I was very honoured to be the Writer In Residence at Open Book Toronto all month. It was a terrific experience. I posted my last blog this evening, IMAGINING PEACE. Here's the link: http://www.openbooktoronto.com/jround/blog/imagining_peace
The King’s Speech shows Colin Firth at his best as the socially awkward, stuttering and stammering King George VI, better known these days as the father of HRH Elizabeth II. While many of us may be familiar with the slow, grave delivery of the speech, delivered September 1939 and informing the world that Britain was at war with Germany, few will know or remember the story behind the speech. The King’s Speech tells that story in a moving, compelling way, while incidentally providing a prequel to Stephen Frears’s The Queen, with its glance into the curious, dysfunctional affairs behind the scenes at Buckingham Palace.
The Doomsters by Ross Macdonald (Knopf 1958)
Macdonald, whose real name was Kenneth Millar, was American-born and Canadian-raised. His most successful character, Lew Archer, is at the heart of this and many other volumes of noir writing. Macdonald is one of the early genre writers revered as both a good crime writer and a literary stylist. Indeed, his prose has moments evocative of Scott Fitzgerald. His weakness, however, is the corny, tough-guy dialogue that so many of his characters spout. Nevertheless, his mysteries have edge and he can twist his plots along with the best of them. In this volume, a runaway from a mental institution turns to Archer for help. He gets it, despite his best efforts to resist Archer’s uncanny ability to read into other people’s characters.
For some technologically brilliant theatre, catch Electric Company Theatre’s Studies in Motion at the Bluma Appel Theatre (till Dec 18.) Kevin Kerr’s play about Eadweard Muybridge, inventor of an 1880’s version of stop motion photography, contrasts nicely with Robert LePage’s Ennogata, another biographical work, part-dance and part-play, about a cross-dressing spy, at the Sony Centre. Here, LePage has gone back to his roots, creating with the utmost simplicity. While neither has much of an emotional through-line, both works are riveting technically.
Today is the 78th anniversary of Proust's death. Coincidentally, I finished reading (for the third time) his second volume, Within A Budding Grove, today. The ending is extraordinary as the narrator examines in minute detail his growing love for Albertine and the end of the tourist season at the beach at Balbec (Cabourg, in real life.)
Benjamin Britten’s Death In Venice as performed by the Canadian Opera Company.
I’ve never really taken to Britten’s music, though Death In Venice is somewhat of an exception. It’s also one of a handful of operas I’ve wanted to see live, and can now cross off my list. Unfortunately, the Met’s “Live In HD” experience over the past few years means I may never enjoy a live performance as much as I used to. I’ve been spoiled by the intimacy and quickness of things on camera, as opposed to the static predictability of an opera’s distant unfolding onstage. This production is slow and serious. For better or worse, it feels like “Art.” The first act is visually beautiful but remarkably undramatic, and while the COC orchestra is aurally stunning under conductor Steuart Bedford (very capably matched by Alan Oke’s performance as the novelist, Gustav von Aschenbach), the musical emphasis on atmosphere means it doesn’t ever really jump to life. It’s in the second act where both the drama and the music kick in, as the aging Aschenbach explores his attraction for the beautiful Tadzio, an adolescent Polish boy vacationing on the Lido. While contemplating what this says about his views on art and literature, he somehow manages not to think of what it means in terms of his no-longer sublimated sexuality. An introverted, intellectual libretto, it shines with inner drama if you’re in the mood for some serious contemplation. If not, it will just feel slow.
Returning to an unfinished novel is a little like catching up with an old friend. While the publishing world seems to be in turmoil, and I still have no idea when the third Bradford Fairfax novel is going to come out, I’ve been getting on with the fourth episode, Bon Ton Roulez, a Cajun term meaning roughly, “Let the good times roll.” In the new book, Bradford finds himself in New Orleans not long after Hurricane Katrina, where some very nasty politicians are cooking up a scheme to displace the low-income citizens trying to return and pick up the pieces of their lives. When I visited New Orleans in the spring of 2006, some eight months after the disaster, I was left with an indelible impression of the city in ruins and the sense of loss the people were facing. That impression is strongly making itself felt in this book.
