Hazlitt Interview with Daemon Fairless, author of Mad Blood Stirring

A little while back I heard about an author called Daemon Fairless, who had been a reporter for the CBC but moved on to work on a novel about male violence, called Mad Blood Stirring. After talking with a number of people about the book, and learning a bit more about it, I got the chance to interview Daemon and dig deep into the topics he covers in this fascinating debut work of non-fiction. That interview is up on Hazlitt now.

I’ve yammered at length on panels, on the radio, and at readings, about how readers’ inability to squarely look at violence as it truly is, as opposed to some hyper-realized version, or some opaque idea of it, is a real problem. It is especially apparent in how we absorb popular Canadian literature, as evidenced by when viewers had to sit through Canada Reads and see brilliant, important books like Cherie Dimaline’s The Marrow Thieves, and Omar El Akkad’s American War, get dismissed by baffled panelists as too “alienating.” (That is in here too).

Unfortunately, violence in literature and in life is not really what the average reader, or writer, believes it to be. It changed my outlook on everything when I read how Hemingway wrote physical violence (I discussed that at length in this WIR post for Open Book Ontario from 2015, along with my whole take on writing violence well), and the writers I admire all have found ways to write violent and despairing things while maintaining a beauty and artfulness in the craft of their writing. If you want to write about violent things, and deadly, catastrophic things, you have to write them properly. If you do, the weight of those words increases exponentially, and the impact will be real and lasting.

I was sent Fairless’ book, Mad Blood Stirring, by two different people at Penguin Random House, and I can see why they sent it over. We had a lot of shared experience with violence, though very different lives, and we both recognized each other as people who have just put their toe in the water, but at least have an idea how deep that water gets. As a result, we had a long, open talk about the book, and the ideas within.

So, check out this talk on Hazlitt if you like, by clicking this line, and, if any of it intrigues, you should pick up this book and dig in. I know there are a lot of “maleness” books out there these days, but I also know that we need the good ones to stem the tide of dipshit “public intellectuals” who are peddling their wares and doing their damage for ego and profit only. Further, books like this, and a few others out there, are a welcome reminder that we should look at an issue like male violence for what it is, equal parts horrifying, complicated, and important. In any case, we follow these threads and more in the interview, and I hope you’ll give it a look.

Thanks for reading. Cheers. KH

In the Cage optioned for film/TV

Now that it has been finalized, I can tell you all that my debut novel, In the Cage, has been optioned for film or TV. This has been in the works a little while, but a lot of these deals take some time to get done. The rights were sold to Jason Buxton and Festina Lente by Paige Sisley at Cooke McDermid, on behalf of Biblioasis. Buxton is developing the project for screen.

These film options don’t always lead to Winter’s Bone level magic, and that is why you need an agent to make sure that you’re selling rights to a place that actually intends to produce the film or show, but Jason has a great vision for the adaptation, and I think this has some legs. It’s still early days, but I’ll share news as it comes.

You can read the Book to Film release on this in Publisher’s Weekly right here. And you can find In the Cage here, if you haven’t checked it out already.

Literary critic Steven W. Beattie on my story, Old Man Marchuk

Literary critic Steven W. Beattie, regularly of the Quill & Quire, among other publications, has been doing a series called 31 Days of Stories for May, where he talks about a different work of short fiction every day. Turns out that he decided to cover Old Man Marchuk, the lead story from my 2015 collection, Debris.

Beattie had one of my favourite reviews of the collection back when it came out, and that showed up in The Globe & Mail. My editor, John Metcalf, was a fan of that review also. Mainly because Beattie really dug into the writing at a sentence level, and broke down the stylistic choices that were being made below the surface. He does that again here, but goes even deeper into this one specific story.

Anyways, you can check it out by clicking this line. And you can still find Debris, as well as my novel, In the Cage, online and at many actual real-life bookstores. Thanks to Beattie for continuing to champion the work. Cheers.

Prairie Fire Magazine reviews IN THE CAGE

Hey everyone. I hope everything is going swimmingly. Here’s a review in a very good Canadian literary journal, Prairie Fire, about this novel I wrote called In the CageIt’s been out there for about a month or so, but I’ve been waylaid by writing things and jurying writing things, so I’m getting to a number of book updates now.

“Hardcastle’s writing could be compared to that of Hemingway, Cormac McCarthy or Ken Bruen. His pared down sentences scrutinize a way of life that is rough and unrelenting… the author has found his own style, is in command of his pen and knows his subjects. He strips the facades from our comfortable lives and jolts us into the hard lane of life, and we soon acknowledge that living on the edge is difficult and downright heart-breaking.” – Mary Barnes – Prairie Fire

I sincerely thank the writer Mary Barnes for this one, and I really do appreciate her close reading of the novel. I didn’t think anymore reviews were coming in at this point, so I was pretty jacked up on mountain dew when I saw her take on the book. You can read the full thing by clicking this line.

