They were poets and novelists, historians and publishers, and industry veterans. Over the course of 2022, the world of Canadian letters lost a number of notable people. As the year draws to a close, Q&Q looks back at those who are no longer with us.
Erna Paris, February 3, 2022
Historian, journalist, and award-winning author Erna Paris championed human rights and accountability in her nonfiction books and columns. She served as chair of The Writers’ Union of Canada and was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2015.
Jean Lenore Wilson, February 6, 2022
Jean Lenore Wilson’s career in Canadian scholarly publishing spanned three university presses and hundreds of books.
Harold R. Johnson, February 9, 2022
Harold R. Johnson was a writer, lawyer, Crown prosecutor, and trapper who was born in northern Saskatchewan. A member of the Montreal Lake Cree First Nation, he was a finalist for a 2016 Governor General’s Literary Award for Firewater: How Alcohol is Killing My People (and Yours). He was the author of six works of fiction and six works of nonfiction, the most recent of which, The Power of Story: On Truth, the Trickster, and New Fictions for a New Era (Biblioasis), was published posthumously this fall. In an interview on CBC Radio with Shelagh Rogers that aired days before his death from lung cancer in February, Johnson recalled working on what would become his first novel, Billy Tinker, “as a lark” for a writing group he was in at Harvard Law School, where he was pursuing an MA. “What a ride, what a glorious ride that was!” he told Rogers. “If you go far enough back, there’s a little eight-year-old boy who lost his dad and was forced to go on welfare. I was this half-breed from northern Saskatchewan — nothing was expected from me except that I fail.”
Malcolm Lester, April 1, 2022
As owner and president of Lester & Orpen Dennys, Malcolm Lester published some of the most important works in Canada in the 1980s.
Steven Heighton, April 19, 2022
Writer Steven Heighton wrote masterfully across a range of genres, from poetry to short fiction, essays, novels, and music. His final collection of short stories, Instructions for the Drowning, will be published by Biblioasis in April 2023.
Sandra Leef, April 29, 2022
Sandra Leef worked as a bookseller in Ottawa and Vancouver, in sales at Kate Walker & Company, and at HarperCollins Canada for more than 15 years, including as senior sales director.
Stan Dragland, August 2, 2022
Novelist, poet, editor, and literary critic Stan Dragland had a storied career in CanLit. In 1975, he co-founded poetry press Brick Books with poet Don McKay, and founded the literary journal Brick with Jean McKay two years later. He went on to work as poetry editor at McClelland & Stewart in the mid-1990s, and also had a successful career as an English professor. He published more than 15 books of his own, and was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2020.
Patricia Hancock, August 21, 2022
Patricia Hancock, an English and science teacher, turned to a second career after becoming a stay at home parent: children’s author. Hancock was the author of the Haunted Canada and Crazy Canadian Trivia book series (Scholastic Canada). She was an active member of the Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers, and served as the organization’s president from 1991 to 1993.
Richard Henry Lee, August 25, 2022
Richard Lee worked in educational publishing for most of his career, with stints at Gage Publishing and Ginn Publishing Canada. He was a past president of the Canadian Book Publishers’ Council.
Sarah Thring, August 27, 2022
Sarah Thring was a book publicist and a passionate supporter of literacy and independent bookstores.
Rebecca Godfrey, October 3, 2022
Novelist and nonfiction writer Rebecca Godfrey was at a youth detention centre in her hometown of Victoria conducting research for her novel The Torn Skirt (Harper Flamingo Canada), when she saw the two teenagers charged with the 1997 death of Reena Virk. She was struck by their youth and that murder that made headlines across Canada became the subject of her next book, a true-crime book called Under the Bridge (HarperPerennial, 2006). Godfrey, who taught at Columbia University, had nearly completed a new novel about the life of Peggy Guggenheim when she died. It is scheduled to be published in 2023.
Peter Robinson, October 4, 2022
Bestselling British-Canadian crime novelist Peter Robinson, best known for his DCI Banks series, published more than 30 books over a 35-year career.
Anne Cameron, November 30, 2022
Prolific B.C. author and screenwriter Anne Cameron was born in Nanaimo, B.C., and moved as a child to the once-bustling milltown of Tahsis, B.C., where she became a keen observer of life in working-class B.C. coastal towns. Cameron published numerous novels and short-story collections, including the bestselling but also controversial Daughters of Copper Woman, as well as poetry and books for children. She won the BC Book Awards’ George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010, and has been called “the William Faulkner of the B.C. coast” by her longtime publisher Howard White.