Book Reviews

Author Events 2021

All events cancelled.

Author Events 2020

RESCHEDULED due to COVID-19. DATE/TIME TBA. (Old Time: Thursday May 14, 2020.) Author Talk & Signing at Koffee House Reads (affiliated with Meaford Public Library), MEAFORD, ON. Time & Venue TBA. Directions | Website

RESCHEDULED due to COVID-19. DATE/TIME TBA. (Old Time: Friday May 15, 2020. 3:00 PM.) Author Talk & Signing at Midland Public Library, MIDLAND, ON. 320 King Street. Directions | Website

RESCHEDULED due to COVID-19. DATE/TIME TBA. (Old Time: Thursday May 21, 2020.) Author Talk & Signing at Ansley Grove Public Library (Branch of Vaughan Public Library), WOODBRIDGE, ON. 350 Ansley Grove Rd. Directions | Website

RESCHEDULED due to COVID-19. DATE/TIME TBA. (Old Time: Sunday May 31, 2020. 2:00 PM.) Author Talk & Signing at Blue Mountains (L.E. Shore) Public Library, THORNBURY, ON. 173 Bruce St. S. Directions | Website

CANCELLED due to COVID-19. Thursday June 18, 2020. 3:00 PM. Author Talk & Signing at Probus Club of Collingwood, Collingwood, ON. Members Only. Website

RESCHEDULED to 2021 due to COVID-19. DATE/TIME TBA. (Old Time: Thursday July 2, 2020. 6:30 PM. Author Talk & Signing at Cottage Dockside Reads (affiliated with Parry Sound Public Library) at the Carling Township Recreation Center (15 minutes north of Parry Sound), CARLING, ON. Directions | Website

Upcoming Events 2020: All 2020 events moved to 2021 due to COVID-19

Author Talks & Signings at bookstores and libraries in the following locations: Orillia, Barrie, Collingwood, Owen Sound, Kimberley, Stayner, Angus, Caledon, and more.

Past Events – 2019

Thursday June 20, 2019. 7:00 PM. Author Talk & Signing at Ginger Press Bookshop, OWEN SOUND, ON. 848 2nd Avenue East. Directions | Website

Sunday July 7, 2019. 11:00 AM – 3:30 PM. Author Event & Signing at Chapters Indigo Bookstore, BARRIE, ON. 76 Barrie View Drive. Directions | Website

Thursday July 25, 2019. 2:00 PM. Author Talk & Signing at Port Elgin Public Library, Port Elgin, ON. 708 Goderich St. Directions | Website

Monday August 12, 2019. 7:30 PM. Author Talk & Signing at Wasaga Beach Public Library, WASAGA BEACH, ON. 120 Glenwood Drive. Directions | Website

Tuesday August 13, 2019. 2:00 PM. Author Talk & Signing at Tobermory Public Library, TOBERMORY, ON. 22 Bay Street. Directions | Website

Thursday August 15, 2019. 2:00 PM. Author Talk & Signing at Wiarton Public Library, WIARTON, ON. 578 Brown Street. Directions | Website

Monday August 19, 2019. 1:00 PM. Author Talk & Signing at Lion’s Head Public Library, LION’S HEAD, ON. 90 Main Street. Directions | Website

Saturday August 24, 2019. 11:00 AM – 3:30 PM. Author Event & Signing at Chapters Indigo Bookstore, HILLCREST MALL, NORTH YORK, ON. 9350 Yonge St. Unit Y010. Directions | Website

Saturday October 12, 2019. 11:00 AM – 4:30 PM. RETURN ENGAGEMENT. Author Event & Signing at Chapters Indigo Bookstore, HILLCREST MALL, NORTH YORK, ON. 9350 Yonge St. Unit Y010. Directions | Website

Writing in the Time of Covid

I tend to shy away from making sweeping statements. However, I think I have one that everyone will agree with: The pandemic changed everybody’s life.

Among other things, the pandemic made me rethink what I write. I started looking at a bigger picture. Re detective fiction, I’m working on a new series. The novel I finished during the pandemic doesn’t fit into it. It takes time to scope out a series and to get the pieces – the individual novels – right.

The new series is plugged into the current zeitgeist. Through the guise of fiction, the series will tackle topics like societal greed – without sacrificing the core of detective stories: the whodunit. As for timing, I’m not sure when the first novel will come out. As is its wont, the pandemic “retimed” everything. I’m aiming for next year, but whatever will be will be. Que será, será. I’m on pandemic time.

Naslund’s Swimming Hole, the Bruce Peninsula

Naslund’s Swimming Hole, the Bruce Peninsula, Ontario, Canada.

Autumnal Equinox, 2021. The water temperature is not bad, but it’s trending toward winter. Time to get the wetsuit out. 😉

Reading in the Time of Covid

Recent consumer studies show that book purchases increased during the pandemic and that the Crime/Mystery genre registered the most purchases, more even than Romance.

