TORONTO — Author and Indigenous rights activist Tanya Talaga, and actors Colm Feore and Yannick Bisson are among the talent in a new slate of Canadian original projects bound for Audible.ca.
Amazon's spoken-word entertainment and audiobooks company has announced its inaugural lineup of Canadian Audible Originals, including Talaga's "Seven Truths," launching Nov. 26.
The acclaimed Anishinaabe and Polish-Canadian journalist uses the podcast to look at the fight for human rights among Canada's First Nation peoples.
Feore's "True North Heists" is now available and runs down true stories of Canada's most infamous thefts, from an $18-million maple syrup heist to the Boyd Gang bank robberies.
And Bisson dissects his "Murdoch Mysteries" Canadian TV character and cases with "The Secret Diaries of Detective Murdoch," which will launch next year.
"True North Heists" and "The Revisionaries," which also launched Tuesday with tech entrepreneur Michele Romanow of CBC's "Dragons' Den," will be free for all Canadians at Audible.ca until Oct. 27.
The debut slate has mostly podcasts but also audio series and audiobooks, which will all be launched in their entirety at once. More titles will be announced at a later date.
"I hope people embrace the truth that we're discussing, and they take a good hard look at Canada and the things that can be done in this country for all of us to move together," Talaga said of her podcast, which centres on the Seven Grandfather Teachings that guide Anishinaabe life, including love, honour, and respect.
The Ojibwe author of the heralded books "Seven Fallen Feathers" and "All Our Relations: Finding The Path Forward" features contemporary stories, including the killing of Barbara Kentner, a First Nations woman who died after being hit by a metal trailer hitch thrown from a moving car in Thunder Bay in January 2017.
"This is an episode about the truth that Canada needs to face about racism, the truth of what our women face every day in this country," Talaga said in a phone interview. "This is an episode about murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls."
Feore said his series features bold and daring capers that speak to Canada's "national character, our ingenuity, our stick-to-it-iveness."
Some of the other high-profile crimes featured include the early 1900s case of what's said to be Canada's first train robbery committed by American desperado Bill Miner in Kamloops, B.C.
"They absolutely defy description in terms of the imaginative stuff," said Feore, a Stratford Festival veteran performer with a string of film screen credits, including the film "Bon Cop, Bad Cop" and the Netflix series "The Umbrella Academy."
"I'm not nearly daring enough to accomplish some of the stuff that these guys did. I would play them on TV, or in a film if I was asked to do it. But boy, the stuff they got away with for as long as they got away with it is extraordinary."
Other Audible Canadian Original offerings include a drama by acclaimed playwright Hannah Moscovitch, which has the working title "Witch," and the sketch comedy series "Imminent Disaster" by playwright Catherine Hernandez.
"The Downloaded," written by renowned sci-fi author Robert J. Sawyer, chronicles the effect of the digital world on humanity.
There are also bilingual series, including "Wild Sounds of Canada" / "Paysage sonore de la nature canadienne," and "Field Guide to Eating in Canada" / "Guide pratique des saveurs canadiennes."
Marine biology expert Sarika Cullis-Suzuki hosts the English version of "Wild Sounds of Canada," which explores Canada's wildlife, and Laurence Lafond-Beaulne of the musical duo Milk & Bone hosts in the French version.
For "Field Guide to Eating in Canada," food writer and cookbook author Meredith Erickson hosts the English version. The French host is yet to be announced.
The crime fiction series "China White," written by Sarah Richards, will also have an English performer and French translation.
"We wanted to really create something that was as diverse as Canada is," said Georgia Knox, Canada country manager at Audible.
"It's a vast country, we have a massive range of talent and a large audience. This is our launch slate, this is going to be ongoing for us."
Knox said Audible was able to record a few of the projects before the pandemic hit, including "True North Heists," which the Stratford, Ont.-based Feore voiced in a studio. But others, like Talaga's, were put together from their homes and other locations. Teams in five Canadian cities did the post-production.
Audible also announced several other initiatives Tuesday, including an upcoming mentorship and workshop program for Indigenous writers in Canada, which Talaga hopes to be a part of.
Knox noted podcasts, audio series and audiobooks are typically popular forms of media for people when they're commuting, and the world isn't doing as much commuting during the pandemic.
But Audible has also seen listening habits shift while people are at home, as people listen while doing housework and such, and look for ways to reduce screen time.
"It's translating to more shared listening experiences, and shared listening experiences also create conversation," Knox said. "And I think that's a really interesting and meaningful shift."
For the full lineup visit: www.audible.ca/audiblecaoriginals
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 13, 2020.
Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press