TORONTO — As the author of the long-running Inspector Banks series, British-Canadian novelist Peter Robinson delved into the cruelest impulses of human nature, spinning intricately plotted tales of deception, revenge and murder.
But members of Canada’s crime-writing community say Robinson’s generous spirit stood in stark contrast to the grisly themes of his books.
Robinson died in Toronto on Tuesday after a brief illness, his publisher said Friday. He was 72.
Jared Bland, outgoing publisher of McClelland & Stewart, said Robinson shaded in his stories with a humanity that set them apart from your standard-issue murder mysteries.
“Peter wrote about the darkest of things, but never without the light of hope on the horizon, and always with a finely attuned sense of the fragility and beauty of the human experience,” Bland said in a statement Friday.
“Peter’s novels, especially his enduring Inspector Banks series, are the kinds of books that transcend their genre — they’re crime novels, to be sure, but more than that they’re human novels.”
Over dozens of novels spanning 35 years, Robinson kept readers in suspense as he chronicled the capers of Alan Banks, a British detective with a passion for justice, dry sense of humour and taste for classic rock.
The police procedural has been published and translated around the world. Several of the novels were adapted for the screen, including the British TV series “DCI Banks,” which aired from 2010 to 2016.
The series of novels started with “Gallows View” in 1987, which won Robinson his first of seven Arthur Ellis Awards from Crime Writers of Canada.
Judy Penz Sheluk, past chair of the national organization, said Robinson’s success lent credibility to the country’s crime-writing scene.
“Crime writing in general was often looked upon as not quite as worth as other literary pursuits. That was made even less worthy if you were Canadian,” said Penz Sheluk.
“He was one of the people that paved the way for the rest of us.”
J.D. Singh, co-owner of the Sleuth of Baker Street bookstore in Toronto, said Robinson always made time to engage with readers and support up-and-coming writers.
While Robinson bore little resemblance to his hardboiled protagonist, there was one quality that they have in common, said Singh.
“That generosity of spirit … whenever I read the Banks books, that was Peter.”
Born in Yorkshire, England, in 1950, Robinson came to Canada to earn a master’s in creative writing at the University of Windsor, followed by a PhD in English at York University.
He taught at a number of universities and colleges in Toronto, where he lived with his wife, Sheila Halladay.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 7, 2022.