The Nesting Dolls by Gail Bowen (McClelland & Stewart 2010)
Gail Bowen is one of my favourite crime writers, with her sly humour and no-nonsense, down-to-earth outlook on life that also happens to spill over into her books. She leaves the impression that we could all do just a little better with not too much effort, and that we would all be that much better off for it. Joanne Kilbourn, Bowen’s protagonist of a dozen books, is made of the same mettle. She spars (lovingly) with her hubby Zack, a paraplegic power-lawyer, and a myriad of lost souls who tumble in and out her life. In The Nesting Dolls, Kilbourn pits herself against the elusive killer of a lesbian mother who leaves her newborn son with the boy’s presumed grandparents right before she is killed. Finding out the who also helps unravel the why, and it’s a doozey of a solution that fooled me right to the end.
Lately I've been directing a video for Canada's PopToOpera Trio, one of the most diverse singing groups I know. Shot in three sections--Broadway, pop, and opera--on a tiny stage in the basement of a church in Parkdale, it's amazing to see that little space take on the characteristics of so many different locations. It's also great to see the pieces come together as they develop from a series of random shots and low quality camera sound to a fully integrated video with stereo output.
A delightful afternoon spent with Ben Heppner, one of Canada’s great singers. Performed on a simple, elegant set bathed in blue and gold, the program was a refreshing change from the usual cloying lieder, with songs by Greig, Sibelius and Tchaikovsky, followed by arias from Massenet and Wagner, with a final Tosti song.
Seems to be Proust month for me. Check this book out if you're a fan:
Proust at the Majestic by Richard Davenport-Hines (Bloomsbury 2006)
In May 1922, just weeks after putting “Fin” to the pages of his great seven-volume work, In Search of Lost Time, Marcel Proust attended a gala event at Paris’s Majestic Hotel, a fête arranged by an American couple, Sydney and Violet Schiff, two of his greatest fans. (Sydney was later to become the first official English translator of Proust’s final volume, Time Regained, following the death of CK Scott Moncrieff in 1930.) The party brought Proust together with James Joyce, Serge Diaghilev, Pablo Picasso and Igor Stravinsky, all among the most renowned and highly regarded members of the Modernist avante garde. While the event may have been just one more example of the Schiffs’ parading Proust’s friendship to the world, the desire to create an epoch-making event was no doubt genuine, if just as self-serving. Sydney Schiff had writerly ambitions and saw Proust as the living embodiment of his artistic dreams. And while both hoped for a longer acquaintanceship, Proust was to die six months to the day following one of the grandest soirées Paris had seen in decades.
Still, this book is more than a fond reminiscence of a party, however grand. It’s also a perceptive critical examination of Proust’s work and life, and how each affected the other. Was Proust a homosexual? Rightly or wrongly, that question lies at the heart of his writing. Today, many would say yes. While he clearly had same-sex relationships, however, the answer may not be so simple, as Davenport-Hines explains it, and therein lies the key to at least part of his very complex work. While the theory that In Search Of Lost Time is a homosexual book with the sex and sexuality of many of the characters transposed to suit the mores of the times is an intriguing one, and anyone with a modicum of gaydar can attest to feelings of sexual-psychological falseness with at least some of the characters, nevertheless, Davenport-Hines contends quite convincingly that Proust revelled in sexual ambiguity and the emotional frisson generated by his unresolved and frequently unrequited relationships, beginning with the narrator’s youthful obsession with his mother. If the brain may be said to be the most important sexual organ then Proust’s outright denials of his homosexuality and his protestations of a more ambiguous amitié amoreuse may have validity after all. (And, coincidentally, making this book one of the longest instances of artistic foreplay on record.)
This is a refreshing work after many similar works that don’t quite so convincingly plumb the psychological depths of Proust’s intense and difficult makeup, as well as his complex artistry. Not surprisingly, it stands in marked contrast to the critical reception received at the time of the books’ initial publications (including the ones Proust did not live to see), as most of Proust’s contemporaries were inclined either to ignore or dismiss outright the books’ sexual themes—which are decidedly pronounced no matter how you read them—while a handful of critics complained in the name of public decency. The final chapter, dealing with the last months of Proust’s life and the aftermath of his death (the news was greeted with the sort of reaction a rock star might hope to receive today), is surprisingly moving and convincing in its verismo. Proust at the Majestic is one of the most impressive books of Proustiana to come along, whether read in its own right or as a counterpart to the work itself.
It’s always a pleasure to have a colleague over for dinner, and Gail Bowen is one of the most entertaining and fun writers I know. She and her very convivial hubby Ted came by of an evening at the end of Gail’s tour for her twelfth Joanne Kilbourne mystery, The Nesting Dolls (M&S.) We got to gossip and talk shop and send off a few of those invisible poison arrows that even the nicest writers long to let loose once in a while. Publishing industry dirt, oh my!
I've just heard that The Honey Locust has been long-listed for a ReLit Award. It's ALWAYS nice to be recognized by fellow writers, in whatever capacity, and the ReLit Awards are just that: founded in 2000 by Newfoundland author Kenneth J Harvey, ReLit stands for "Regarding Literature, Reinventing Literature, Relighting Literature." A noble aim, and one I am proud to be associated with in this or any year.
On the whole, it's been an unusual summer (and I don't mean the weather.) I've bounced back and forth from finishing a short film (a documentary on the life of comedian Rusty Ryan) through finishing up a song cycle for my friend, soprano Lilac Cana, to trying to get back to work on a novel I've started but can't quite get excited about. It's one thing to have choices, but another to make one. Maybe fall will bring me back to my senses and I'll start to wonder where summer went.
Am I the only person in the world who wasn’t impressed with Inception? Dream-world concept notwithstanding, it’s full of bogus, clichéd character stakes: “I’ve got to break up the power monopoly to save the world,” “I have to get back home to my kids”, etc. I’ve never seen DiCaprio so easily upstaged before, but Tom Hardy does it without trying. I also couldn’t figure out why DiCaprio was being made to look like Orson Welles, Jr, but then came the rosebud-safe opening scene and all was made clear, to my chagrin. That one deserved a resounding "Boo!" At least Avatar, while it was only cowboys and Indians in space (but with the Indians winning), was a memorable visual experience.
The City and the Pillar by Gore Vidal (Random House 1995, orig. 1948)
It’s hard to believe this book caused such a furor on its publication in 1948. (Most major publications ignored it and then blacklisted Vidal’s subsequent books for the next six years; the NY Times refused advertising on its behalf.) Published the same year as the Kinsey Report, it must have seemed part of a concerted attack on American morals. In fact, it was the first notable volley of queer writing to appear in English by a respected author, and it remains one of the watershed novels of 20th century gay literature. Thomas Mann called it “noble” and “truthful.” In the original version, a teenager named Jim Willard has a sexual encounter with a fellow high-school student, Bob Ford. Bob leaves town to join the navy and Jim spends the next seven years trying to find him, which he does with tragic consequences. Vidal later revised the book, toning down the ending considerably in a version republished in 1965. While it has its charms, it’s not a very good book by any means, but back in the day it was the only game in town, so it’s not surprising so many gay men grew up on it.
The Pilgrim Hawk by Glenway Wescott (The Noonday Press 1990, orig. 1940)
This is my second reading of this short novel, given to me by my friend, the late Douglas LePan, who saw it as a book worthy of note. It’s a concise tale of two American expats in France in the 1920s, on a summer afternoon when a peripatetic and self-absorbed Irish couple, the Cullens, drop in and leave abruptly. The woman, Madeleine, carries a falcon everywhere with her, to the dismay of her drunken husband. The hawk becomes a prism through which the characters view the world and each other, as well as a metaphor for love that embraces captivity versus freedom, and the various appetites said to inform the need to be free versus the need to stay captive. The writing is graceful and delicate, but largely unmoving, largely because none of these characters is particularly admirable or even likable. Wescott has been called a low-rent Fitzgerald by detractors, while others have compared him favourably to Katherine Anne Porter.
