Friday, September 28, 2012

"The best and most huggable"


By: Harold N. Walters

The Clarenville Packet

Finton Moon

Gerard Collins has written a novel. I always knew he could—would?  And what a stupendous novel it is.

          Finton Moon [Killick Press] is the best, the most huggable novel I’ve read all summer—truly.


          Yes, huggable.

          Surely you’ve felt the urge to wrap your arms around a book, especially after its pages are all puffed up and swollen from reading, embrace its characters and clutch its content to your bosom as if clinging to stirring moments that you know are certain to fade…

          …or something.

          No surprise, there is darkness in the human heart. Gerard Collins tickles that darkness almost making it merry. Or is that just my imperfect thinking?

          Example. Finton has been to confession and has revealed his dark ol’ sins to the priest. Back outside the confessional, Finton feels better about himself as if God has cleansed him “like taking a toilet scrubber to his soul and scouring it clean.”

          Go on. Grin.

          Remember that Frank O’Connor story—“First Confession”—in one of the school books in which Jackie climbs atop the wicket to unload his burdensome sins?

Beaucoup yucks in that yarn…

          …but none any funnier that Finton vomiting on the priest.

          In times before electricity reached Newfoundland outports, before the lights came, many houses—especially those dark and dank grandmother homesteads—had shadowy corners beyond the range of lamplight, shadowy corners in which—who knows?—black-hearted [as opposed to sweet and cuddly] demons dwelt.

          Gerard Collins knows what lurked in those corners.

          Next door to Finton’s home is the Battenhatch house, candlelit and delightfully gloomy with oodles of shadowy corners: “There was something delicious in the dark, musty air of the Battenhatch house that held him [Finton] captive.”

          Speaking of the Battenhatch house…

          …Battenhatch…idden that a name that would lure Old Charlie D. from his grave and have him scravelling for his pen?

          Bridie and Morgan Battenhatch are women who worm their way into your brain and coil up in serpentine curls. Like seductive red fruit dangling from limbs in Eden, Bridie and Morgan are—each in her own way—characters you acknowledge only in the “delicious dark.”

          As does Finton: “Miss Bridie pursued him to the darkest corners of his mind,”…to say nothing about where Morgan takes Finton as you’ll see when you read this book. “I just want to corrupt you,” she says, fruit of sinful knowledge in hand—kinda.

          Finton’s mother Elsie constantly cleans. She scrubs dishes and swings her broom more industriously than the Dutch Cleanser missus dusts her doorstep. It seems as if Elsie’s life is a continuous effort to sweep away ugly dark stuff: “Elsie was almost religious in her ritualistic gathering of dust, hair, furballs, and bits of lostness to her dustpan.”

          …bits of lostness…

          I’ve probably mentioned before that my favourite dead English novelist is Thomas Hardy. Reading Gerard Collins’ stories reminds me of less-than-sunny Tom.

          Hardy’s novel The Woodlanders features a giant tree that might be, disregarding metaphor, just a tree.

          Forgive me, Gerard. I can’t help thinking of Hardy when Finton considers that Bridie Battenhatch—Battenhatch, jim dandy!—“looked a lot better from the distance of a high tree branch.”

          I know. My imperfect slant again.

          As do John in “Treed” [Cuffer Anthology II], and Finton Moon, I do understand the succour to be found up beyond where birdies nest.

          Sometimes, however, danger hangs among the boughs of a too flimsy fir.

          Once upon a time in a different bay, a callow bay-boy watched a movie in which some lumberjacks bobbed the tops off several of those humongous trees that grow out in British Columbia.

          Next day, said impressionable bay-boy dragged a bucksaw up a fir with a mere three inch butt, intending to imitate the movie lumberjacks.

          The bay-boy set the saw and made a stroke. The tree jerked. The saw jumped and ripped its teeth across frail human flesh.

          Look, the scar is still visible in the meat of my left hand.

          Thank you for reading.




Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thanks to a generous invitation from the Writers' Federation of New Brunswick, I'll be in Woodstock on October 20, reading from my published work and particpating in a panel discussion with the talented Joan Clark, author of Eriksdottir and An Audience of Chairs, among other acclaimed novels. Besides all the great literary stuff, there's an open mic (might I sing in public for the first time in over a decade, having recently turned down literally dozens of dollars to do exactly that somewhere else?) and music by young, accomplished singer-songwriter Babette Hayward.

This will be my first-ever visit to the great province of New Brunswick, and hopefully not my last. I'm truly looking forward to the opportunity to meet up with many of my friends who are from there and/or live there. An autumnal n the bordertown of Woodstock, just a few days before Halloween, reading from my decidedly dark works, Finton Moon and Moonlight Sketches, sounds like balm for my soul.

 Hope you can be there!


P.S. Check out the very cool poster from the talented graphic artist, Colleen Maguire. I'll be looking to abscond a copy of this for myself.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Lassoing the Moon: Buy it or win it!

The cooler autumn air has put me in a generous mood, so I'm running a brief contest to give away a copy of Finton Moon. The drawing will take place Monday evening (Sept. 10) at 7 p.m. Once again, I'll be putting the names into a hat (my artsy hemp fedora) and pulling out a name. If you want your name in the drawing, either drop me a line at or join me on Facebook, go to my post about the drawing, and click "like."

Meanwhile, I've received countless emails and Facebook comments from people wondering where they can buy either Finton Moon or Moonlight Sketches, and, though I've posted this information before, here it is once again, for your convenience.

Finton Moon is available Coles, Chapters, and Indigo stores throughout Atlantic Canada and at some of them across the rest of Canada. If your local bookstore doesn't carry it, you can just order it at the checkout, and they'll bring it in for you. It's also available from ( or have my books listed, but I'm not sure what their situation is n reality.) There are other outlets as well. Downhome stores (and their outlets) throughout Atlantic Canada will have it. That includes some airports, drugstores, and the occasional independent retail space. Moonlight Sketches was (and is) available in every province of Canada, and I assume the same will eventually be true of Finton Moon.

For those who don't live in St. John's (the hub of the literary world), however, one of the easiest, safest, and quickest routes is by ordering directly from my publisher. The publisher's assistant, Pamela, tells me that it takes only 1-2 days to process and order and ship it out to whoever orders it. How long it takes after that depends on the mail system both in Canada and wherever you are. Could be rural Newfoundland, Atlantic Canada, Nunavut, or another country altogether. They've even been known to ship books to the U.S. as well as Europe and as far away as Australia. The costs will vary of course, as it often costs substantially more to ship to foreign countries or even to other provinces.

Of course, if you want a signed copy, you can come to book signing. There should be one in October in St. John's, details to be announced, and I'll definitely be in Woodstock, New Brunswick for the WordsFall event on October 20. There might be more signings, perhaps even a reading or two. I'll announce them as soon as I know what's happening.

Hope this info helps in your search for quality, award-winning fiction about which Jean Graham of the Northeast Avalon Times says is "a razor-sharp portrait of much of what is worst and some of what is best) about small towns."