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This Marlowe longlisted for the 2018 International DUBLIN Literary Award

Continuing a tradition of celebrating the best and brightest literary fiction in the world, the longlist for the 2018 International DUBLIN Literary Award was announced Monday morning in Dublin. The 150 books eligible for the award were nominated by libraries in 111 cities and 37 countries worldwide. Amongst the 14 Canadian books named to the list is This Marlowe, an historical novel with a contemporary edge from Newfoundland novelist Michelle Butler Hallett. 

Said Butler Hallett when she heard the news, “I’m knocked-over thrilled to be nominated and very grateful to everyone who's supported me and this novel.” 

“Perfectly paced and gracefully wrought, This Marlowe is superior historical fare.” — Toronto Star 

Set in 1593, This Marlowe opens with the reign of an aging Queen Elizabeth, who reigns from the throne while two rival spymasters — Sir Robert Cecil and the Earl of Essex — plot from the shadows. Their goal? To control succession upon the queen’s death. The man on whom their schemes depend? Christopher “Kit” Marlowe, a cobbler’s son from Canterbury who has defied expectations and become an accomplished poet, playwright. . . . and spy. 

In this psychological thriller, Michelle Butler Hallett fleshes out the historical record with insight and authenticity. Her 16th-century England, surprising and fresh, offers historical figures both famous and obscure, casual descriptions of quotidian life, and vivid representations of cruelty and violence that reverberate with echoes of our own time. But it’s Kit, the fascinating Marlowe, an endless source of brilliance, passion, and defiance that brings the novel to life.

“Complex, lyrical, and with a profound sense of a world long passed and humanity’s eternal motivations.” — Quill and Quire 

This Marlowe was nominated by the Saint John Free Public Library. Other Canadian nominees include Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien, The Break by Katherena Vermette, and 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad. First published in a hardcover edition by Goose Lane Editions in March 2016, This Marlowe will be released in a trade paperback edition on December 5, 2017. 

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Interview with Michael Kaan, GG Award nominee for The Water Beetles

As you may know, Goose Lane author Michael Kaan's debut novel The Water Beetles has been recently shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award for Adult Fiction.

Michael was nice enough to find time in his busy schedule to answer a few questions for us.

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Ian Weir's Favourite Draculas

However you want to say and/or spell it—Halloween, Hallowe'en, All Hallows Eve, The Dentist's New Ferrari—October 31 is indisputably the spookiest time of year for manufacturers of high-fructose corn syrup. With this in mind, we asked a few Goose Lane authors, past and present, for some personal, highly suggestive lists of Halloween recommendations, avoidances, and/or reminiscences.

Today's lister: Ian Weir

Ian Weir is the author of Daniel O'Thunder and Will Starling. His new novel, the forthcoming The Death and Life of Strother Purcell, will be published by Goose Lane Editions. He lives near Vancouver. 

Top Ten Favourite Draculas (or reasonable substitute)

1. Max Schreck as Count Orlok, Nosferatu (1922)
Max Schreck, Nosferatu
2. Bela Lugosi, Dracula (1931)
Bela Lugosi, Dracula
3. Christopher Lee, Dracula (1958)
Christopher Lee, Dracula (1958)
4. Klaus KinskiNosferatu the Vampyre (1979)
Klaus Kinski, Nosferatu the Vampyre
5. Willem Dafoe as Max Schreck, Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
Willem Dafoe, Shadow of the Vampire
6. William Marshall, Blacula (1972)
7. Frank Langella, Dracula (1979)
Frank Langella, Dracula
8. Louis Jourdan, Count Dracula (1977)
Louis Jourdan, Count Dracula (1977)
Gary Oldman, Bram Stoker's Dracula
John Carradine, Billy the Kid vs Dracula
Honourable Mention: Robert Quarry, Count Yorga, Vampire (1970)
Count Yorga
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Interview with Jocelyn Parr, GG Award nominee for Uncertain Weights and Measures

As you may know, Goose Lane author Jocelyn Parr's debut novel Uncertain Weights and Measures has been recently shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award for Adult Fiction (as well as the Concordia University First Book Prize from the Quebec Writers' Federation).

Jocelyn was nice enough to find time in her busy schedule to answer a few questions for us.

1.      What was the impetus behind Uncertain Weights and Measures?

A friend happened to loan me a tremendous book called Making Things Public: Atmospheres of DemocracyIn it, I found a very short, very intriguing article which described the brain institute that displayed Lenin's brain in the early Stalin years. The way the institute combined science, politics and something akin to a reliquary intrigued me, so I wanted to read everything I could find about it.

