Crime writing legend William Deverell delivers the goods at Elephant Mountain Literary Festival in July. Photo: Blaise Enright and Barry Peterson

The plot thickens at Elephant Mountain Literary Festival’s Wine and Crime

William Deverell is the event’s featured presenter

By Anne DeGrace

Festival Tales

Three crime writers walk into a bar.

If that sounds like the start of a joke, it’s not far off the mark: Elephant Mountain Literary Festival’s tradition of pairing wines with writers generally involves a good deal of laughter. The bonus is that after we roast and toast our victims — er, authors — we’re treated to their words.

At this year’s festival — July 11 to 14 in Nelson — we’ll be pairing B.C. wines with crime writers William Deverell. J.G. Toews, and Iona Whishaw.

The event takes place Friday, July 12 at 7:30 p.m. at the Hume Hotel, and includes wine samples, appetizers —and of course, a little mystery.

Which literary perpetrator will be paired with the “full-bodied” Diabolica? Whose up-to-no-good characters will inspire a pairing with that sneaky rosé Rigamarole? And who, of our three, writes with the most Conviction?

There’s only one way to find out! Here’s the rap sheet on our perps.

It’s no mystery that William Deverell is considered a master of the craft, which is why, in addition to being a featured presenter at Wine and Crime, he’ll also give a talk Saturday afternoon about how he does it, entitled Guilty as Charged.

The evidence is clear. A trial lawyer for 25 years, Bill defended or prosecuted in more than a thousand criminal cases, experience that has served him well. His first novel, Needles, bagged the $50,000 Seal First Novel Prize— and the hearts of legal thriller-lovers everywhere. He went on to write 19 more, plus he created the long-running CBC drama Street Legal.

Other awards include the Dashiell Hammett Prize and the Arthur Ellis Award. And he’s funny: his novels have twice been shortlisted for the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. If you wanted to, you could find out whodunit in 14 different languages! Fair to say, William Deverell has been committing crimes of literary passion for some time.

We know J.G. Toews is actually an alias — so why the subterfuge? Could it be that Judy, as we know her, has something to hide? Writing talent may have been one guilty secret for the former local dietician. Perhaps it’s Judy’s science background that makes her so forensically perspicacious; perhaps it’s that this is the Case of the Locally-Set Novel that makes the plot almost criminally compelling. Yes, the first in Judy’s Stella Mosconi mystery series, Give Out Creek, is set right here in Nelson. It was a finalist for the 2016 Arthur Ellis Award for Best Unpublished Crime Novel and the 2019 Lefty Award for Best Debut Mystery, and — lucky us — this body of work will continue.

Our third author is really racking up those bodies. Vancouver author Iona Whishaw’s Lane Winslow mystery series now numbers seven page-turners, all set just after World War II in a suspiciously familiar locale. In an interview on the Read Local BC website, Iona said: “I love the place where I spent my early childhood and it seemed ideal to set a mystery series there, and have Lane Winslow’s house be the very real house I lived in,” she explained of the fictional “King’s Cove” — a nice nod to Queens Bay — for the series.

Not everyone can take a place they know and love and imbue it with dark secrets and nefarious shenanigans; perhaps it’s easier in a mountain setting, where your cliffhangers are right there under your feet. Peopled with unforgettable characters, Iona Whishaw’s mysteries have become the darlings of book clubs everywhere.

So what happens when three crime writers walk into a bar — and that “bar” happens to be the Hume Room on a summer evening in July? My hunch is that, while the jury may be out for now, it’s definitely worth investigating.

Festival Tales is a five-part series leading up to the Elephant Mountain Literary Festival, which runs July 11 to 14 in Nelson. Full schedule and ticket information can be found at

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