16 January 2012

The Mystery Writer Mystery Unravels

'Keeping an Eye Out for Pamela Fry' pays off:

A writer friend informs that Pamela Fry, author of Harsh Evidence and The Watching Cat, is the very same Pamela Fry who once worked as an editor at McClelland & Stewart. Though Miss Fry's years with the publisher were not many – 1965 to 1971 – she did work with several canonical favourites, including Sinclair Ross, Ernest Buckler and Farley Mowat. I imagine she'll be best remembered not for her mysteries, but as the editor of The Edible Woman, Margaret Atwood's debut novel. A high point to be sure.

The low? Look no further than Eric Koch's ill-fated satire The French Kiss (1969), which I mention here only because the book just might lay claim to the worst launch in Canadian publishing history. In Jack, McClelland biographer James King tells us that The French Kiss was on bookstore shelves when legal advice came down that members of Quebec's Johnson family might have been slandered in its pages:
The three thousand books were recalled, small slips pasted over the offending passages and the copies then returned to retailers. Jack only learned of the potentially disastrous situation at the book's launch at the home of the book's editor Pamela Fry. He called her aside, told her the book would have to be recalled and acted quickly and decisively to prevent a lawsuit.
According to King, Pamela Fry left M&S in for a position on a federal government task force. In his autobiography, Drawing on Type, designer Frank Newfeld places her c.1980 at the National Gallery of Canada. From there the trail grows cold.
Thanks go out to my "writer friend" and to fellow sleuth Richard Blanchard.

Related post: Keeping an Eye Out for Pamela Fry


  1. EDIBLE WOMAN just was a knockout at the time. Like nothing else I'd ever read.

  2. Something tells me she doesn't want to be found.

  3. Patti, here's where I disclose that The Edible Woman does not feature amongst the five Atwood novels I've tackled.

    Tim, I'm hoping it doesn't appear that I'm stalking. Really, I just found it curious that a Montreal mystery writer could be so forgotten in her home city. I shouldn't have been, I suppose.

  4. So any more luck with Ms. Fry's whereabouts?

    1. I'm afraid not, Richard - but then I haven't really been in the hunt. The most I can say is that casual conversations have turned up another couple of people who recall meeting her when she was at M&S.

      Have you had any success yourself?

      You're reminding me that I'd stopped looking for Harsh Evidence, her debut novel. Just had another look online. No luck, I'm afraid.