Peter Robinson | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson, novelist (born 17 March 1950 in Castleford, Yorkshire, England).

Peter Robinson grew up in Leeds, England. After earning his BA Honours in English Literature at the University of Leeds, Robinson moved to Canada and completed his MA in English and Creative Writing at the University of Windsor, with Joyce Carol Oates as his tutor, and completed a PhD in English at York University (1983). Subsequently he taught at a number of Toronto colleges and universities and served as Writer-in-Residence at the University of Windsor (1992-93).

Robinson's acclaimed crime novels (see Popular Literature in English) are noteworthy for their nuanced and fully-developed characters. The protagonist of his series, Inspector (later Chief Inspector) Alan Banks, bears more than a passing resemblance to Robinson himself, with an informed taste for jazz and a strong commitment to family. As well, Robinson is able to draw upon a lifetime acquaintance with the Yorkshire Dales, lending his novels a convincing sense of place. Add to that mix a deft hand for the subtleties of plot, and it is not surprising that Robinson's novels have gained him a global following.

Peter Robinson's list of literary prizes establishes a benchmark for aspiring crime writers worldwide, and is still expanding. His debut novel, Gallows View (1987), introduced Alan Banks to crime fiction fans.

Short-listed for the John Creasey Award in the UK and the Crime Writers of Canada's best first novel award, it was followed by A Dedicated Man in 1988, marking Robinson's first appearance on the shortlist for the CWC's Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel; the fifth Inspector Banks novel, Past Reason Hated, won the award in 1992. Robinson's reputation continued to grow internationally throughout the 1990s and into the 21st century. The eighth Inspector Banks novel, Innocent Graves (1996), was nominated for a Hammett Award for "literary excellence in the field of crime writing" by the International Association of Crime Writers, and earned Robinson his second Arthur Ellis Award. In a Dry Season, the tenth in the series, garnered Robinson both the Anthony and Barry awards for best novel and was nominated for the Edgar, Hammett, Macavity and Arthur Ellis Awards, and in 2001 it also won France's Grand Prix de Littérature Policière, as well as Sweden's Martin Beck Award. His next book, Cold is the Grave, received the Arthur Ellis Award and in 2006 won the Danish Palle Rosenkrantz Award. In 2002 Robinson received the "Dagger in the Library" from the British-based Crime Writers' Association, awarded by librarians to the author whose work has given the most pleasure to readers.

Robinson has acknowledged that his protagonist, Alan Banks, has evolved over the course of many novels. Banks' broad taste in music (rock, jazz, and classical) is informed by Robinson's own knowledge. By his second book (1988's A Dedicated Man) Banks is described as committed to his job, "a copper with socialist leanings," a clear precursor to his iconic Everyman character and one which has been elaborated throughout the series. In an ongoing sub-plot Banks struggles in his relationship with his wife, Sandra, in Dry Bones that Dream (1994), foreshadowing the collapse of his marriage in 1997's Dead Right. By the time the reader gets to In a Dry Season (1999) Sandra has left him, creating a huge emotional void, but opening the way for Banks to explore a relationship with Annie Cabot, a new officer on his team. When Annie makes a difficult call during Banks' absence, and his daughter is inadvertently involved, their relationship is challenged in 2010's Bad Boy. There is much to enjoy for fans of crime fiction and literary fiction alike.

In 2006, in recognition of his body of work, Peter Robinson was invited to join Britain's prestigious Detection Club, founded in 1930 by such literary luminaries as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers. Robinson's books have been translated into over 20 languages, and have consistently topped the UK bestseller lists and appeared on the New York Times expanded bestseller list and Canadian bestseller lists. Several of the Inspector Banks novels have been filmed for television, to air in 2013, and a second series is currently in production. In addition to his Banks series, Robinson has published a stand-alone novel, Caedmon's Song (1990), two collections each of short stories (Not Safe After Dark, 1998, and The Price of Love, 2009), and poems (With Equal Eye, 1979, and Nosferatu: A Duologue, 1982), as well as articles on writing. He currently divides his time between Toronto and Richmond, North Yorkshire.