Wow! Queen Elizabeth II, Elton John and Lady Gaga all in one week. Will my head explode? HRH took a stroll through Queen’s Park last Tuesday, while his Elton-ness attended Her Royal Gaga’s Monster Ball at the Air Canada Centre last night. Sad to say, the sound was terrible in the upper seats. I could hardly understand a word Gaga said, though the lower realms responded with something like ferocity at her every statement. I got a small taste of what it must have been like to experience Beatlemania, or perhaps a Nuremberg rally, but the frenzy was largely contained once the concert began and things began to feel more like a large house party with a very likeable, though rather ordinary looking hostess, apart from the fantastical costumes.
Starstruck? Moi? Not bloody likely. I’ve seen my share of stars in the entertainment world, and even worked with a few, but I feel no razzle-dazzle when I meet them. There are, however, a handful of celebrities I would go out of my way to see, and Queen Elizabeth II is one. Save your Kennedys, take your Tom Cruises and Julia Roberts—watching the queen descend the steps of Queen’s Park and stroll around the grounds greeting people today was real glamour. And while I may be part of a generation that has grown cynical of politics and figureheads, Queen Elizabeth has been a significant figure for my entire life. It was her picture on the walls I saluted in public school and her broadcasts I still listen for at Christmastime as part of a handful of traditions that hold meaning for me. Stoical, well-mannered, gracious, and seemingly indefatigable, at 84 she is the living embodiment of what a grand monarch can be. God Save The Queen!
Naming The Bones by Louise Welsh (2010 Canongate)
This long-awaited fourth volume by one of the more interesting contemporary writers is yet another deviation from her previous books. It seems everything Welsh sets out to write is a foray into fresh fields, as though each volume completes one journey and paves the way for another. In the current book, Murray Watson, a would-be biographer of a little known Scottish poet named Archie Lunan, tracks his long-dead quarry into the past and makes some startling discoveries. With its emphasis on atmosphere—ruined castles, semi-deserted islands, and even sinkholes—it’s more of a gothic novel crossed with an almost-traditional mystery. Almost, in that a good number of the mysteries are left inconclusive at the book’s end. There’s a bit of fun name-play—Watson, as in the bumbling Dr. Watson, Lunan as in poetic ‘lunacy,’ a mysterious former-mistress named Graves whose secret is literally buried, and even a foe named Baine. Frankly, I would have been tempted to dismiss this book early on if I hadn’t been aware of the incisive intellect behind it. It feels as though someone said to Welsh, “Enough with the brilliance, Louise; how about writing something the rest of us will understand?” I suspect with this book Welsh is heading stolidly toward the mainstream, and no doubt it will take her there, but it may leave fans of her previous volumes bewildered at best and disappointed at worst.
Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin (Modern Library Edition 2001, orig. 1956)
It’s not everyday that one encounters a gay classic for the first time, but this is a first reading for me. At the core of Baldwin’s novel is David, a young, white American who has an affair with Giovanni, an Italian bartender in Paris in the mid-1950s, after David’s girlfriend Hella leaves for an extended stay in Spain. The affair blossoms until Hella’s return, when David abandons Giovanni and tragedy results.
With writing reminiscent of Fitzgerald at his unencumbered best (Gatsby, and the more luminous bits of Tycoon), this book is one of a handful of literary stepping-stones that illuminate pre-Stonewall queer experience in the 20th century. (The list includes, among other titles, Forster’s Maurice—begun in 1913, though not published till 1971—works by Gide and Proust, Vidal’s The City and the Pillar from 1949, the novels of Genet, and a few others, that tell us about queer life before we evolved into an integrated community with a literature of our own.)
The book is also remarkable, probably as much then as now, in that it is a novel about whites by a black author. Perhaps even rarer, it offers a startlingly clear perception of Americans abroad seen from an outsider’s viewpoint. The writing is of a consistently high calibre, told through the narrator’s reflections. To me, however, it lacks passion. I admire it, but can’t love it the way I love Gatsby, for instance, even though I relate more readily to Baldwin’s characters than Fitzgerald’s. While Baldwin analyses his characters’ feelings brilliantly, he seldom seems to share their suffering. He distances himself from the story, just as both Giovanni and Hella accuse David of distancing himself from them.
