Wednesday, 28 October 2015


October Is Guy Month

Even the most ardent fan of any particular sport will agree that his passion’s season runs too damn long, that there are way too many games. And yet, the dipping point of fan fatigue and overly-saturated coverage seems as mythical as King Arthur’s Avalon and peak oil. This time of year, when frost-bitten falling leaves can sound like gentle rain, is the hyper-convergence of the seasons: baseball is down to its nitty-gritty; college and pro football in both Canada and the United States are going full bore; soccer’s being played in North America and across the pond; results from the early slates of hockey and basketball games now matter. ‘October,’ says Mickey the Goalie, a character in my novel Duke Street Kings, ‘is Guy Month.’

The story relates the fates of a quartet of Calgarians, all of whom were born and raised in Montreal and go way back. The plot unfolds over the course of 21 or 22 weeks, the year is 2002 or maybe 2003. Because I’ve never been able to make a living writing fiction I tend to write what I know because it takes less research, time I haven’t had the luxury of having or have merely squandered. Consequently, a goodly portion of Duke Street Kings is set in a pub. In my experience conversations over beers (and overheard ones) have ranged from profound to hilarious, to outright bizarre, a rich unseemly seam to mine for a writer.

The trick was to get these four characters into the pub regularly. So I gave one fellow ownership and ensured two of his friends resided within staggering distance. I still needed a weekly draw and the idea of a darts league or a quiz night did not appeal. Sports would be the lure. My first thought was AAA Pacific Coast League baseball as Calgary had a team called the Cannons (who have long since migrated to Albuquerque, N.M. and are now the Isotopes). Baseball has been well served in literature; I’d no wish to compete with the myriad of mythology as I felt my main background setting would necessarily become the ball park. Hockey was problematic too. The NHL season is a wintry grind, tickets are expensive and, anyway, anyone who came of age in Montreal in the 70s would only pay to see the Canadiens and never, ever, ever switch allegiances wherever they may live.

When I moved out west in 1990 one of the first things that struck me was the fever the Canadian Football League incited on the prairie, it really mattered. For me, it was fun to get caught up in the enthusiasm; pubs and bars charted buses to get their patrons to games, newspaper sports sections overflowed with features, reports, analysis and opinion. I even worked with a guy who moonlighted as the Edmonton Eskimos’ costumed mascot. After I was transferred to Calgary I bought and kept Stampeders season’s tickets for four or five years.

The CFL became the glue of Duke Street Kings, one game a week, secondary yet crucial to the plot. The league’s various franchises allowed me to write about our vast, regionalized country. My characters could (and did) get out of their watering hole to travel Alberta. Our game permitted a hometown denouement in Montreal. Best of all, I’d never read a word about Canadian football in Canadian fiction.

And though it’s indeed Guy Month, Duke Street Kings is not a novel about sports. It’s a tale of friendship and betrayal, ordinary people inadvertently messing up. If you’re intrigued to read, visit or (in North America) call Falcon Press in Vancouver directly at 1-877-284-5181.

No comments:

Post a Comment