Howard Engel (1931-2019) was a Canadian writer and cartoonist. Engel was born in Toronto but raised in St. Catharines, Ontario. He is best known for his series of mystery novels featuring Benny Cooperman, a Jewish private investigator. He attended McMaster University in Hamilton and the Ontario College of Education, and for a while worked abroad in Nicosia, London, and Paris as a journalist and broadcaster. On his return to Canada he became a producer at the CBC. Some of his programs included Assignment; Sunday Supplement; The Arts in Review; Booktime; and Anthology.

His series of mystery novels featuring Benny Cooperman take place in Grantham, Ontario, based on the City of St. Catharines where Engel was raised. Engel’s Benny Cooperman novels include The Suicide Murders (1980); The Ransom Game (1981); Murder on Location (1982); Murder Sees the Light (1984); A City Called July (1986); A Victim Must Be Found (1988); Dead and Buried (1990); There Was an Old Woman (1993); Getting Away with Murder; The Cooperman Variations; Memory Book; East of Suez; and The Whole Megillah. Engel was a founding member of the Crime Writers of Canada and the recipient of many awards, including Best Novel (Murder Sees the Light), Arthur Ellis Award (1985); Harbourfront Festival Prize for Canadian Literature (1990); Derrick Murdoch Award, Crime Writers of Canada (1998); Matt Cohen Award, Writer’s Trust of Canada (2005); Lifetime Achievement Award; Jewish Book Awards (2010); Grand Master Award, Crime Writers of Canada (2014); and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012). He received an honorary degree from Brock University in 1994 and McMaster University in 2007. In 2006 he was awarded the Order of Canada.

In 2001 Engel suffered a stroke that left him with alexia sine agraphia, a rare medical condition that caused him to be unable to read. He was, however, still able to write. He wrote a memoir about the experience, titled The Man Who Forgot How to Read (2007). He also incorporated the condition into his Benny Cooperman novel Memory Book (2005), in which Benny has suffered a serious blow to the head and is afflicted with the same condition. He suffered another stroke in 2019 and died of pneumonia in Bridgepoint Hospital in Toronto. Engel was 88 years old and was survived by his three children, Jacob, William and Charlotte.

Click here to view the Howard Engel fonds, 1905-2019, n.d. RG 790 finding aid

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