Perhaps this is a result of Baldwin’s apprehension that his black readership would turn on him with this book (it didn’t) or maybe fear that white readers might misunderstand him. (And, if so, perhaps I am one.) Or maybe it’s just the result of being gay, black and an American ex-pat in a time when any of those qualities might easily cast you in the role of pariah—easier to shut down your emotions and view them from a safe distance, say, in the pages of a books. Whatever the reason, the story is nonetheless an invaluable part of queer literary history as well as a memorable read.
In writing of the death of his friend, the artist Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, at the age of 23 in WWII, poet Ezra Pound writes how the force of new art is thought dangerous by a certain type of person who fear it, think it ugly, or hate it because of the effort it takes to come to an understanding of it. He states, rightly, that there are those who believe “the stability of property is the end and the all” while others believe “the aim of civilization is to keep alive…the intellectually-inventive-creative spirit.” Yesterday, when someone asked if I understood the rage behind the destruction of property in the city during the recent G-20 Summit, I thought of that statement. For those of us who do not believe in wholesale globalisation, who do not believe that more is better, or that the taking of power confers the right to force those beliefs on others, rage is a common reaction. In fact, I would say it’s a natural bi-product in en era of Survivor and Idol mentalities, endless consumerism, and the worship of celebrity, diet and beauty aesthetics.
For surely globalisation means more politics and politics, ultimately, means war in one form or another: political, economic, moral. More people dying for causes they don’t believe in. Would you be willing to die for cheaper oil, for an expanded marketplace? Because that is what it comes down to. Pound saw his friend’s death and the loss of his talent as a tragedy for humankind, and not merely for one person, just as he understood the forces behind the face of war as being largely economic and political. Why did our prime minister, who has openly declared his contempt for artists and his resentment of Toronto, choose to host the summit here, in a city he despises? Why did he not listen to the voices of authority in the city who advised him—strongly—not to host the event downtown?
Just because there are many who don’t want power does not mean we think it’s okay for others to grab it and turn it back on us, but that is what politicians do. Connecting the dots from the Mayan peasants forced off their land so others can raise cheaper beef for McDonalds or cheaper coffee for Starbucks, up through the cheerful looking corporation fronts that appear on our street corners is not always easy to do, but the trail is there to follow if you make the effort. Protests are one means of voicing an opinion about such things. Sadly, in this age, violence speaks louder than peaceful demonstration. It’s the power brokers of the world who have made that fact a truism, which is why the violence was directed at them. Reap what you have sown.
An earthquake, a full moon eclipse, and a protest riot leaving the downtown core a shambles. Can one city take much more? No doubt we can. I remember Joan Didion's remark about staying in New York during the week following the events of 9/11: "Would you really want to be anywhere else?" I couldn't answer that at the time, but now I know: as a writer, I need to be here to witness. What was interesting was seeing the two versions of yesterday's events: one in real life and the other on TV. From outside, it probably looks far more frightening than it does close-up. If it is a war zone, then war zones are places where danger is far more banal than you might imagine. Smashed windows and spray-painted walls--these are child's play. The real forces to worry about and reckon with are at work inside the compound.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson (Trans. from Swedish by Reg Keeland, Penguin 2010)
This is the third and last of Stieg Larsson’s highly successful Millennium series, featuring anti-social super-hacker Lisbeth Salander and hyper-moralizing rogue journalist Mikael Blomkvist. With Hornet’s Nest, we hit the ground running immediately following Lisbeth’s assault on Russian defector Zalanchenko at the end of The Girl Who Played With Fire. With a bullet in her brain—no small peanuts—Lisbeth is transferred to hospital and operated on. Wanted for the murders of two journalists whose report on underage prostitution lies at the heart of the previous book, Salander now waits as others argue over her fate and Blomkvist plots to free her.
With this volume, Larsson moves heavily into conspiracy theory territory, briefly recruiting even the Swedish PM as a character while focusing on a secretive government cabal believed to have covered Zalachenko’s existence. The book vacillates wildly between action and rhetoric, between swiftness and inertia, but without Salander’s outrageous unpredictability at its centre much of it feels oddly flat.
