Benny Cooperman’s Howard Engel Dies at 88

The Canadian mystery writer Howard Engel has died at age 88. According to the CBC, Engel was recovering from a stroke, but died of pneumonia.

Author of the Benny Cooperman series, Engel’s writing included the first mystery novels many Canadian read. The first Benny Cooperman book, The Suicide Murders, was published in 1980 and was later adapted for television with Saul Rubinek in the title role. From CBC:

“The great Canadian detective did not exist until Howard Engel invented Benny Cooperman,” Andrew Ryan wrote in the Globe and Mail in 2008.

Following The Suicide Murders, Engel continued to write of Benny Cooperman’s adventures through the decades, including in The Ransom Game, A City Called July and East of Suez.

In July 2001, Engel suffered a stroke, losing his ability to read, in a condition known as Alexia sine agraphia. But he could still write.

Over the following years, he learned how to read again and published the novel Memory Book, which begins as Benny Cooperman recovers in a hospital with the same condition.

Engel’s memoir The Man Who Forgot How to Read also documents his experience with the condition.

His other books include the non-fiction book Lord High Executioner and the novel Mr. Doyle and Dr. Bell and Murder in Space co-written with his wife Janet Hamilton.

Engel was previously married to celebrated Canadian writer Marian Engel, author of Bear. Their marriage ended in 1978.

Prior to publishing books, Engel was a writer and reporter for CBC. He also worked as an executive producer for Sunday Supplement, The Arts in Review and Anthology.

Engel was also one of the founders of Crime Writers of Canada and was, in the last years of his life, awarded some of Canada’s highest honors including being appointed a Member of the Order of Canada, receiving it at the 100th investiture in 2007. In 2013, Engel received a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal. ◊

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  1. Alexia sine agraphia has to be the cruellest disease in the world for a writer. It would be like a long distance runner losing his legs or a portrait painter going blind. I read Canadian novels in the 1960s at high school because the teachers thought Australians would identify best with British and Canadian novelists. But that decade was far too early for Howard Engel.

    Rest in peace, mate.

    • Hahaha! Indeed. Thanks for the heads up. Horrid when things sneak by… then stay that way. (Laughing because the alternative would be to cry.)

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