It turns out, there wasn't much published about it because the history of the institute had been systematically erased once the cult of Stalin surpassed the cult of Lenin. When my sources ran dry, I started inventing.

2.      Did your novel change at all once it was accepted for publication? 

It changed quite a bit. My editor, Bethany Gibson, was the perfect combination of challenging and encouraging, so in part due to her, I cut one character and vastly expanded another. In total, I added about 15,000 words, or 60 pages, to the manuscript that year, but I probably added even more, given how much I cut.

3.      How do you feel having your debut novel be nominated for The Governor General's Award for Adult Fiction?

It's a tremendous recognition. I feel very lucky.

4.      Did you ever think such your work would achieve such an honour?

I hoped it would happen one day!

5.      What has the reaction been to the nomination?

It's been a dream: my loved ones are over the moon, my students and colleagues are surprised and impressed to see me cast in the new light of "writer" as opposed to "historian," and the community more broadly has shown an excitement about the book that has been very rewarding.  

6.      In Canada, the big literary awards are the GG, the Giller Prize, and the Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. What do you think of the fact that, for the first time since all three awards have co-existed, not one single book appears in more than one list?

I'm really glad you asked this question. This year, publishers had to deal with different constraints on how many books they could submit to a given award, so this may explain, in part, why the lists are so different, but I think a broader explanation is that there were likely many, many excellent books vying for those coveted top spots. 

What these lists tell me, and what I hope they tell readers in Canada, is that there is something beautifully arbitrary about which books make lists like these. The juries are composed of people, after all, and although they are esteemed writers themselves, I doubt they'd describe themselves as the perfect judges of all things literary. Instead, they know a good sentence when they see one, and they recognize craft, and they fall in love with characters, and they are intrigued and moved and awed in mercurial ways, just like the rest of us. 

I can only imagine that the juries had long and difficult conversations as they tried to convince each other which books deserved the kind of attention that comes with such nominations. That the lists they produced are so different could be due to different books having been submitted, but I think they're also due to different readers making the selections, which is to say that had there been other juries, a whole other set of books might have been nominated. Our question, then, as readers, should be about those yet-to-be-discovered books, the ones that might have nominated had the jury (or wind, or universe) been different. 

8.      Can you say what's next for you, or is it a secret?

The next book I'm working on is a book that explores the relationship between my family's history and settler colonialism. For the past two hundred years, my ancestors have lived all over the so-called Commonwealth and our movements have manifested the patterns of settlers the world over. The book is a reckoning with that in light of the calls to action put forth by 2015's Truth and Reconciliation CommissionIt's written as a series of short interlockingpieces, some tender, some hard.

Thanks, Jocelyn!
Reminder: Winners of The Governor General's Literary Awards will be announced on November 1, 2017!
Jocelyn Parr was born in New Zealand, but grew up on Canada's West Coast. Her writing has been published in France, Germany, and Canada and in magazines such as Matrix, Grain, and Brick Magazine. She now lives in Montreal, where she teaches history at Dawson College.
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Ten Terrifying Historical Tidbits, with Michelle Butler Hallett

Michelle Butler Hallett, Ten Horrifying Historical Events

However you want to say and/or spell it—Halloween, Hallowe'en, All Hallows Eve, Celebration of the Thrown Egg—October 31 is indisputably the candy industry's spookiest time of year. That in mind, we asked a few Goose Lane authors, past and present, for some personal, highly suggestive lists of Halloween recommendations, avoidances, and/or reminiscences.

Michelle Butler Hallett writes fiction about violence, evil, love, and grace.  She is the author of the novels This Marlowe, deluded your sailors, Sky Waves, and Double-blind, and the story collection The shadow side of grace. Her short stories are widely anthologized: The Vagrant Revue of New Fiction, Hard Ol’ Spot, Running the Whale’s Back, Everything Is So Political, and Best American Mystery Stories 2014.

Top 10 Terrifying Historical Tidbits

I’m a history nerd, so I present a list of ten bits of history that scare the hell out of me.


One flea. One bad year: 1665. Plague takes England, again, and those who live in the village of Eyam pray the plague will pass them by. The tailor has ordered some cloth from London, and it arrives—infested with fleas.

EyamWithin a week, the tailor’s assistant succumbs to the horrific Black Death. Others become ill and die. The village waives a rule about burying the dead in the churchyard; residents may bury their own dead on their own property, and they must do so with all haste.

