Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

Five Things Literary: Ajax & Whitby, with Ingrid Ruthig

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Ingrid Ruthig credit Greg Tjepkema

As part of our mapping of literary Ontario, we're highlighting five things about literary life in communities throughout the province. What do our cities, towns and villages have to offer writers, readers and the curious? Follow Five Things Literary to find out.

Today's feature on literary life in Ajax and Whitby was contributed by Ingrid Ruthig, author of Slipstream.

Bordered on the west by Toronto and on the south by Lake Ontario, the Regional Municipality of Durham (or Durham Region) covers an area of approximately 2,500 square kilometres. Two of its communities played important roles in the Allied effort during World War II. However, Ajax, named for the victorious Royal Navy cruiser HMS Ajax, and Whitby, incorporated in 1855, share more than military history and the north shore of the lake; they also share a notable literary legacy.

1. Ajax sprang into existence almost overnight around the Defence Industries Limited (D.I.L.) munitions plant. Not far along the shore, in Whitby, lay Camp X, the WWII clandestine operations training facility that inspired novelist Ian Fleming's James Bond series of spy novels (not to mention the films that live on in popular culture). Of further note, Sir William Stephenson, who set up Camp X and was possibly codenamed "Intrepid", provided the inspiration for the bestseller A Man Called Intrepid written by (strangely enough) another William Stevenson.

2. After emigrating from Trinidad, award-winning novelist Rabindranath Maharaj settled in Ajax in 1994. Since then he has called the town and its coffee shops (his favourite places to write) home. Of his numerous short story collections and novels, The Amazing Absorbing Boy won the 2010 Trillium Book Award, and his most recent book, The Picture of Nobody, written for ABC Life Literacy's Good Reads programme, is set in the town. Alongside many other Canadian writers including Pierre Berton and David Adams Richards, Maharaj was featured at the popular Words in Whitby Reading Series (2000 - 2006) organized by the Whitby Public Library and the Writers? Community of Durham Region.

3. Leslie McFarlane (1902-1977), screenwriter, producer, director, and newspaper reporter, lived most of his life in Whitby. He is best known for authoring many Young Adult Mystery books, the most famous being The Hardy Boys? series, written under the pen name Franklin W. Dixon. He also contributed to the Dana Girls series as Carolyn Keene, to the Dave Fearless series as Roy Rockwook, and to the X-Bar-X Boys Series as James Cody Ferris. His autobiographies are A Kid in Haileybury (1975) and Ghost of the Hardy Boys (1976).

4. D?Arcy Jenish was working as a Senior Writer at Maclean's magazine when he and his wife decided to move out of the city and settle with their growing family in Ajax. He is the author of numerous books, including the award-winning Indian Fall: The Last Great Days of the Plains Cree and the Blackfoot Confederacy, the bestselling The Stanley Cup: A Hundred Years of Hockey at its Best, and most recently, Epic Wanderer and The Montreal Canadiens. He is also co-editor of Canada on Ice: Fifty Years of Great Hockey.

5. Whitby is the home of LICHEN (later known as LICHEN Arts & Letters Preview), the first literary journal published in the region. Founded in 1998 by four local writers Rabindranath Maharaj (of Ajax), Ruth E. Walker and Lucy Brennan (both of Whitby), and Gwynn Scheltema (formerly of Oshawa), the publication soon earned an international readership and ran for nearly a decade. It featured the work of Canadian writers, many of them new writers who went on to gain recognition across the country and abroad. One example is Jeramy Dodds, born in Ajax in 1974, whose first poetry collection, Crabwise to the Hounds, was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize and won the 2009 Trillium Book Award.


Ingrid Ruthig is a writer, editor and visual artist living in Ajax. Her book, Slipstream, which features both her poetry and artwork, will be released in September. More information is available on her website.

Would you like to contribute five things about literary life in your community? Send an email with your ideas to [email protected]

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