A total of ten books were planned for the series, including fragments of a fourth left incomplete at the time of Larsson’s death, so perhaps others will appear in future. (If Mahler’s tenth symphony could be successfully reconstructed after his death, then why not Larsson’s books?) At times, the current volume threatens to implode from the weight of its sub-plots and secondary characters, as well as a lot of overwrought expounding on issues of sex and sexuality. Though the odds are always heavily weighted on the side of the good guys, nevertheless you still feel inclined to cheer as the would-be tension builds to a rather predictable victory for Our Side. In spite of everything, the series ends with a considerable bang rather than a whimper, and the conclusion makes it well worth the ride. Thank you, Stieg Larsson.
Another stellar evening for Proust & Company. Our Pride Poets evening over Glad Day Bookshop featured some fantastic readings by Keith Garebian, Maureen Hynes and Billeh Nickerson. (If you think poetry readings are dull, you should have been there last night. That was some talent!) Keith read from his newest book, Children of Ararat (Frontenac), while Maureen read from a collection of new and older work, including Harm's Way (Brick Books), as did Billeh Nickerson with his inimitable sense of humour, giving us selections from McPoems (Arsenal Pulp). And of course the stalwart musical stylings of Omel Masalunga rounded out the event. Thanks, all!
Whoever said awards ceremonies were dull never went to the Canadian Booksellers Association Libris Awards. Of course, it didn't hurt that I got to sit with the Sheilahs: Sheilagh Rogers of CBC hosted the evening in her inimitable style and Sheilah Kauffman of Another Story Bookshop was a presenter along with me and a number of others. Also at our table was incoming CBA president Mark Lefebvre, whose amusing manner kept us all at ease. And I'm happy to say that my very own editor, Marc Cote of Cormorant Books, went home with the award for Editor of the Year.
Nearly famous. Went to the Churchmouse & Firkin for a quaff with my friend Enrique yesterday. While I was downstairs in the loo, the server came by and asked where she might have recognized me from. E pointed to the cover of Xtra! on the table and asked, "Does he look like that guy?" She pondered my photo for a moment, then shook her head. "Sort of, but not really," she said, and went off to fill E's order.
F-U-N. That's a word I haven't used in a while. Today I even had some, modelling for Toronto arts scene photographer, David Hawe, for an upcoming issue of Xtra! Xtra!'s new managing editor, the charming Marcus McCann, was on hand to make sure we didn't get too carried away while I posed for the article on my symbiotic existence with sexy super-sleuth, Bradford Fairfax. For those who don't know, Brad is currently preparing for his upcoming adventure, Vanished In Vallarta, due out in June.
What's better than a short mediocre review in the New York Times? A great, full-page review in the Literary Review of Canada. I'll be sure to post the link to Steven Hayward's review of The Honey Locust, "Battles Foreign and Familial", when it comes on-line!
News flash! I'd heard that the normally genteel and diplomatic Canadian mystery writer, Anthony Bidulka, author of the Russell Quant mystery series, has been writing about me in his blog. The very idea brought me to my knees in despair! How could I have sunk so low that a nice guy like Anthony would gossip about me? So I checked out his site, and there it was in black and white, and a few other colours, for everyone to see. And so can you: http://anthonybidulka.com/blog/. But then again, if it's all true, does it qualify as gossip?
Open Book: Toronto (http://www.openbooktoronto.com/). Those of you who follow it will know it's a gold mine of writer information. I've just been invited to participate as an on-line Writer-In-Residence in December. It's a ways off, but that gives me lots of time to practice my blogging skills.
Mission accomplished. Just past noon today, I finished the first draft of my new thriller, Endgame. It's a re-write of a famous Agatha Christie plot, with an entirely new setting and cast of characters. Does this mean I'm now writing commercial fiction? We'll see. In any case, I can now come home feeling I've achieved my goal.
This morning, as every morning here, I'm sitting high in my turret overlooking Puerto Vallarta and Banderas Bay. And it is glorious. But not too glorious to keep me from writing, which is what I've been doing since I arrived. Odd, though, to be thinking up ingenious ways for my characters to be murdered while watching waves and whales and sailboats going past on a perfect blue sea. Hasta la vista, baby.
Very happy to be in beautiful Puerto Vallarta! My, how it's grown since I was last here in 2008. Obviously the economy slowdown hasn't affected things. I suspect it will lose its intimate quality if it keeps on like this, however. For now, I'll just have to make the most of things. I'm looking forward to revising my latest book over the coming weeks.