Then, a decision.

Eyam will shut down.

No one may enter. No one may leave.

Two options present themselves at this decision: starvation and death.

The endgame: keep the plague within the village.

The people of Eyam stare down death in a terrible solitude of many.


Q: Why is Lubyanka Prison in Moscow the tallest building in all the Russias?

A: Because you can see Siberia from the basement.


ankylosing spondylitisThe disease ankylosing spondylitis can, as a worst outcome, fuse the spine into one long bone, often deforming it first. This process takes decades and causes mobility problems and agonizing pain. For decades, medical students are taught that this poorly-understood disease is one of men, that it happens four times, ten times, more often to males than females. Therefore, goes the lazy perversion of horses-not-zebras medical thought, women don’t get ankylosing spondylitis. You’re a woman. You develop ankylosing spondylitis. Your spine deforms, fuses. It takes many years. You suffer absurd agony. No one believes you.


A woman working as an advanced scientist in the 1930s: just imagine what she had to overcome to become a paediatric psychologist in a patriarchal culture. Then she took over an organization which would give physical education and social training to other girls.

Just imagine how much Jutta Rüdiger must have enjoyed running The League of German Girls—roughly analogous to the boys’ organization Hitler Youth—from 1937 to 1945.

Just imagine how she claimed never to have approved of League members being forced to shoot anti-aircraft guns and die when bombed.

Just imagine her relief when, after two years of detention after the war, she is not charged and set free.

Just imagine how she goes to work every day in her medical practice as a child psychologist.


The railway: lines, energy, transport, even across this empire, the largest landmass in the world. She lies in bed, miserable with fever and pain, watching the Trans-Siberian Railway etch itself across the ceiling. The trains run late more and more, a sign of the troubled days. Papa has gone to war, but he is coming home now, on a train. Good thing, too, because life has become quite confusing. Soldiers who once protected her and her family by keeping people out now work to keep her in. This palace: a prison. Sometimes the electricity is cut. She and her adolescent siblings very sick with measles and pleurisy and pneumonia. Misery and high fever mean no travel, not even to escape to another country, perhaps England with Cousin George? Oh, what an idea. Then again, the family has made the voyage before, yet she knows your family must move. Her mother knows it, too, not that you can catch her eye or get more than two words with her. The ceiling above gets lower, and each day gets stranger, darker, colder. All these years worrying about her baby brother and very little bump and bruise: when will someone worry about her and the other sisters, for a change? When will Mama worry about her? Call her by name and not “one of the girls?” Papa’s train—surely, he’s not been detained by the revolutionaries, no, unthinkable—Papa’s train is so late.


After a romance shot through with rebellion and the frisson of the forbidden—and shot through with a short term in prison—John and Anne Donne start their married life together. John, however, for daring to flirt with and love Anne, has lost his plum job.

The couple end up far outside London, away from fashionable society and good connections…away from any gainful employment. The children arrive, a steady parade of squalls and sickness and death and joy. John gets a job. However, he must travel, and leave Anne behind, Anne who is, as ever, pregnant. John needs this job. John wants this job. John takes it, makes the travel, leaves Anne behind, does what must be done.

Eyeing his bed one night, ready for sleep, he’s interrupted.

By Anne.

She stands there, pale, hair down over her shoulders, cradling an infant. She holds the infant out for John to see.

The infant—so still.

Not long afterwards, John receives word that Anne has given birth, and that the infant has died.

7. SOVIET JOKE NUMBER TWOGeorgy Konstantinovich Zhukov

During World War Two, Marshal Zhukov, head of the Soviet forces, storms out of a meeting with Stalin, muttering “Murderous old moustache!”

An office worker overhears this and alerts Stalin. Zhukov is immediately summoned back to the Kremlin, to Stalin’s office.

“Marshal Zhukov,” demands Stalin, “what did you say as you left our meeting?”

Zhukov stands very straight, refuses to look down. “I said, ‘Murderous old moustache,’ Comrade Stalin.”

The office worker gasps in horror, expecting Stalin to order Zhukov’s terrible exile or violent death on the spot.

“And to whom,” snarls Stalin, “did you refer?”

“Why, to Hitler, of course.”

“Ah,” says Stalin. Then he fixes his little yellow eyes on the office worker.

“And you, comrade? To whom did you think Marshal Zhukov referred?”


