Saturday, July 12, 2014

RIP Lou Allin, a great friend

It is with a heavy heart that I share news of the passing of Canadian mystery writer Lou Allin, who lost her battle with pancreatic cancer this week. Along with being a wonderful mystery writer, Lou was a champion of the Canadian crime writing community, supporting other authors and serving the CWC organisation.

What many in Canada don't know, however, is that she was also a great friend of New Zealand crime writing. When the Ngaio Marsh Award was first being established in 2010, I had many good discussions with Lou, who was then a Vice-President of Crime Writers Canada, about crime writing awards and organisations, how to establish them and run them, and the lessons learned in Canada. She was incredibly generous with her time and advice, and then also served as a judge for the first three years of the Award, only stepping down last year as we rotated the judging panel. I always found Lou an absolute delight to deal with, and my heart goes out to her partner Jan, and her family and friends in Canada.

I had the pleasure of meeting Lou in person, a couple of years before the Ngaio Marsh Award came into existence, and long before I had any thought of becoming so involved in crime fiction. It was fun for both of us to realise a couple of years later, while corresponding regularly about the Ngaio Marsh Award, that the fellow crime fiction lover we were chatting to half a world away was actually someone we'd met at the Vancouver Public Library in April 2008 for an Arthur Ellis Award event. Small world.

Lou will forever be a part of the Ngaio Marsh Award family, and an unsung hero of New Zealand crime writing. I last spoke to her, by email, in May, and didn't realise at the time how sick she was. She was still so helpful and giving with her time and advice, putting me in touch with Canadian crime writers and event organisers in order to further promote and help the Ngaio Marsh Award. She loved the Kiwi crime writing she'd gotten to read as part of her role as a judge, and her passion for the genre always shone through.

Lou was born in Toronto, but grew up in Cleveland. She earned a PhD in English Literature then spent 30 years in Northern Ontario as an English Professor. She was a passionate dog-lover, and wrote the Belle Palmer series of mysteries (starring a realtor and her German Shepherd), the RCMP Holly Martin series, and  some standalone thrillers set in Michigan and Utah. In recent years, Lou lived on the beautiful Vancouver Island. You can read her 9mm interview here.

There are no new stories online yet about Lou's death, but tributes are pouring in on her Facebook page.

She was 69 years old. I will miss her.

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