Friday, September 23, 2011

This Blog is No Longer Active

This blog remains as an archive only. The society is dissolved and the email address in the header is no longer being monitored.

For current information on activities of interest to Calgary and area crime writers at all levels of interest and experience, see Calgary Crime Writers

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The End of an Era

At its general meeting on Thursday, September 8, the members of Mystery Writers Ink Society voted to dissolve the Society, as we do not have enough volunteers for a new board.

The bylaws call for the distribution of net assets, after obligations are met, to other groups in Alberta with similar objectives.

Members decided to divide the net assets between the Alexandra Writers Centre Society and the When Words Collide Writers Conference.

The Alexandra Writers Centre offers courses and other resources on writing, including courses on writing mystery fiction. Several writers who are, or have been, members of Mystery Writers Ink have taught courses at AWCS.

We will offer the Ink library to the Alexandra Writers Centre Society.

The first annual When Words Collide conference was held in Calgary in August, 2011. Mystery Writers Ink sponsored the panel “Dead Men Do Talk” with Ink board member Ann Cooney and Det. Dave Sweet of the Homicide Unit, Calgary Police Service. This event was an outstanding success, with an SRO crowd. WWC has already invited Det. Sweet back for the 2012 conference. In addition, mystery writer Anthony Bidulka will be a featured speaker at WWC 2012.

As your outgoing board, we encourage all members of Mystery Writers Ink to consider taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the Alexandra Writers Centre and When Words Collide.

We want to thank all of our members over the years who have contributed to Mystery Writers Ink in every volunteer capacity.

Thanks to everyone who has come to speak to our group, sharing professional expertise and insights that have supported us as crime writers in creating our best work.

Thanks to the authors on the Mystery Writers Ink panel at Bloody Words in Victoria in June 2011: Susan Calder, Joan Donaldson-Yarmey, Garry Ryan,  Sharon Wildwind, and moderator Anthony Bidulka,

Thanks to Owl’s Nest Books for providing the venue for our meetings for the last few years. Owl’s Nest offered a warm, friendly, and bookish environment for our meetings.

It has been an honour to serve on the Board and to work and meet so many interesting writers and resource people. We look forward to seeing you at writing workshops and conferences.

Anne Jayne, Jayne Barnard, Ann Cooney
Board of Directors

Friday, September 2, 2011

September Meeting - Change of Location

Mystery Writers Ink Sept. 8th, 2011 - 7 p.m.
Change of Venue!

the program room of the Louise Riley Library, 
1904 14th Ave NW, Calgary. 
(Located in the annex behind the library.)

There is no speaker.

The purpose of this meeting is to elect a new Board of Directors or dissolve the Society in accordance with the bylaws. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

When Words Collide: Dead Men Do Tell Tales

By Anne Jayne

Detective Dave Sweet from the Homicide Unit of the Calgary Police Service spoke about homicide investigation to a standing-room-only crowd at the When Words Collide convention.

The Homicide Unit has a strategy that allows them to assign a maximum number of detectives to a case in the early hours and days. The process is called Major Case Management, which is used elsewhere in Canada, as well.

The detectives in the Homicide Unit take turns being the primary investigator, the file coordinator, and members of the team. While both the primary investigator and the file coordinator report to the team commander, a staff sergeant, these officers normally exercise their professional judgment in handling the investigation.

The primary investigator controls the speed, flow, and direction of the investigation. The primary investigator will have a dozen or so detectives available to assign to all the tasks that must be done as rapidly as possible. When a detective reports back with new information, then the primary sets a new task for that officer.

What the primary investigator does not do—at least in the first days of the investigation—is to go out into the field, not even to visit the crime scene or to interview witnesses. The investigation has to move too fast, and it simply isn’t possible for the primary to lose time going out to the field. There is too much to do to ensure that the entire team is working efficiently and at full speed to gather information. Time is of the essence because, they believe, if they don’t have a good idea of who is responsible within two days, it will be a long investigation.

The file coordinator tracks everything that is written, such as witness statements and officer statements, forensic information, and so on. The file coordinator isn’t just filing all of this material: he or she is monitoring the incoming information and keeping the primary in the loop.

All of these officers are seeking the pieces of the puzzle they’ve been assigned to get. As the pieces come in, they can start putting the puzzle together.  Those pieces will deal with the three major elements that must be investigated: the body; the history; and the scene. The detectives let evidence form their theory, rather than trying to fit evidence into a theory.

Det. Sweet talked about the pattern of homicides in Calgary. The most homicides in a year was 34; the average is 28. The solve rate is 69% (based on a five year average). The preferred weapon: knives.  The highest number of homicides are in the months of January and August, and June has the fewest. Saturday night has the highest number of homicides during the week; Monday has the fewest. The most common times: between 3 and 4 in the morning, which corresponds to when the bars close. The fewest: between 5 and 6 a.m.

