Wild fires in Canada halt our book launch

Wildfires sweeping across Canada have put on hold a literary celebration here at the Burn How Hotel.

Crime writer Jonathan Whitelaw was due to fly over from Canada this week to launch his new novel, The Concert Hall Killer, at our hotel here in Bowness. But he and his family are stranded, unable to get a flight out because of the danger from wildfires.

The fires have been sweeping across Western Canada affecting an area of around 25,000 acres, and thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes. Many more have been told to stay indoors because of poor air quality.

Although Jonathan’s family haven’t been told to evacuate, their local airport is a hub for the firefighting efforts, rescue helicopters and water planes, “so it’s knocked all the commercial  flights out of kilter,” he told us. “We’ve got a number of wild fires around our city and transport in and out is proving to be tricky.”

Wildfires near Jonathan’s home

The book launch was organised by hotel owner Michael Robinson and his wife Vicky who is the chair and co-founder of the Lakeland Book of the Year awards. She met Jonathan two years ago when his book The Bingo Hall Detectives, set in Penrith, won the fiction prize.

The new novel is the third in the Bingo Hall Detective series, which sees Penrith pensioner Amita Khatri and her son-in-law Jason deal with murder, mayhem and mischief around the Lake District and beyond.

Jonathan Whitelaw

Jonathan now lives in a city called Grande Prairie in Alberta. “We’re pretty rural, about an hour’s flight north from Calgary,” he told Mr and Mrs Robinson. “We’re all safe, thankfully, no evacuation notices here. But because everything is on such a massive scale here, nothing ever happens small. And it’s a shame that the weather is lovely and warm but we can’t go outside to enjoy it as there’s a air quality warning in place!”

Promising to re-arrange his visit for later in the year, Jonathan said: “Would you believe that I actually think a wildfire is going to resolve another book I’m working on! It’s incredible to see all the emergency services racing about town. It’s like something out of a film.”

Guests who were due to attend the launch can still meet at the hotel on Thursday morning to take part in a zoom Q&A session with the author, and other fans can sign up to join in virtually. The event was organised with the support of publishers Harper Collins, and Fred’s Bookshop in Ambleside.

Jonathan is a member of the Crime Writers’ Association, as well as an award-winning journalist and broadcaster.  He’s also a regular reviewer on the Afternoon Show on BBC Radio Scotland. And for the last two years he has presented the Desert Island Crooks panel at the Bloody Scotland crime writing festival.

He said: “The Lake District has always felt like home for me. While I grew up in Glasgow and now live 5,000 miles away in Alberta, I never pass up the  chance to come back. I’ve been very lucky that the people of Cumbria and readers all over the world have taken the Bingo Hall  Detectives characters to heart. Everywhere I go I’m always asked why I  chose to set the books here. The simple answer is, there was nowhere else I wanted more.”

If you’d like to chat with Jonathan about his writing, join the virtual book launch via zoom:

Topic: Burn How book launch

Time: May 16, 2024 11:00 AM London


Meeting ID: 876 8150 6621