On my side, since Covid-19 began clobbering the planet in early 2020, I haven’t been reading much mystery/detective fiction. I’ve been digging into non-fiction, mostly history and science. With a death pall on the land, grisly murders didn’t grab me. As for writing detective fiction, more on that in a future post.

Now that Covid-19 is a smaller scourge — in my locale, that is — I’m back to reading mystery/detective novels. Although whodunits revolve around murder, most aren’t hung up on death. The plots explore everything under the sun. They portray all aspects of humanity, from the positive to the negative. They are good and evil incarnate.

So, I’m back at it, checking out the “deadly” genre. I wonder how it will reflect the new zeitgeist. What’s going on out there? Uncertainty and innovation, to name a few things. And murder, of course. It would take more than a pandemic to rid the planet of murder, not to mention murder mysteries and romances. Read on, dear reader, whatever your favourite genres.

The King of Southern Noir

Who’s the reigning King of Southern Noir? James Lee Burke. Some say he’s the best living novelist in the United States. I wouldn’t go that far. However, he is one of the best living crime/detective novelists. He’s also a Philosopher King, a crime writer who salts his work with references to thinkers as diverse as Saint Paul and Jonathan Swift.

A Private Cathedral, 2020: The latest novel in Burke’s Dave Robicheaux series, set in New Iberia, Louisiana.

Burke wrote A Private Cathedral in his eighties. It mines the moral ground of his earlier Louisiana novels, deploying variations of previous protagonists and antagonists: tough but good-hearted cops, cultured but evil killers. Hence, some of the novel covers repeat territory (be aware, it’s bloody terrain).

As always with Burke, there are beautiful descriptive passages. The narrative shifts as the novel progresses, swerving from a detective tale to a morality tale, from forensics to fantasia — with every detail expertly rendered, all gifts from Burke’s fertile mind. As well-described and inventive as the gifts are, some hijack the storyline. At times, the tale felt like a cross between Milton’s Paradise Lost and a Stephen King horror story. I still enjoyed most of it. Nobody writes detective novels like James Lee Burke. He delivers gentility and degeneracy in equal measure.

PS: If you want to check out JLB’s earlier work, try Creole Belle or The New Iberia Blues.

Click here for James Lee Burke on Wikipedia.

A few quotes from A Private Cathedral:

“The light was strained, as though it were draining from the western sky into the earth, not to be seen again, robbing us of not only the day but the morrow as well. Of course, these feelings and perceptions are not uncommon in people my age. This was different. As I mentioned earlier, I have long believed that my generation is a transitional one and will be the last to remember what we refer to as a traditional America.”

“This was the era that I always believed was the best in our history. But it was gone, and to mourn its passing was to demean it. The ethereal moment lives on in the heart, so what is there to fear?”

“There are epiphanies most of us do not share with others. Among them is the hour when you make peace with death. You don’t plan the moment; you do not acquire it by study. Most likely you stumble upon it. It’s a revelatory moment, a recognition that death is simply another player in our midst, a fellow actor on Shakespeare’s grand stage, perhaps even one even more vulnerable than we are.”

Broken Man on a Halifax Pier: A Personal Review

Broken Man on a Halifax Pier by Lesley Choyce, 2019. Dundurn.

Book reviews are supposed to be objective and largely impersonal. Caveat: This one is personal. Tune out if you wish.

Broken Man on a Halifax Pier swirls around Stewart Harbour, Nova Scotia, a fictionalized fishing post close to the real Sheet Harbour on the Eastern Shore, where I grew up. Although I left the shore at 17, I still feel it in my bones.

Some followers of this blog have been asking me to broaden my introduction. At the risk of boring others, here we go. [You can skip ahead to the review. See the last paragraph.] Shortly after leaving the shore, I headed to OZ, taking in the whole Red Continent, after which I kept goin’ down the road. Over a 20-year span, I “paused” to work many times – in Australia again and again, central and western Canada, the USA, England, and New Zealand – to fill my pockets and keep travelling, which I managed to do, seeing every continent except Antarctica. I only stopped because my pack was worn out. Just kidding.

But enough of my wanderlust. Back to the Halifax pier.

It could be that I’m prewired to like this book. Broken man on a Halifax pier happens to be a lyric from one of my favourite Stan Rogers songs: ‘Barrett’s Privateers.’

Now, the book review. To me, Broken Man on a Halifax Pier is an honest feelgood novel, not soppy but uplifting. I won’t recap the plot (I rarely do). Suffice to say, it’s a story of redemption and love. True love often comes across as unbelievable; I felt occasionally at sea as I read, but I didn’t mind. A beguiling woman (smart, sexy, and rich) falls for a completely down-and-out man. I fell for them and the setting. Choyce knows and loves the Eastern Shore. He brings it to life like no author has. For that, I am eternally grateful.