There is a protocol for calling in the Homicide Unit. When a uniformed officer who is first on the scene believes that it is a sudden death situation, he or she will call it in with a 1032 code, and will describe it as “good” (natural death) or “bad” for a possible homicide. If the assessment of either the uniformed officer who is first on the scene, or the investigator from the Medical Examiner, is that the Homicide Unit should be called in, that’s when the process begins. The next step is that every detective will be called in, whether it is 1 a.m. or the middle of a child’s birthday party.

The Medical Examiner determines the cause and manner of death. The manner of death may be natural, accidental, suicide, homicide, or undetermined.

When will the Homicide Unit be called in? The Unit handles not only homicides, but all suspicious deaths and all cases which involve a handgun and a person in custody or a police officer. In the latter situation, the Calgary Police Service handles the investigation concerning the subject, while an independent team—the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team—investigates the officer.
The Homicide Unit has access to other resources: profilers, including geographical profilers; dentists with expertise in forensic odontology; experts on blood pattern analysis, fibre and trace evidence, knot craft; and the like; forensic anthropologists; forensic computer animators, and many, many, more experts. They can get access to satellite imagery, which has proven to be particularly helpful when bodies are found in rural areas. The images can be so precise that a vehicle can be identified. (This is costly, however.)

Calgary’s Homicide Unit sends extremely detailed information about homicides to the Violent Crime Linkage Analysis System (VCLAS), which is intended to link similar murders across the country. Every police service is required to participate.

Detective Sweet closed by saying that the Homicide Unit investigates cases with equal thoroughness. There are no second class citizens when they are investigating a homicide. They will work as tirelessly on the case of a gang member caught up in gang violence as they do for any other homicide.

Detective Sweet’s presentation was informative and well-presented. Not only was the audience appreciative—but a good many people at this workshop stayed behind to ask him even more questions. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bloody Words 2012 Registration Now Open

Register before August 31, 2011,
& SAVE almost 10% 

Panels & presentations, the Mystery Café, dealers room, loot bags, agent appointments, ms evaluations, the Bony Pete short story contest, opening reception, banquet, Friday night special event, and more...
And don’t forget to submit your book, if eligible, to our new
Canadian literary award...

Register online with Paypal or register by mail with a cheque.

Monday, June 13, 2011

June meeting is this Thursday, June 15th at Owl’s Nest Bookstore

Reminder that the June meeting is this Thursday, June 15th at Owl’s Nest Bookstore in Brittannia Plaza SW (49th St and Elbow Drive SW).

The discussion this month is all about writers conferences: who goes, why they go, where they went, what they got out of the experience. While the focus is on Bloody Words, where there were at least 6 Inksters prowling the halls and appearing on panels, anyone who has been anywhere is welcome to chime in with their experiences.

Following the fun part, we’ll spend a few minutes on business, mainly presenting the audited financial statement held over from May and voting on a membership fee for next year.

Meanwhile, to get the flavour of just some of the activity at Bloody Words, check out recent entries here and at

See you Thursday!


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Grizzly Lies by Eileen Coughlan

As we were giving away several copies of 'Grizzly Lies' at Bloody Words (some donated by the author and some purchased with funds from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts - at a good discount from the owners of Owl's Nest Books), I thought it a good time to re-post my review of this title from its release in 2005:

Until her landlord's body is found beneath the gazebo, freelance journalist Hellie MacConnell's biggest worry is the tourists baiting an irate elk on the lawn. The former happens frequently in the beautiful mountain resort town of Banff, Alberta; the latter is unusual enough that the RCMP sends for a special crimes unit from Calgary. Is it murder or did 'Doc's' old heart simply give out? Why was Doc in Banff at all when he should have been in deepest Africa? Inheriting the house along with oddball environmentalist Arthur, who lives on the property, Hellie must unearth dead loves and buried lies if she is to clear both their names. But Arthur, a noted save-the-grizzlies crusader, has disappeared, leaving butchered bear paws in his cabin.

Meanwhile, anti-hunting protesters rally against a much-publicized auction for a mountain-sheep license. Developers try to drive a wedge between the town and the National Parks bureaucracy that limits its growth. The eternal winter ski-bum party gears up with the usual hard drinking and soft drugs. Between following Arthur's sketchy trail and dodging those gate-crashing bores from the fudge shop, Hellie must interview the publicity-shy winner of the sheep auction, a Texas millionaire whose killing history leads back to the same region of Africa where Doc first met Arthur. To top it all off, a family crisis is flaring up back East. Hunting guides clash with protesters, Arthur's alibi is unstable at best, and somebody seems able to enter Hellie's house unseen, day or night. It's inevitable that she'll find herself staring at the small end of a gun; the only question is, whose?

The pace builds steadily, the heroine's troubles become our own, and the varied mountain landscapes are aptly and beautifully integrated into the changing moods of the story. The writing lifts to occasional flights of enchanting whimsy, as when 'two black crows sailed past like a nasty joke,' or 'dreamy light settled in like dust.' 'Grizzly Lies' is a solid sophomore outing for Eileen Coughlan, whose first novel, 'Dying by Degrees', was short-listed for the 2001 Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel.