Friday, 31 July 2015


DUKE STREET KINGS

 

Shameless Self Promotion

 

“If you read just one work of fiction this year, make sure it’s Duke Street Kings by Geoff Moore!” - meGeoff

 

“Epic in its scope, subtle in its nuance!” – meGeoff

 

“A towering achievement!” – meGeoff

 

“I laughed, I cried; what a stupendous rollercoaster ride!” – meGeoff

 

“An instant classic!” - meGeoff

 

Well, the early reviews of my new novel Duke Street Kings are beginning to trickle in. (Full disclosure: I, erm, wrote them - somebody had to.) The book is literally hot off the press and available now. The ink’s still wet.

 

The story details the dark larks and antics of a gang of ex-pat Montrealers reunited in Calgary and the eventual dissolution of their long standing mutual friendships. Duke Street Kings is certified 100-per-cent werewolf, wizard and vampire free.

 

Today is the first day of a soft launch. As summer winds down Duke Street Kings will roll into Canadian bookstores provided there’s shelf space available between the votive candle sets and the LIVE LAUGH LOVE throw cushions. The novel will soon be available on Amazon; be careful, don’t confuse me with the other Geoff Moore, a popular Christian musician. Preliminary plans are afoot for an e-book edition of Duke Street Kings and I hope that digital door remains ajar. During the month of September I expect to be roadrunning Alberta’s Highway 2 for reading and signing appearances in Edmonton and Calgary. There’s a decent deli halfway between the two cities in Red Deer’s Gasoline Alley. I’ve no qualms about hawking my books and I really love sandwiches.

 

On the lower right hand side of this page is a link to The Delete Bin, a music blog I visit frequently because it has always engaged me. If you’re inclined to jump over there on Monday, August 3rd you can read an essay I wrote detailing why the titles of both of my novels (Murder Incorporated was the first) were lifted from the songs of Bruce Springsteen.

 

A writer writes to be read. Warren Zevon said we don’t buy books so much as the time to read them. So I’m not actually trying to sell you anything here, I’m merely suggesting you should invest in yourself and use that time wisely. Spend it with me.

 

You can order advance copies of Duke Street Kings immediately directly from my publisher Falcon Press by visiting falcon-press.ca. In North America you can also reach Falcon Press by phoning 1-877-284-5181. Please note that online orders are strictly via PayPal. Telephone orders offer a little more flexibility. Those payments may be made either by cheque or e-transfer.

 
Bookmark meGeoff for future updates and news of Duke Street Kings.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015


A FAN’S NOTES

 

Not Our First Rodeo

 

Summer. We once again bought weekend passes for Edmonton’s Interstellar Rodeo music festival. The full fan commitment is reminiscent of your first part time job: Friday nights and weekends. Our experience last year was marred by an inconvenient death, the scheduling of the funeral and worse, the trays of rancid Spam sandwiches served up at the reception following the ritual.

 

Interstellar Rodeo, now four-years-old, is a Waring blender of music performed in a modest amphitheatre situated in the city’s verdant river valley parks system. You will hear roots, folk, country, rock and soul. Some of the artists are established, others are up-and-comers; some are old, some are young enough to sport really bad haircuts; most enjoy the vibe of the event and cheerfully mingle unmolested with the paying audience, a few do not.

 

Ann and I attend as seekers and so we will delve a little deeper into the recordings of Shakey Graves, NQ Arbuckle, and Black Joe Lewis who lovingly destroyed and reassembled a brassy version of the Stones’ cover of Robert Johnson’s ‘Stop Breaking Down.’ A large part of the festival’s charm, as Ann noted last Friday night, is its human scale and so we count on bumping into friends, relatives and neighbours without having to text them on site. These folks, these fans, have their own musical agendas too, ranging from The Wet Secrets and Justin Townes Earle to Elle King to Buffy Sainte-Marie.

 

The festival format is a mixed blessing. Organizers excelled at keeping a lively pace getting artists on and off stage, sets ranged from about half an hour to an hour. If you’re drawn by a particular artist, you will not get to hear a full concert. Conversely, if a performer doesn’t move you, it doesn’t become an endurance test. Besides, there are plenty of other things to do. Interstellar Rodeo has embraced Edmonton’s burgeoning food truck culture. Each artist is paired with a particular wine so there’s an extensive selection to be sampled. Drink tickets cost $2 apiece and a tall can of beer sold for four tickets; the rehab deal was 48 tickets for $80. There’s reasonably priced merch to be picked over and new this year was a market area featuring local artisans and small businesses.

 

I spotted an amusing trend among this year’s festival attendees. There was a tacit tee-shirt contest on the grounds. I was silently awarding points based on obscurity or what I hoped was irony. So a black Foreigner ‘Jukebox Hero’ tee was worth the same amount as a tee trumpeting some band I’d never heard of. Each one was worth more than the two ‘vintage’ ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ reproductions I saw combined.

 
My black tongue and lips ankle socks prompted this: “Excuse me, sir, what are your favourite Stones songs? I just bought ‘Beggars Banquet’ and was wondering what else to get.” I’m not sure what shocked me more, being addressed as ‘sir’ or meeting a young person willing to pay for recorded music. I suggested he buy ‘Exile’ and then fill the sandwich with ‘Sticky Fingers’ and ‘Let It Bleed.’ Cheers, kid, whoever you are and wherever you are. Same time next year. Maybe we can talk some more.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015


HUMAN WRECKAGE

 

Baptism of the Ball Cap

 

I wear ball caps frequently. As Edmonton is home once more I wanted one that offered up a nod to the city. A hockey Oilers cap was out of the question. Triple A Pacific Coast League baseball in this town is a distant memory, hell, so are the independent Canadian, Northern and Golden leagues. I settled on displaying my support of the football Eskimos.

 

The team’s entwined double E logo is one of the classier ones in sport and the club’s green and gold colours remind me of Alberta, specifically the green stalks and golden tops of the acres of canola you see from the highway. The trouble with most modern team apparel is that the designs seem intent upon making fans look like inbred Shrine Circus clowns. So it took me two years to find a suitable lid, a plain solid green cap with a gold embroidered EE which I bought last week for $20, my self-imposed spending limit.

 

New ball caps need to be broken in. The bill must be curved just so. The cats must nuzzle the bill’s rim and deposit muzzle goo. The headband needs to smell like my hair and my sweat. The sun, the rain and snow need to dull the brand new lustre.

 

Nobody ever hired me and paid me to be ineffectual and incompetent. One of the eye-opening lessons I learned early in life is that some people aren’t very good at their jobs. What’s worse is when you’ve actually employed them. Complaints and concerns tend to go unheeded once the cheque’s been cashed.

 

A year ago Ann had our gently pitched tar and gravel roof replaced with shingles. The front of the house is not a clean line from left to right, there’s a little zig above the steps leading onto the front porch. We spend a lot of time together sitting out under the shelter: talking; watching the street life serenade, the birds at the feeder hanging from the birch and the weather, which tends to roll in from the north. Given our habit and our suddenly volatile climate, Ann and I were quickly aware that the new eavestroughs and downspouts weren’t performing as promised. Water spurted and cascaded from all the wrong places. We grew some spectacular icicles last winter. Home improvements aren’t supposed to create new problems.

 

But the roofer’s an expert, right? This is how he makes his living. He disparaged members of his crew as idiots as good help was hard to find; we were not reassured. And anyway, it was likely my fault for not keeping the gutters pristine. And what was he supposed to do about last winter’s accelerated freeze and thaw cycle? Ice dams are damn tricky. As for freaky, violent summer storms…

 

Monday night the electric sky exploded in bursts of white and purple. The low clouds were science fiction orange. Wind marched the howling silver rain down the street in martial sheets. Ann and I sat out and sat up late to watch the show. I was wearing my new Eskimos hat. We realized that this moment was the opportunity to prove ourselves right to the contractor. The saturating night was no roofer’s controlled test with our garden hose tap opened a quarter turn. The lone spout in the backyard, the mouth of a lengthy, simple single gutter was a torrent, the ray gun snouts of our Dalek water barrels were spurting overflow. The downspout on the front left of the house was foaming but not working nearly as hard. Rainwater overflowed the trough above the front porch. The front right downspout emitted a mere chilly trickle.

 
I stood in the rain on our driveway and pondered the zig of our front eavestroughs, mystified. The pouring rain did its job working in my new hat, I was pleased about that. Ann called out the geometry from the lee of the front porch. The gutters must meet in a subtle V over our front steps. They slant away from their respective downspouts installed at each front corner. It doesn’t take more than a few fractions of an inch for water to pool and overflow or run where it shouldn’t go. I took off my cap to feel the cool rain on my face and work the sopping brim so its arc will be just so. I thought about the roofer: Well, well, well, it took a year, but we’ve got you dead to rights (and lefts) now, you arrogant idiot bastard.

Saturday, 18 July 2015


DUKE STREET KINGS

Finally, a Fictitious Reality

 

My first novel Murder Incorporated was published in 2003. It is out of print. Back then I was exceedingly grateful to my family and friends for its extraordinarily modest sales; Murder topped the Edmonton Journal’s best seller list for one dizzying week. My mother told me recently that I now have a new, borrowed copy, starry-eyed admirer in her Montreal seniors’ residence and that my latest fan is not demented.

 

A dozen years on my second book is just weeks away from market. Ann has been diligently reading every one of the 500 pages in the bound digital proof of Duke Street Kings. I love my characters and the story I wrote though I am so sick of the process, the initial cursive writing in Hilroy copybooks, the transcription into Word, the rewrites, the successive drafts, the endless revisions, and my own feeble attempts at further editing refinements. There have been discussions, debates and arguments with my small publisher. The novel is a couple of hundred pages too long, the chapters are too long, everything I’ve worked on for years is stubbornly against the currently accepted publishing grain. Well, yes, nor could I create the space for a deus ex machina werewolf, wizard or vampire in the plot.

 

Tearing a strip off the Xpresspost parcel yesterday was bittersweet. While some of the minutes and hours seemed to last forever, twelve years had flown by. The urge to dance naked was tempered by blue reflection: two divorces (and obviously one marriage), a seven year yoke of personal bankruptcy and an extended bout of mild, untreated depression during which I thought more frequently of suicide than sex. I tried very hard but I could never drink quite enough to properly execute a garage joist dangle. I packed in my job at the ad agency before the shop could pack me out. My father died last November on his own pacific terms. Worse was my older brother’s passing in 2012, so shockingly out of sequence. I remember thinking at the time: You go home and be with your family and watch the Habs; I’ll take your place on the gurney.

 
But life’s all right now, a certain wonderful grace survives in our home. Except for the problem with the delightful and compelling cover art. The designer must add another quarter inch of bleed all around the edges of her file so it trims properly and displays well on a retail shelf if (please, God) the cover’s facing out. It took so long to get this far, the slope has been steep. And somewhere within the thousands of words of text I can't abide rereading there’s a snake in the grass, a gargantuan grammatical error or typo everyone involved with Duke Street Kings has missed and which will come to the fore following publication only to keep me awake at night. Imperfection thrives in the dark.

Friday, 17 July 2015


EDMONTON EXISTENTIAL

 

The Duality of Water

 

When spring arrived earlier this year it neglected to bring its usual box of rain. Our first month of summer in these parts has been unusually hot and of course, unusually dry. Western Canada is aflame with wildfires. Two Alberta counties have already declared agricultural disaster. Seven others are toeing the cracked, cropless crusts of soil within their boundaries and contemplating the obvious next step.

 

Extreme heat in an urban environment cooks up its own dynamic; flashpoint explosions of irritation are hair-trigger. It is murder weather in a concrete jungle misty with the campfire smell and haze of distant fires broiling in the rays of the big hot orange sun. Police sirens seem more frequent and that much closer. A brown lawn within city limits is a picayune complaint. We may be plagued with grasshoppers but at least there are no mosquitoes.

 

The light of summer’s days lingers at this latitude. Last night I cleared out the spent, straw poppy stocks from the bed in the front along the property line. Tantalizing, teasing drops of rain dripped from the cool grey sky. The soil roiling torrent hit around midnight. Ann and I sat outside on the front porch to watch the rain and the lightning, and listen to the thunder. We shared a few golden moments until the welcome water began to stream off the roof like quicksilver panes of glass.

 

Our home’s roof and eavestroughs are new, less than a year old. And we’d both been up on the roof 48 hours earlier searching for a breech as we’d been hearing worrisome critter scritching in the airspace between the soffit and the roof, squirrel action. Jesus, what’s nesting in the attic? The troughs were immaculate; between us we managed maybe two fistfuls of tree debris. The mouths of the downspouts were clear, gaping.

 
Water is the stuff of life, especially on a parched prairie. Water is also insidiously destructive as it will always find its own way through and into places where it’s unwanted. The cool, cool crystal rain poured down last night, too late for farmers, but much, much closer to home through an invisible gap between the edge of our roof and our eavestrough. Ann and I looked at each other: This is not good, all this rain.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015


SAINTS PRESERVE US

 

It’s Not Me, It’s You

 

I’m currently immersed in a door stopping, wrist-breaking, bedtime belly-busting tome called Rise to Greatness by Conrad Black. The book surveys Canadian history from the first intermittent Viking settlements proximate to the Grand Banks fishery to the present day. Mr. Black posits that Canada is a unique place on Earth because we managed to shed our colonial yoke nonviolently, we have never suffered through a sustained civil war and, somehow, despite a shared respect for democracy with our neighbours south of 49, we never became one of the many United States of America.

 

Lord Black of Crossharbour infamously renounced his Canadian citizenship in order to accept a British peerage. In the eyes of the intricate American justice system he is a fraudster. While Mr. Black’s days as a media baron are done, he should be lauded in this country for his time as head of Hollinger when he transformed the Ottawa Citizen into an authoritative paper of record as befits a broadsheet in a national capital and his audacious launch of the National Post in 1998 which, by the simple virtue of competition, forced the rival Globe and Mail to become an even better newspaper. And the man can write.

 

Dribs and drabs from Mr. Black’s crumbled empire now trade publicly as Postmedia, whose CEO is a gentleman named Paul Godfrey. Mr. Godfrey is a Member of the Order of Canada. He’s also a bit of a dilettante, having left his mark in Toronto politics, sports and media. Mr. Godfrey was once president of the Toronto Sun, the mildly hysterical flagship rag of a murder and sports tabloid chain which pegs the lowest common denominator of its readership a few inches beneath Toronto’s deepest subway tunnel. He was instrumental in selling Sun Media to Quebecor (run by Pierre Karl Peladeau, the would-be dauphin of a sovereign Quebec) at an inflated price; as chief of Postmedia he bought it back for a song.

 

Postmedia’s results for its last financial quarter were spurting blood, not just red ink. Print circulation and advertising, and digital subscriptions and advertising are on the ground outlined in chalk. The dilemma for a pair of newspaper titans such as Mr. Black (still a major investor in Postmedia and a weekly columnist) and Mr. Godfrey is how to sell the news in this day and age, oh boy. They’re butting loggerheads. A conference call late last week with business reporters indicated that the men have parted ways at a fork in the road back to profitability.

 

Edmonton’s two daily newspapers, the Journal and the Sun are both owned by Postmedia. Mr. Godfrey sees obvious, expensive redundancies: two newsrooms, two printing plants, two digital platforms, two admin departments; all of which make for one complex org chart. The same concentrated state of affairs exists in other Canadian markets including Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa. Mr. Godfrey has arrived at the conclusion that it is no longer practical for newspapers to compete amongst themselves; scoops are for ice cream and wouldn’t it be nice if Breyers bought a four-colour double truck. The enemy now is a tech company like Google and to the victor the spoils of advertising revenue.

 

The National Post is an anorexic shadow of itself. It does not publish a print edition on Mondays during the summer months. The once essential weekend edition is now a pointless purchase as a goodly portion of its content is reproduced in the Edmonton Journal. Mr. Black’s contrarian message to Mr. Godfrey was refreshing. Stop slashing costs, stop churning out generic newspapers, invest instead in quality of content. His views align somewhat with an existing public awareness campaign called JournalismIS (JournalismIS.ca). Its message to readers (and scanners) is Sesame Street simple: reliable information comes from reliable sources. Vested sponsors include Postmedia, the Globe and Mail, universities with well-regarded journalism programs and industry-relevant unions and associations.

 
Responsible journalism is an objective lens through which we can view the social media deluge of press releases, Facebook apologies and slick YouTube partisan presentations. The Internet has transformed certain businesses, upset the operating model of some and killed others. It has also distorted our values and our perception of value. Saving $5 on Amazon will help kill Main Street in our towns and that’s okay as long as the shipping is free. A torrent of gratis illegal downloading has somehow become an expectation if not a right. In our wi-fi world and in the realm of informed news and opinion, a first-rate, third party filter is worth subscribing to and yet Mr. Godfrey can’t seem to see the benefits of good editorial for the pulp.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015


SAINTS PRESERVE US

 

I’m Ready for My Close Up, Mr. Jobs

 

This morning’s edition of the Edmonton Journal was downright disconcerting. There was nary a picture nor a word about hockey savant Connor McDavid. What did catch my attention was a short, unaccredited wire service story datelined Moscow, Russia: Police there have started a ‘Safe Selfies’ campaign.

 

At least ten Russian citizens have shed this mortal coil in 2015 whilst taking self-portraits with their smartphones. Authorities are suggesting that maybe rooftops and railroad tracks, while scenic, are not the most prudent locales. Oh, and posing with loaded weapons or tigers is probably unwise. I imagine that posing with a loaded weapon and a tiger on a roof above train tracks is probably just asking for it.

 
Human stupidity is of course boundless and knows no national borders. However, provided the ‘Safe Selfies’ news gets through to someplace like, say, Mariupol, Ukraine I can picture a scene in a cafĂ©. A man puts down his newspaper and says to his companions, ‘You know what? I think we can beat these guys.’

Sunday, 5 July 2015


HUMAN WRECKAGE

 

Life Sort of, Kind of, Imitates Advertising

 

Our neighbourhood is in the throes of extensive utility upgrades. Holes have been dug on our street and in our backyard. I smoke 20 to 25 cigarettes a day, so if the gas company wants to lay new and safer lines I’m pretty much okay with the inconvenience as more often than not I’m puttering around with something akin to Mrs. O’Leary’s cow between my lips.

 

When I was growing up in the 60s cola drinks were a no-no, they rotted your teeth and caused acne. Sophistication then was my parents entertaining or hosting a bridge night, my father would sometimes slip me a glass of Canada Dry cola with lots of ice and a wedge of lime on the rim and I would take it down to the basement to sip and savour as I watched Gunsmoke or Rat Patrol. Across the street my friend Mark’s family always had twisty, twirling bottles of Pepsi in their fridge. The ultimate was a cold Coca-Cola guzzled right out of a Depression glass green bottle. Afterward I could drop a saliva rope to my kneecaps and then reel it back in or speak an entire sentence whilst belching.

 

Children’s palates evolve. Eventually the staples and treats of childhood no longer entice. Forty years on and in my fourth advertising job I was privileged to work on various aspects of an agency’s Coca-Cola account for some 14 years. I knew it was time to get out when I realized I felt little other than contempt for a Fortune 500 company and one of the world’s great brands. When a client calls a vendor a partner, all it means is that the client’s problems must now be shared – or else. Atlanta dictated my employer’s means of production to ensure that we would utilize other ‘valued’ partners thereby slashing our production margins to zero, renegotiated our agency’s long-established billing rates and then indicated that outstanding invoices would not be addressed for as long as 120 days. Any trickle down from that particular soda fountain was effectively shut off.

 

Today I can smell the wildfires burning in northern Alberta and eastern British Columbia. Rainfall was sparse this past spring. Summer storms threaten but never burst. It is Africa hot. We welcomed a visitor into this type of peculiar drought last month. All of our amber rum is gone now but we were left with a half case of mix, Coke. Last week a gaggle of gas workers gathered on our front lawn under the shade of our birch to munch their lunches, seeking some respite from the midday heat. They all wore heavy blue coveralls and heavy boots, salty sweat on tanned young faces.

 
While Coca-Cola in recent years has been ruthless with its employees and vendors in its efforts to maintain its blue chip stock status, its advertising message has always been social democratic: share. So I served up ice cold Cokes to the crew lounging on the grass in our yard, a seemingly thoughtful and simple gesture, intended mainly to get rid of the excess Coke. But here’s hoping the gas boys in blue will in the next few days be a little more painstaking with their fussy work on our property. We’ve no wish to be blown to Kingdom Come next time I light up.