All her life, she choked on the stinks of salt water: fish guts, brine, seagulls, sweat, because all her life she’s seen only water when she looks out the front window. So much water. How far, this ocean? How deep?

No. She refuses to surrender to the ocean, to be yet another woman who lights lamps, wrings her hands, and prays at drafty windows, desperate for a glimpse, a sound, of returning men. Let them fish, if that’s what they want. But don’t expect her to hang around, waiting for them to die off, one by one. It’s 1929, an entire world out there waiting to be found—some of it already reaching even St Lawrence via undersea cables.

Communications at last. Still, she will leave St Lawrence come the spring.

Communications already severed. That storm the other night tore down the telegraph line linking the Burin Peninsula to the rest of Newfoundland. It’s November, already bitter cold, likely a snowstorm tomorrow, maid, wouldn’t be surprised.

Just gone after five o’clock, get the supper dishes off the table, one more dreary task to—

Plates rattle across the table and fall to the floor.

This sudden shaking: another flu? Down to her bones. Down, down, down to the bones of some buried god.

And it stops. People stagger about; words refuse to come. The clock reads seven minutes after five.

An earthquake, she decides, comfortable in her book-learning. Yes, here, on the south coast of the Dominion of Newfoundland. Why not? A bitterness in the wind: snow tomorrow, almost guaranteed. Please God, not yet.

Around half past seven: shouts. Boats fall over in the harbour because nothing holds them up. The stink that rises from what one man calls the ocean’s arse: the bottom, sighted for the first time, because the water has retreated.


Gone where?

So much debris? Would one find bones? Will they still rise incorruptible?

So much water, so much depth.

Where is it?


They who dance must pay the piper. On a 1976 evening, he rubs the back of his hand over the stubble on his jaw, smells the swampy Washington air, and tries to recall where he heard that bit about the piper: from Ewen, at that dinner in…no, the one in…gone.

Memory flits for him some days. He’s trained his memory to go blank, to submit to convenient amnesia, if only so he might sleep at night. Such slippage occurring by itself? He scowls.

A sales rep called Bob explained the paper shredder: capacity, long life, reduced noise.

What else did Ewen say that night, something about giving back to one’s society? Yes, even and especially those too frail to look after themselves must give back something. Any decent person would.

Were these people in their right minds, and such a tragedy they were not, surely they would understand his reasoning and agree with it.

Perhaps one day, when Ewen’s cures took, the subjects would do just that.

Thank you, Doctor. And thank you, Director, for giving me the chance.

Patients, not subjects. Must call them patients. Patience.

He'd shown great patience over the years. Decades. Slow and methodical research. Never mind the new frontier crap; this was deep frontier, the settlement not of a swatch of land but of the human mind. Because you could be damned sure the Russians did exactly the same, perhaps worse. And he had worried: long nights sitting up while the rest of North America slept the quiet sleep of the protected. Were the studies humane? Were the studies useful?

Were the studies on budget?

Pay the piper.

One drug, one simple drug to inject into a vein, to break down a man’s resistance and compel him to answer questions. A new level of decency in espionage and even open warfare. No need for torture when one had a needle. No more torture.

Getting to that needle, however, to that drug…God damn it, the commies were right on one thing: the ends justify the means.

Those jackasses in the White House got their panties in a twist over the means. Sob stories, left, right, and centre. Then the investigating committee. What is this, a witch hunt? Called themselves the Church Committee, what, bringing about the wrath of God on honest men who’d served their country in its darkest needs?

Get rid of the records, the boss said.

So he examined shredders. Many files. Many minds. Suffering, yes, but suffering for the greater good: why could John Doe and Mary Roe not grasp that? And just as history, as a record of what was done, and how, and to whom: should that not be preserved, somehow? If we keep tax records for decades…

The boss said, Get rid of the records.

Ewen would understand. He’d want those records preserved. Ewen, who served as President of the Canadian Psychiatric Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychopathological Association, the Society for Biological Psychiatry, and the World Psychiatric Association, terms often overlapping, Ewen would want those records kept. Ewen might even have talked the boss into keeping them. Ewen, however, had been so thoughtless as to die. He died climbing a mountain, with his son—died happy.


Bob the sales rep hadn’t lied. The shredder ran quiet.


Five precepts for the Soviet intellectual:

  1. Don’t think.
  2. If you must think, then don’t read.
  3. If you must think and read, then don’t write.
  4. Oh, dear. If you must think, read, and write, then don’t sign.
  5. Very well. If you must think, read, write, and sign, then don’t be surprised.


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