Three Canadian novelists will be in the Comox Valley over the Labour Day weekend. Friday evening, local writer Colin Mallard will be joined by authors Lawrence Verigin and Randy Kaneen at Sweet Surprises Gluten-Free Bakery and Cafe (across Cliffe Avenue from Zocalo Cafe), from 7 to 9 p.m.
On Saturday and Sunday, Mallard, Kaneen and Verigin will be at Kitty Coleman Artisans Festival in the Artists Glade between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.
The three authors use stories to engage readers in a discussion of relevant topics of concern to us all.
Colin Mallard’s novel, Stillpoint, was a finalist in the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards for general fiction over 80,000 words. It has climbed to eighth out of 183 in the Goodreads list “Books on the Israel-Palestine Conflict.”
Stillpoint enables readers to understand the roots of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Why would Hamas send rockets into Israel, for instance, knowing that for every Israeli killed, 30 Palestinians will die – most of them women and children? What is our part in this conflict and what can we do about it? Although much of the novel takes place in Israel, Lebanon and Gaza, the context is global. Stillpoint is a love story to the great mystery of life. It takes the reader into another world, one with which we are all intimately familiar – our nature as human beings.
Drawing upon years of study in Eastern philosophy, Mallard helps us see ourselves and our role in the current conflict. Although the conflict appears to be geographical, he posits, it turns out to be deeply personal. The story itself suggests another way of being – grounded in the principle of softness. What if, asks Mallard, we saw events through the lens of truth, the facts, whatever they are, instead of our dependence on belief? Beliefs are not the truth, they’re just beliefs.
One reviewer said of Stillpoint: “[It] is incredibly well researched, well executed, and the reader gains an in-depth understanding of a most complex situation almost without realizing it.” Another noted: “I picked up this book not really knowing much about the conflict between the Jews and the Palestinians and what was really going on in Israel. It surprised me by how easy it was to get drawn into the story and how as a reader I understood what was going on very quickly.”
Mallard’s two previous books, Understanding and Something to Ponder, focus on the wisdom of Taoism, Zen and Advaita Vedanta. These earlier works of his, both non-fiction, have between them garnered seven awards.
Lawrence Verigin’s novel Dark Seed is a thriller, which recently made the Amazon top 100 bestseller list of Canadian spy thrillers. It is the story of a well-meaning scientist, Dr. Carl Elles, a pioneer in genetically modified organism engineering. Now retired, he wants to organize decades’ worth of his work into a memoir and come clean about how research was modified to suit the desire of his last employer. And here it begins.
Most of us have faith that the food we eat is safe, but what if the company altering the genes for the seeds used in our foods has ulterior motives? Is it possible that the likes of corporate greed and control of the media and people are harbingers of something more sinister, something of greater import than producing nutritious food? We are reminded that advances in science are not always used for good.
One reviewer said of Dark Seed, “Even if you take away the cat-and-mouse game that spans international borders, even if you take away the non-stop feeling of uncertainty in whom you can and cannot trust, [the] story will leave you questioning … what you thought you knew about our food chain … [The book is a] veritable parfait of treasures, that will leave you hanging on your seat wondering what the next leg in the journey will bring. But be warned, if you give yourself to this book, you will walk away a changed person.”
Another reviewer commented, “Verigin will keep you on the edge of your seat, late into the night. When, bleary-eyed, you head out for the day, you’ll find yourself avoiding certain foods like the plague.”
Verigin’s goal is to entertain readers while delving into socially relevant subjects. He does this very well.
Randy Kaneen’s novel, In Search of Sticks, was a finalist in the 2013 Literary Fiction category of the Somerset Awards, which recognize emerging new talent and outstanding works in contemporary, mainstream, and literary fiction.
In Search of Sticks is a book of hope. Hope that emerges from the poverty and disease of those trapped in a geography of violence. The story is set in both Canada and an imaginary Third World country in Africa. Here we find major players on the world stage – with a striking resemblance to Canadian mining companies – engaged in “resource extraction,” evidently with little consideration for the people whose homes and land are devastated by their actions.
Kaneen has painted a deeply moving portrait both disturbing and hopeful. James, the Canadian protagonist in the novel, finds himself wrestling with questions we must ask ourselves, questions which only the reader can answer. What can we do, what responsibility do we bear for the suffering of others? Is our comfort and affluence built on the backs of the poor in places we’ve never heard of? Despite Kaneen’s vivid portrait, however, we also become aware of those who do not sell their souls to greed – their victories, their smaller stories, and their sheer numbers.
“A gem!” is how one reviewer put it. “Kaneen tells two distinct stories … one set in Africa and the other in North America. Prepare to be inspired by James who undergoes a dramatic personal transformation as he pursues his passionate quest [for] social change. Fascinating too are the stories of Rose and Hope, young African women who must cope with horrific conditions … almost biblical in their scope and power. Kaneen deftly weaves his stories into a mesmerizing tale that brings together two vastly different worlds.”