Howard Engel | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Howard Engel

Howard Engel, novelist, cartoonist (under the pen name “Foo”), story writer, poet (born 2 April 1931 in Toronto, ON; died 16 July 2019 in Toronto). Howard Engel was raised in St. Catharines, Ontario, and educated at McMaster University and the Ontario College of Education. During his career as a producer of literary and cultural programs at the CBC, Engel published a few stories and poems, but he did not begin to write seriously until he became interested in detective fiction.

A founding member of Crime Writers of Canada, Engel recognized that while Canada has produced some detective writers, ordinary Canadian locales have never achieved literary prominence. Determined to rectify this oversight, Engel vividly brought to life southern Ontario, setting his work — including The Suicide Murders (1980), The Ransom Game (1981), Murder on Location (1982), Murder Sees the Light (1984), A City Called July (1986), A Victim Must Be Found (1988), Dead and Buried (1990) and There Was an Old Woman (1993) — in fictional Grantham (based on his hometown). Engel’s gumshoe, Benny Cooperman, a Jewish bachelor, is an atypical sleuth, but his self-deprecating humour and timorous personality make him a quintessential Canadian private eye.


  • Best Novel (Murder Sees the Light), Arthur Ellis Award (1985)
  • Harbourfront Festival Prize for Canadian Literature (1990)
  • Derrick Murdoch Award, Crime Writers of Canada (1998)
  • Matt Cohen Award, Writers’ Trust of Canada (2005)
  • Member, Order of Canada (2006)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Jewish Book Awards (2010)
  • Grand Master Award, Crime Writers of Canada (2014)
  • Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012)

Selected Works of
Howard Engel