists worldwide in 1997, and his brand new page-turner, The Sulphur Springs Cure (Cormorant Books), is about 84-year-old widow Violet McAdam and an unsolved murder at the Sulphur Springs Hotel on the eve of World War II: Did she witness a murder or commit it herself?

    Toronto-based Jeffrey and I recently sat down for a candid Q&A which has been edited for length and clarity.

    Why is The Mousetrap a perfect mystery?

    It’s actually not a perfect mystery but I’m not going to spoil it by pointing out why. Having directed it for three years, I would say it’s one of the smoothest mysteries. Like most of her best work, you realize Agatha Christie points at all the things that should tell you who the murderer is and you miss it again and again because she is the ultimate magician. She does sleight of hand like nobody else. She distracts you with something that is far more tantalizing to look at. She has fooled more people, more adroitly, than anyone else before or after her.

    With your bestseller Endgame, you recreated Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None

    It was pure luck. I had just read And Then There Were None for fun before I was invited to a party for a rock band where they started flinging crap at each other! I thought, “Oh my god, I’m glad these people aren’t killers!” Then suddenly it sprang into my mind: why not set them on an island, like the Agatha Christie novel and let them have a go at it?

    With your Dan Sharp and Bradford Fairfax mysteries, why did you create LGBTQ characters?

    I wrote The P’Town Murders after taking a vacation to Provincetown. I wanted something unusual, colourful and humourous. People always ask, “Who’s your ideal reader?” And I think, well, if I could amuse Oscar Wilde, then I would have earned my keep as a mystery writer.

    Were you ever worried that your LGBTQ mysteries would not appeal to straight readers?

    Absolutely. That was a worry that I’ve since disregarded because I proved myself wrong. My mysteries are read by people who are inquisitive and intelligent.

    Do you plot a mystery before you even write the first word?

    It is totally organic. But I studied literature, I know what the different story arcs are. At a writer’s festival a number of years ago, somebody asked me the difference between writing a literary novel and a mystery. I said they both have their own structural needs. The thing for me is I can write a mystery faster because the formula is simpler. 

    How is The Sulphur Springs Cure different from your other mystery novels?

    It is actually a literary novel with a mystery at the core of it. I was inspired by a trip I took with a friend to Sulphur Springs in Dundas Valley. When we got there, we saw the ruins of the renowned Sulphur Springs Hotel, literally the spa in the book. And as I was wandering around, I just felt these voices coming out of the ground. I thought, “Wow, there’s a whole lot of history here.” I saw a memorial name plaque on a bench. The woman’s name was Violet, and I thought there’s my character’s name. It’s an old-fashioned name. The story grew and grew, so I sat down and wrote it.

    You founded the Church-Wellesley Review in 1990. Why was it hugely important?

    Because in Canada there were no gay creative-writing venues. We also faced this uniform wall of homogeneity that was mostly white and male. I was sick of it. So I started The Church-Wellesley Review to make visible all of these invisible voices, such as LGBTQ writers of colour. I also wanted a venue for people who I felt – like me – were being shunned and pushed aside because of what our friend RM Vaughan called the lavender ceiling.

    Your experience as a model in the UK and Italy in the 1990s inspired your 1997 debut novel A Cage of Bones.

    It was never a full-time job though it often felt like one. I did runway work for a couple of years. The runway stuff was more common, you could get in a lot more easily. I would have been the fashion industry equivalent of an extra in a movie! But I met some names. And it gave me confidence as a young person who had no confidence whatsoever. It was so much fun, as you can imagine. Had I stayed a few years longer I could have made a lot of money. Instead that experience became the basis for my first novel.

    How did you come out? 

    I assumed everyone knew I was gay. When I told people and saw their faces of dismay and astonishment, I’d think, “Oh, another one who didn’t figure it out.” I mean, I was having sex as a young teenager! So I assumed that was coming out. When I officially broached the subject with my parents, I was 21-years-old. I found out they either did not know I was gay, or they refused to accept that I was gay. It was not a pleasant time. But they eventually came around, totally to their credit.

    Are you a gay writer or a writer who happens to be gay?

    A bit of both because I don’t think all my books are going to turn out to be totally gay. But I think my sensibility is purely and clearly gay.

    You have been called a heir to Agatha Christie by many, including Canadian literary legend Joan Barfoot.

    That’s the highest praise I could possibly get. That means I’ve done my job.

    INFOS | The Sulphur Springs Cure by Jeffrey Round (Cormorant Books) will be published on March 16. For more, visit www.jeffreyround.com

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