Sunday, August 30, 2009

In Stores Now

In Canada.

The official publication date is September 1st, but I was in my local bookstore yeterday and there was Swap.

It sort of feels like it's been snuck into stores in some kind of stealth operation. No reviews yet, but there is a fantastic blurb on the back from Ken Bruen:

"Swap is a stunning leap forward from an already fine author. This is John channelling Elmore Leonard at the height of his game and with dialogue Tarantino would kill for. A plot that moves lik Pulp Fiction but with a nice Canadian slant that keeps it fresh and different. John's creation of the African-American characters is like Sallis at his finest. With a wicked sense of humour that is irresistible, Swap moves Canadian mystery right to the top."

There's also a nice blurb on the back from Adrian McKinty and one from Tom Piccirilli.

Of course, I had a lot of help writing this book (and everthing else I've ever written) and I don't do those thank-yous in the books because I'll either leave people out or they'll be dozens of pages long but in this case I do want to make a special thank you to Patti Abbott for reading the manuscript and helping me with the Detroit references. I never would have come up with, "... a big house in Grosse Pointe, six bedrooms, a fucking library and a Sub-Zero on the patio in the backyard."

By the way, while I was in the bookstore I bought a first novel by Eugene Meese called A Magpie's Smile because Margaret Cannon gave it a good review in the Globe and Mail and it's set in Calgary in the late 70's and I lived in Calgary then. The wild west. It was booming then with tens of thousands of people moving in every month and I was one of them. I'm looking forward to the book.

And, one more time, here's the trailer for Swap.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Bridge in the paper

This morning I woke up to see my boss on the front page of the Toronto Star. That can be a good thing or a bad thing. In this case it was very good.

Craig Bromell is the Executive Producer and Creative Consultant on the TV show, The Bridge. It's really his show, based on his experiences as a Toronto cop and then as head of the police union.

The article is straitforward enough, but then the comments start. Right away you can see how polarizing a guy Craig was in Toronto. Great fodder for a TV show.

In the pilot episode the character based on Craig, Frank Leo, says, "All I ever wanted to be was a cop." When he sees the way cops are treated by the brass and the politicians, the way cops are always guilty until proven innocent and the way their own bosses will sell out the cop on the street - the ones in the line of fire - for cheap political gain, it becomes too much for him and he gets elected pesident of the union.

At that point the brass go after him hard, one deputy chief telling him, "Whenever the public sees a corrupt, out of control cop, they'll see your face."

So now the guy who only ever wanted to be a good cop becomes the poster boy for bad cops.

Quite the internal conflict for a main character. Lots of emotional stuff to deal with. It's the kind of show that may take a few episodes to really find its footing so it's great that CTV and CBS are fully committed.

The Toronto Star article is here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Creative Writing Classes

About twenty-five years ago I enrolled at Concordia University for English Lit and History. (a few years before that I'd tried a year of economics and, well, it didn't work out.)

I knew I wanted to write but I was unsure about creative writing classes. Can you learn to write, or do you just have to do it and hope you have "talent?" Concordia had a creative writing program and it seemed good, so I took some classes.

At the time, and for years after, I really didn't think the classes had much effect on me. Garry Geddes, a poet and now non-fiction writer, taught the short story class I took. He had us read our stories out loud. Only years later did I realize what a valuable tool this was for understanding how important voice is in fiction.

In the intervening years I've realized that I learned an awful lot in those creative writng classes. I don't know if the other people in those classes needed to learn as much as I did, but a few of them are very good writers today.

Michel Basilieres was the guy who told me about the Concordia program. His novel Black Bird, published by Knopf won the in Canada First Novel Award in 2004 and was nominated for the Steven Leacock Award and the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book.

Tess Fragoulis was in that class with Garry and was probably the most fully-formed writer at the time. Her story collection, Stories to Hide From Your Mother, was published in 1997 and her first novel Ariadne's Dream (sex, drugs, Greek mythology) was published in 2001.

There was also a guy in that class named David McGimpsey who understood poetry more than anyone else in the program. I mean he understood poetry the way I understood hockey. And he frustrated the poetry profs by using that understanding to write epic poems about Gilligan's Island and baseball. David has published a few books, still in the "literary-pop culture" world. Sitcom is very good but my favourite is still Hamburger Valley California.

And now comes word that another person from that same class, Lisa Pasold, has her first novel coming out in three weeks. Lisa has published a couple of very good poetry collections, Weave and A Bad Year for Journalits and I've been looking forward to this novel ever since she let me read the manuscript earlier this year.

Rats of Las Vegas is about... you know what, she has a petty good book trailer explaining it:

And there's more info on her webpage.

So, I would say that maybe the gestation period for creative writing classes can be quite a while, but it's a good idea to study your craft.

What do you think?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Mad Men week

It seems everywhere I look this week I see articles about Mad Men. Which is good, it's nice to see such a smart, well-written TV show getting so much press.

A lot of it seems to be the same, though, gushing fan stuff, so I was glad to pick up Jesse McLean's book, Kings of Madison Avenue.

Part episode guide, part history lesson and all fun, the book is an in-depth look at the show by someone who clearly loves it but isn't afraid to critisize it as well.

Of course, I don't get AMC so I'll have to wait until the third season gets released on DVD, but it seems worth the wait. It was nice of AMC to put last season's finale on their website to refresh everyone's memories.

Monday, August 03, 2009

New Blog

A little while ago I was asked if I'd liked to contribute to one of those group blogs like Muderati (which I really like) and I said, "yes," before I thought about it.

Now, I'm not too sure what I'm going to have to contribute (though the TV show gig has provided a lot of ideas for rants) but my day is going to be Wednesday.

The blog went live today with a post from Steve Weddle. The rest of the team is Jay Stringer, Dave White, Russell McLean, Scott Parker and Mike Knowles.

Looks like a lot of fun. You can find it at: