Renowned York mystery writer keeps himself in suspense

Author and York graduate Peter Robinson (PhD ‘84) believes the top three ingredients for creating a good mystery are a strong sense of place, interesting and well-developed characters and a good sense of suspense, reported The Standard (St. Catharines-Niagara) May 4. It’s no surprise, then, that the Toronto-based, Arthur Ellis Award-winning writer’s Inspector Banks’ series is now into its 17th instalment. A lesser detective would have vanished a long time ago. “I thought there would be more [than one], but I never thought I’d be going 20 years later,” Robinson said, during a phone interview from the Beach, where he lives with his wife Sheila Halladay. “And he’s still growing and developing as a character. Until he stops, I won’t stop writing about him. It could be a long time.” Robinson will be reading from his newest book Piece of My Heart, which will be released in stores on May 13, at the Pelham Library Fonthill Branch on May 9.

When Robinson begins a book, he doesn’t know how it’s going to end, the Standard said. He’ll pick up different threads of the plot as he goes along, but does not map it all out before he begins. “A lot of it is instinct as I move along through the story. I don’t usually have a vision,” he said. “When I’m finished and one of the characters has presented himself as the obvious killer, I go back and plant little clues. I use psychology and character, things he says or doesn’t say. That’s done in the revision stage. I’m following my instinct when I’m writing.”

As a young boy growing up in Yorkshire, England, Robinson read the Famous Five and Secret Seven, the British equivalent to the Hardy Boys. As a teen, he read Sherlock Holmes and James Bond. But during his studies – English literature at the University of Leeds, an MA in English and creative writing at the University of Windsor, where Joyce Carol Oates was his tutor, and a PhD in English at York University – Robinson read the classics. Robinson admits he entered the world of mystery fiction writing at a rather late stage in the game. But he was enormously well-received and popular right from the get-go.

All students would benefit if cost of textbooks was fully deductible

Edward Fenner, president of the York University Mature Students Organization, wrote in a letter to the Toronto Star May 4: While the Conservative government’s exemption from tax on post-secondary scholarships, fellowships and bursaries is welcome news, it has fallen far short with regard to textbook tax credits. True, textbooks were not previously given a tax credit status. However, the disappointingly low amounts allocated for textbooks are grossly inadequate to the reality of textbook and other reading material costs. Per the government’s example of a $520 tax credit for the year, a full-time student would have a tax reduction of $80 – not a lot – especially when $520 is an average to low amount for everyday students. Those in medical, law, or business programs often have textbook costs that are double that amount.

Mature students, a majority of whom attend part-time, do not get a comparable break. Using the same criteria as the full-time students, but with the $20 per month allowance, part-time and mature students would only see a tax reduction of around $24. What would really be helpful to all students is to have textbooks and other required reading materials considered “tools of the trade” so to speak and be fully deductible. Helpful too, would be a removal of the GST altogether from textbooks and a 100 per cent tax credit for public transit fares.

Osgoode graduate talks about future of fuel-cell cars

Noordin Nanji (LLB ‘82), a graduate of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, was appointed chief customer officer of Ballard Power Systems Inc. of Burnaby, BC, in March, 2006, reported The Globe and Mail May 3 in a story about the company’s fortunes as a developer of fuel-cells. His responsibilities include marketing, sales and corporate and business development. He was featured in an interview with Michael Vaughan of Report on Business TV.

Vaughan: What do you say to the consumers? I mean, there was so much expectation and hype about how there was going to be a fuel-cell car in your driveway in 2005. With the extra decade tacked on, should people lose faith?

Nanji: Well, I think what we were lacking before was a clear road map that demonstrates that we are actually making progress, and that we are going to hit the targets. We’ve done that now. We’ve published a five-year technology road map that shows where we have to be in 2010 to achieve commercial viability, and where we are today, and where we’ll be year by year. We’re demonstrating progress. I think that is going to go a long way to clearing the skepticism that may have developed.

Nanji joined Ballard as vice-president and general counsel in December, 1998. Before joining Ballard, he was a partner in the law firm of Lang Michener Lawrence and Shaw.

Retired York tennis coach and lecturer makes a trip home

Tennis at 108 Mile House in BC has been under way for some weeks now and the club is looking forward to having Eric Bojesen, former 108 resident and retired coach and lecturer at York University, give a clinic here sometime in June. Bojesen is the number-two-ranked player in his age class in Canada, reported the 100 Mile House Free Press May 3.

On air

  • Martin Shadwick, defence analyst with the York Institute for International & Security Studies, spoke about the federal budget’s provisions for Canada’s military on CBC Radio’s “Ottawa Morning” May 3.
  • Lisa Philipps, professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, and Bernie Wolf, professor in York’s Schulich School of Business, took part in a discussion of the federal budget on Rogers TV’s “Goldhawk” program May 3.