Born in Toronto, Bowen was educated at the University of Toronto, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1964. She then studied at the University of Waterloo, where she received a master’s degree in 1975, and the University of Saskatchewan. She subsequently taught English and was associate professor of English at First Nations University of Canada before retiring from teaching. She currently lives in Regina.
Bowen’s mystery novels feature Joanne Kilbourn, a widowed mother, political analyst and university professor who finds herself occasionally involved in criminal investigations in various parts of Saskatchewan. Many have been adapted as Canadian television movies by Shaftesbury Films.
Several of her plays have been produced, including Dancing in Poppies, an adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, The Tree and an adaptation of Peter Pan, all premiering at the Globe Theatre in Regina.
Bowen was selected as the writer-in-residence for the Regina Public Library from September 2013 to May 2014. She has previously served as writer-in-residence at the Toronto Reference Library (2009) and Calgary’s Memorial Park Library (2010).
I have had a long and enjoyable friendship with Gail Bowen that began when her first Joanne Kilbourn mystery novel, Deadly Appearances, was published by Douglas & McIntyre in 1990. I wasn’t just one of her Canadian sales reps, but was THE rep for Southern Saskatchewan! Not only did Gail live in Regina, but her new series of mysteries was set in the city as well. Sales of the book in my territory were HUGE! And Gail and I hit it off right from the very beginning, too – I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as much or as hard as we all did whenever lunching with the late Mary Sutherland, one of the city’s booksellers, and already Gail’s good friend! Gail also took me in as part of her family over those years, and we always kept each other informed as to what was going on in our lives. When Gail and Ted Bowen came to Calgary for book promotions, Dennis would often be invited to join the three of us for dinner. One memorable evening was the closing night of the tiny, and very crowded, Latin Corner on 4th St., which we all loved. (The live music that night was supplied by Oscar Lopez who had to sit in the kitchen to perform, because the front was was so tightly packed with diners.) The author photo I’ve used above is one I particularly like, because I know exactly where it was taken as I visited that cottage while Gail was staying there, writing; and that area of Saskatchewan eventually became the “setting” in some of Gail’s mysteries. While we’ve kept in contact over all these decades, and I’ve purchased each new hardcover as soon as it was released, we hadn’t had any opportunities to actually see each other in person – until Sept. 2018 when Gail and Ted came to Kincardine, near to the trailer park where I live in the summer months, to promote her latest book. Dennis was visiting then as well! We both went to the event at the library and then drove Gail and Ted on to Collingwood the next day for another library event. We had lots of time then to catch up.
Gail wrote in my copy of Deadly Appearances … “Here’s where we came in,” and we’ve lasted through 17 more Joanne Kilbourn novels since then as well as several novellas in the Rapid Read series published by Orca Books (because I was Orca’s sales rep, too!). This has been a complete pleasure, my friend, and I look forward to many more books from you, dear Gail Bowen. The Ottawa Citizen definitely called it right: “Bowen is a national treasure.”
News from Gail Bowen: “The Unlocking Season, Joanne #19 will be published by ECW in 2020 — change of publishers and I am so happy about it. I’ve taught two on-line classes in mystery writing for U. of Toronto and I’ll be teaching a third starting in February. I’ve been invited to speak at the University of Marberg in Germany in October and will attend the Frankfurt Book Fair, so big doing there!”
For more information about Gail Bowen, her books and writing, please see her website.