L.R. (Laurali Rose) Wright was born Bunny Appleby on June 5, 1939 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Her father, Sidney Appleby, had given her the nickname before her birth and it was to stay with her all her life. Bunny grew up in Saskatoon and in Abbotsford, British Columbia with her parents and younger brother Brian. When she was sixteen her father received an overseas posting to teach in a Canadian Army base school, and the family moved to Hamer, West Germany where Bunny graduated high school in 1956.
The family’s stay in Germany was tragically cut short when Sidney Appleby died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 53. His widow, Evelyn Barber Appleby, moved the family back to Canada, and Bunny lived in Vancouver, Ottawa, and later California. In 1961 she returned to Vancouver to attend the UBC Summer School of Theatre, and was hired to perform with Holiday Theatre, Canada’s first touring theatre company for young audiences. There, in fall of 1961, she met fellow actor and director John Wright, whom she married on January 6, 1962. Their two children are actor-singer Katey Wright and actor-director Johnna Wright. Over the next years, the Wright family lived in California, Vancouver, Saskatoon, West Vancouver, and Calgary, where Bunny worked as a reporter for the Calgary Albertan and the Calgary Herald, and later as Assistant City Editor at the Herald.
But what she really wanted to do was write fiction. With the support of the Calgary Herald she was accepted into a creating writing course at the Banff School, where her mentor was acclaimed novelist W.O. Mitchell. The family then moved to Edmonton, where John Wright took a job with ACCESS Television that allowed Bunny to leave journalism and write full time. Her first novel, Neighbours, won the Search-for-a-New-Alberta-Novelist competition and was published in 1979. Soon afterward the family moved to Burnaby, British Columbia, a suburb of Vancouver. Wright’s next two novels, The Favourite and Among Friends, were published in 1982 and 1984.
With her fourth novel, Wright found herself writing about an elderly man who unexpectedly became a killer. It became clear that the police would be involved, so Karl Alberg, the central character of what was to be a critically and popularly acclaimed series of mystery novels, was born. The Suspect, published in 1985, won the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel of the year. Wright followed up with another Alberg mystery, Sleep While I Sing (1986), and the mainstream Love in the Temperate Zone (1988). She then returned to Alberg and the town of Sechelt with seven more “Alberg Mysteries.” When Alberg retired in 1997, his position at the RCMP detachment was taken up by Sgt. Edwina Henderson, who featured in Kidnap (2000) and Menace (2001). Wright’s novels have been published in Canada, the USA, Great Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Norway, Spain and Sweden. Her last novel, The Disappearance of Mabel Watson, currently remains unpublished.
L.R. Wright was proud and honoured to receive a number of awards. In addition to being the first and only Canadian writer to win the Edgar Allan Poe award (The Suspect, 1985), she twice won the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel (A Chill Rain in January, 1990; Mother Love, 1995), and was the first “genre” writer to receive the Canadian Authors’ Association Literary Prize for Fiction (Mother Love, 1995). In 2001 the Derrick Murdoch Award for Lifetime Achievement, presented at the annual Arthur Ellis Awards banquet, was accepted on Wright’s behalf by her daughter Katey.
After publishing The Suspect, L.R. Wright completed an MA degree in Liberal Studies at Simon Fraser University, receiving the Outstanding Alumni Award for Arts and Culture in 1996. She taught writing extensively, in workshops and through the University of BC Continuing Education department. She travelled across Canada and the US promoting her books and attending conferences, served as Chair of the Crime Writers of Canada, and was a member of the Writers’ Union of Canada, International P.E.N., International Association of Crime Writers, and Mystery Writers of America. She was a juror for numerous literary awards and granting bodies. She wrote adaptations of several of her books for CBC Radio drama and for film and television, often in collaboration with John Wright, from whom she was divorced in 1995.
Bunny Wright was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1995. Surgery brought a clean bill of health but the disease returned in 1997. Over the following three years she wrote three novels, travelled extensively for both business and pleasure, gardened, and generally continued with the business of living. On December 25, 2000, Bunny and John Wright were remarried. Bunny Wright died on February 25, 2001. Of her battle with cancer, she had this to say: “She died, and the cancer died with her. It was a draw.”
L.R. (Bunny) Wright remains sorely missed by her loving family, friends, colleagues, and her many fans. Her books continue to be widely read in over a dozen countries, and several are currently in development for film and television.