It's been another busy week, with an author power-lunch with writer Michael Rowe (one of my favourite people to kvetch with), a book signing at the Book Expo at the Metro Convention Centre, and silly good fun with writer Peter Dube (here on a writers grant from Quebec) and poet Billeh Nickerson (just bumming around while on leave from Vancouver.) That's the fun part of being a writer.
It's been a powerhouse week. First an Author's Brunch and then the Book Lovers Ball, and now the end of the rough draft of my latest book.
This one's a mystery (I'm keeping the title to myself for now), but not comical like the Bradford Fairfax series. I had the inspiration for it last summer while attending a BBQ with a band of rock musicians, but was unable to get started on it till recently.
I began the draft on Jan 18 and have worked on it sporadically but quickly since then. It's not a record by any means: that belongs to Vanished In Vallarta, due this summer from Cormorant Books. That one was roughed out in 14 days straight.
I'll sit on this new one for the next two weeks and take it with me to work on in Mexico in March.
Had a terrific night at the Book Lovers Ball V at the Fairmount Royal York, held in aid of the Toronto Library Foundation. It was a star-studded event, with names like Peter C Newman, Wayson Choy, Nino Ricci, Richard Gwynne, Anne Michaels, Dionne Brand, Allan Stratton, Andrew Pyper, and many others, for a total of 55 celebrity authors. I felt a bit outclassed, but loved it nonetheless. I got to sit with John Farrell of the TPL, as well as folks from fashion houses Farley Chatto and Indiva, who were responsible for two of eight fashion segments on book themes (Sherlock Holmes and Slumdog Millionaire), featuring some fantastic creations and terrific choreography. I’d happily do it all again tomorrow night.
Happy 79th, James Dean! Yikes, can you imagine? Not really.
Had a great time yesterday at an Author's Brunch fundraiser for the Dayne Ogilvie Grant for Emerging LGBT Writers, sponsored by the Writers' Trust. Dayne and I were colleagues at Xtra! in the early-90s. He was an editor, writer and arts patron, so it's fitting that this grant should be established in his name by his good friend, Robin Pacific.
Writers Wayson Choy, Maureen Hines, Brian Francis and Zoe Whittall were there, along with many other enthusiastic supporters of the arts. It was a friendly, homey crowd. I read briefly from The Honey Locust, my new literary novel published by Cormorant Books.
The wine was pretty good, too.
This month I finally finished my new video. Driving With Rusty is a composite of archival stage show footage and interview material with the late-Rusty Ryan. Rusty was a founding member of The Great Imposters and a protege of Craig Russell. In 1992, he performed in my one-man show, Driving To Tatamagouche, at the Fringe of Toronto Festival. I had intended to make a documentary on his life and career, but it remained unfinished when he died in 2003. At last, there is a tribute to his talent and inimitable sense of humour.
Quick: what's a non-skiing, Internet scavenger like me doing at a family ski resort with only a dial-up modem at the top end of the Appalachians? Why, writing, of course! It's the McConnell family annual get-together at Owl's Head in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, and possibly the most beautiful scenery this side of the Rockies. It reminds me of a hotel in Heiligkreuz, Switzerland, once owned by my cousin Barb Grossenbacher. I knew I wouldn't end up on the slopes once I got here, but I didn't know I was about to walk into a new fiction plot. Talk about a perfect setting for a mystery! This is as secluded and atmospheric as it gets, with mist shrouded mountaintops and roads blocked by snow. Still, it's going to have to wait, since I'm already deep into writing three other books at the moment. Every dog (and book) shall have its day.
My first blog post of the new year. I seem to be getting lazy at this. Lots has been going on, including the preliminary sketches of the cover for Vanished In Vallarta, third volume of the Bradford Fairfax mystery series. Nick Craine has created another great sketch. He tells me he finds the books inspiring, and I believe him, because his covers are terrific. He's had an idea for a box set of seven in the Pride Flag rainbow colours. I just happen to have seven books planned. And by chance, the first two spines also happen to be lavender and indigo.