Michael Van Rooy

Michael Van Rooy

Michael Neelak Van Rooy - Winnipeg Arts Ambassador (Literary Arts)

Winnipeg, MB

Presenting as part of the session: Art in Discounted Spaces - Friday, November 5 at 3:30 pm

Michael Neelak Van Rooy is an author, administrator, and teacher. He has written three books in the critically acclaimed Monty Haaviko thriller series set in Winnipeg beginning with An Ordinary Decent Criminal (2005) published by Turnstone Press. In 2006 it won the Eileen McTavish Sykes Award for Best First Book by a Manitoba Author. It is published in Germany by Verlagsgruppe Lubbe as Ein gewohnlicher Verbrecher and is being released in the United States through Minotaur/Thomas Dunne Books in August of 2010. A film version is in pre-production with Winnipeg’s Far Point Films and Big Mind Productions.

The second book in the series, Your Friendly Neighbourhood Criminal, was published in Canada in 2008 and is due out in the U.S. in 2011. The third in the series, A Criminal to Remember, will be out by the end of June 2010.

In 2009 Michael received the John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer. He has been shortlisted for both the Margaret Lawrence for Fiction and the Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel.

Michael’s short fiction and articles have appeared in The Toban, Swerve, The Minstrel, and Prairie Fire. He has written and performed material for CBC radio’s Definitely Not the Operaand wrote a segment of the Ginger’s Walk play at the 2009 Winnipeg Fringe Festival.

Professionally Michael is the Program Coordinator for the Writers’ Collective for Professional and Developing Writers, a mentor for the Arts and Cultural Industries Fiction program, the Publicist for the THIN AIR Winnipeg International Writers Festival and the Administrator for the Canadian Mennonite University School of Writing. He is also the Vice-President of the Board of Directors of Prairie Fire Press.

Michael lives in Winnipeg with his wife and three children.  A fourth book in the Monty Haaviko series is due out in 2012.


Description of Michael Neelak Van Rooy's talk:

Crime Fiction as a Tarnished Mirror . . .

In truth crime is inherent in human cities and in our civilizations, it is integral. Crime creates/alters/distorts our common spaces in a dozen ways we recognize and in many ways we do not.

In the real world graffiti can be an organization delineating its sphere of influence. Broken needles, empty baggies, are the tracks and trails of the addict and the dealer. The sex trade worker is a signpost to a certain type of space.

The unpleasant truth is that crime serves a social need. There would be no prostitution, no bootlegging, no drug dealing, no money-laundering, no illegal weapons sales and so on, ad infinitum, without a market. That market is provided, in the end, by normal, law-abiding citizens looking for something that is cheaper or impossible to find anywhere else.

Crime is, however, very frightening to the normal, law-abiding person. And the space where crime dwells is both frightening and attractive - it arouses curiosity and righteous indignation both. The writer of fiction can best describe these spaces. The writer can make them real and accessible and bring the average citizen into the world in a safe and vicarious way.

In that way the role of the writer is to give voice to the ghosts that inhabit the cities; the forgotten and misunderstood atrocities that blend with fiction until the lines between truth and lies vanishes.

Historically the crime writer colours the truth, shades it, and goes on to influence it. Imagine Jack the Ripper’s London without Sir Arthur Conan Doyle painting the city for us first. Imagine Los Angeles without the poetry of Raymond Chandler. Imagine New Orleans without the brutal honesty of James Lee Burke.

There is a place where art and crime meet and that is in crime fiction. It exists because the space where crime dwells is both frightening and attractive to citizens at the same time. In the best case the writer of crime fiction provides a tarnished mirror for society but a mirror none the less, as true as any other.

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