By ALAN SHACKLETON
The life of Beach author Peter Robinson will be celebrated, as will be the release of his final book, on the evening of Thursday, May 18.
Robinson, who is the author the Inspector Banks mystery novels, died last October at the age of 72.
His final book in the Inspector Banks series, and the 28th one he had written, is titled Standing In The Shadows and was officially released last month. His books have sold millions of copies around the world and were also made into a television series in England.
The celebration of life event set for the Balmy Beach Club from 6 to 9 p.m. on May 18 will also serve as the launch party for Standing In The Shadows.
Robinson lived in the community for decades and was well known in the Beach area, and in particular at The Feathers on Kingston Road which he considered his “local” pub. He and his partner of more than 30 years, Sheila Halladay, actually met at The Feathers.
“At the time, I was a partner in a Bay Street law firm, who represented Penguin Canada, the publishers of Peter’s book,” Halladay told Beach Metro Community News in an email.
“When I mentioned that I had heard that one of their authors lived in the Beach area and went to The Feathers I was told that not only was he a talented writer but that he was a nice guy and, if I got a chance, I should introduce myself to him. One Friday afternoon when I went to The Feathers I was told that he was at the back with an English teacher from Malvern, because he had just given a talk on creative writing to the students there. So, reader, I married him.”
Together they lived on Isleworth Avenue (near Queen Street East and Wineva Avenue) for more than 30 years.
“We continued to live in the Beach, although a few years ago we bought a cottage in England, in the Yorkshire Dales, where his books are set, and we would go over there two or three times a year for a couple of months,” said Halladay.
The Inspector Banks books follow the career of police detective Alan Banks in a fictional town in the northern England area of Yorkshire. Robinson himself grew up in Yorkshire, and studied English at the University of Leeds before he moved to Canada.
“Peter came to Canada in the mid-seventies to study for a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Windsor (with Joyce Carol Oates) and then moved to Toronto to study for his PhD at York University in the 1980s,” said Halladay.
“After he completed his PhD he moved to various places in the east end of the city and ended up living on Lawlor Avenue. He would joke that one of the reasons that he moved there was that it was close to The Feathers.”
Robinson never forget his early days growing up in post-war working class Yorkshire and of being accepted at the University of Leeds. He and Halladay set up the Peter Robinson Scholarship at the university “for an English student with a less privileged background, with an interest in creative writing”.
Halladay said Robinson often joked the students used the scholarship funds for “beer, books and CD money”.
However, she said the scholarship at the University of Leeds (which also houses Robinson’s manuscripts) has been greatly appreciated by the students it is awarded to.
“Students have written to us that it meant more than that. Peter also gave his papers, notes, manuscripts to the University, where they are housed in special collections, and can be studied by future scholars, including aspiring crime writers,” said Halladay.
Along with supporting young writers in university, Robinson was also a mentor and friend to other mystery writers.
Louise Penny, author of the Armand Gamache novels set in Quebec and a friend of Robinson’s, said in his obituary in The Globe and Mail that Robinson was part of a “renaissance of crime writing not only in Canada but worldwide”.
“His books aren’t necessarily like mine; they are proudly mysteries and crime novels, but they’re not really about the crime, they’re about the human beings involved,” said Penny. “That’s why people are drawn to them and drawn to Alan Banks. He has made them deeply human and recognizable, and I think that has helped to bring crime novels and crime writing to the fore.”
A Beacher who grew up on Crown Park Road and attended local schools including Malvern Collegiate, Halladay said Robinson had a great love for the Beach community, and credits Canada with giving him the perspective to be able to write his novels.
“I think that Beach Metro readers should know what a strong connection Peter had to the area. He lived over half of his life in Canada and over 30 years in the Beach,” she said.
“Canada has a history of welcoming authors from other parts of the world to write about where they came from. Peter always said that writing from Canada gave him a perspective that he wouldn’t have had if he had stayed in the UK (United Kingdom). It is also interesting to note that while his DCI Banks series of books are mainly set in a fictional town in England, in The Hanging Valley, Banks’ investigation takes him to Toronto and a pub crawl in the east end of the city, ending – at The Feathers! Also many of his short stories such as The Wrong Hands are set here.”
Halladay said that when Robinson died in October of cancer, it was always the intention to have a larger celebration of his life that would coincide with the launch of Standing In The Shadows. She said local residents and his many fans are welcome to attend the Balmy Beach Club event on May 18.
“So all of Peter’s friends and readers are welcome to join us at the Balmy Beach Club on Thursday, May 18, from 6 to 9 p.m.to celebrate not only his life and work but also launch his final book Standing In The Shadows. The event is open to everyone who is a fan or friend and there is no need to register in advance,” she said.
For more on Peter Robinson’s books, please go to https://inspectorbanks.com
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