Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
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This article was published 27/1/2011 (3531 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The sudden death of a popular Winnipeg crime novelist has left Winnipeg's literary community reeling.
Michael Van Rooy was in Montreal on a book tour Thursday morning when he was felled by a heart attack as he arrived at his bed and breakfast.
He had given a reading Wednesday night in Toronto of his latest novel, A Criminal to Remember, and had dinner afterward with fellow Winnipeg writer David Annandale and Toronto writer Lee Lamothe. He was 42.
"We at Turnstone are still in shock," said associate publisher Jamis Paulson, whose literary house, Turnstone Press, has published all three of Van Rooy's Monty Haaviko thrillers.
"Michael was truly an impeccable person. He wasn't just our writer, he was our friend."
Winner of 2009's John Hirsch Award for most promising Manitoba writer, Van Rooy was selected as one of the City of Winnipeg's arts ambassadors for its 2010 Cultural Capital of Canada campaign. He had signed with Turnstone to write a fourth Haaviko novel.
The first one, An Ordinary Decent Criminal, came out last year in the U.S. on Minotaur, the mystery imprint of Thomas Dunne Books. He had also sold the movie rights to Winnipeg's Farpoint Films.
Aqua Books owner Kelly Hughes, who sat on the jury that elected Van Rooy as arts ambassador, praised him as a "gentle giant" who never turned down a request or a professional opportunity.
"He was an accommodating, gracious and humble person," Hughes said. "It was striking for someone so physically imposing."
Born in Kamloops, B.C., Van Rooy had in recent years left his mark all over Winnipeg's writing scene.
He served as audience development co-ordinator and publicist for the Thin Air Winnipeg writers festival, he was a board member for the Manitoba Writers' Guild and Prairie Fire magazine and an administrator with the Winnipeg Writers' Collective and the Canadian Mennonite University writing school.
Winning the arts ambassador's role forced him to resign his freelance gig reporting the Paperchase publishing news column in the Free Press's Books section.
"He pretty much made himself indispensable to many of us," said Thin Air director Charlene Diehl.
"He was invested not just in his writing career but as a member of the community of writers. I am absolutely staggered by his loss."
Van Rooy was five when his parents moved to Winnipeg. After graduating from Sisler High School, he studied history at the University of Manitoba and worked as a blackjack dealer.
At age 21 he was found guilty of two charges of armed robbery and served almost two years in prison.
He always insisted on his innocence, saying: "I was in the wrong place at the wrong time."
The experience haunted him for years and eventually came out in the character of Monty Haaviko, a big friendly ex-convict doing his best to stay clean on the mean streets of Winnipeg's inner city.
Van Rooy is survived by his wife, Laura Neufeld, and their three children.
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