Thursday, July 18, 2019

Engel’s End

Canada has lost one of its most honored detective novelists. Quill & Quire reports that “Howard Engel, the author of the beloved Benny Cooperman series of mysteries,” died this last Monday night at age 88. Cause of death was apparently pneumonia, which Engel caught while he was recovering from a stroke. Q&Q goes on to recall:
Born in 1931 in the Ontario city of St. Catharines, Engel worked as a producer at the CBC before publishing the first of the Cooperman mysteries, The Suicide Murders, in 1980. “No crime fiction novel had ever been set in Canada with a Canadian hero before Howard did it,” wrote Cynthia Good in 2010 on the occasion of his being presented the Jewish Book Award for Lifetime Achievement. East of Suez, the 14th Cooperman mystery, was published in 2008. Engel’s final novel, the historical fiction City of Fallen Angels, appeared in 2014.

In addition to his Cooperman mysteries, Engel also wrote fiction and non-fiction, including a memoir,
The Man Who Forgot How to Read, detailing his experience suffering alexia sine agraphia, a neurological condition that robbed him of the ability to read while retaining the ability to write.

Engel was the recipient of the Arthur Ellis Award and the Derrick Murdoch Award, and was the first crime writer to receive the Writers’ Trust of Canada Matt Cohen Award. In 2007, he was invested into the Order of Canada. He was also the recipient of the Grand Master Award from the Crime Writers of Canada, an organization he founded.
Two other Engel novels I think are worth mentioning, if only because they feature prominently on my office bookshelves: Murder in Montparnasse (1992) and Mr. Doyle and Dr. Bell (1997). He also produced the 1996 non-fiction work Lord High Executioner: An Unashamed Look at Hangmen, Headsmen, and Their Kind.

FOLLOW-UP: There’s some confusion as to how many Benny Cooperman novels Engel wrote. Goodreads puts the number at 14, but Toronto-based Cormorant Books—which published the last entry in the series, Over the River (2018)—calls that work the 15th Cooperman yarn. Can anyone out there clear up this mystery?

READ MORE:Howard Engel, Author of the Benny Cooperman Detective Series, Dead at 88,” by Jane van Koeverden (CBC).

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