Thanks a bunch, Prairie Fire, for putting this up. You are good folks. Cheers. KH


Things that I’m doing in 2018

Hello everyone. It has been pretty quiet over the last little while, what with book things winding down at the end of 2017 and winding back up somewhat at the beginning of 2018. Nonetheless, I do have a few readings and events coming up that are worth mentioning, for folks that might be interested.

  • Common Reading Series – The Bell Jar Cafe – Toronto, Ontario – With Amy Jojo Jones & Cherie Dimaline – February 19th, 2018
  • IFOA Weekly presents ‘What’s Life Got To Do With It?’ – Toronto, Ontario – With Mayank Bhatt, Terri Favro, Catherine Graham, Kevin Hardcastle and Grace O’Connell – Hosted by Lisa De Nikolits – March 7th, 2018
  • Junction Reads – Toronto, Ontario – Guest Author – March 25th, 2018
  • GritLit: Hamilton Readers & Writers Festival – Hamilton, Ontario – Guest Author – April 12th to April 15th, 2018
  • Talk at the McLaren Art Centre – Barrie, Ontario – Guest Author – May 4th, 2018
  • Festival America: Littératures et les cultures d’Amérique du Nord – Vincennes, France – Guest Author – September 20th to September 24th, 2018
  • Wordstock Sudbury – Sudbury, Ontario – Guest Author – November 1st to November 3rd, 2018

These are all findable on my readings & events page on this site, and I’ll update any new readings or appearances there as they emerge.

I’m looking forward to the festivals especially, including GritLit in Hamilton, and Wordstock Sudbury, which both seem like great municipal literary happenings. The craziest one of the year is my being asked to participate in Festival America, an international literary festival that takes place in Vincennes, which coincides with the French publication of In the Cage, by the renowned Parisian publishing house, Albin Michel.

I’ve been working on translations of both In the Cage & Debris with Janique Jouin-de Laurens, and my editor there is Francis Geffard. They’ve published translations of writers like Donald Ray Pollock, Marlon James, and Stephen King, and are a formidable literary force in Europe. So, I’m very interested in seeing how the French receive my work. I’ve heard only good things about their passion for good writing, and for their enthusiasm for reading literary crime and the like, and novels authored by those that I truly admire and have looked up to over the years.

Otherwise, I’m some chapters into the next novel, and will be back in the short story tumbler soon enough. It took a lot of time and energy to get the first novel to where it got to, and I’ve been busy with some prize juries and other endeavours, but it is time to cut my teeth on some new writing, and lots of it.

Take care. KH


In the Cage reviewed in ZVZZYVA

Hello errbody, and happy new year. I’ll likely put up something more about the year that was 2017 and some of the things that happened, and that are germinating for 2018 in writing-related life. But for now, here is just a quick bit of news that happened over the holidays, when most were busy doing things or trying to hide out in their hobbit holes.

I got this fine review in ZYZZYVA, one of the most respected literary journals in the US, based in San Francisco. You can read the review in its entirely here. Thanks the most to reviewer Bjorn Svendsen (and to the mag), who said about In the Cage

“Genre fiction is often criticized for its recurring tropes and boilerplate plots, but Kevin Hardcastle’s novel proves otherwise. In the Cage is both fresh and haunting. It is a novel of grace and brutality, and the balance between them.”

I’ve long been trying to get US readers to check out my work, especially those who like the writing of, say, Cormac McCarthy, Daniel Woodrell, Donald Ray Pollock, and so forth. It’s a tough go to get your book into people’s hands in the mess of novels published each year, so this is a nice surprise and a welcome happening right as we move into another year and look forward to some things that’ll be going on in 2018.

More to come soon. Thanks again, and happy 2018. May all of your dreams take flight of the wings of a pegacorn…


In the Cage amongst the Globe & Mail and National Post Books of the Year

I’m a little slow to post here, but In the Cage ended up making both the Globe & Mail and the National Post best books of the year lists. I’m in there with some very fancy writers like Eden Robinson, David Chariandy, Naben Ruthnum, George Saunders, Carleigh Baker and many, many more. So that is far, far better than a kick in the junk.

If you want to check out the full Globe list you can find it here, by clicking on this line. The novel likely made it in based on the recommendation of writer & reviewer, J.R. McConvey, so I gotta thank him for that, and for his earlier review of In the Cage, which you can find by clicking this.

You can find the full Post list here, by clicking your ass offIn the Cage came in hot at #97, but it still made it, so fuck it. I got a good review earlier in the season from Robert J. Wiersema, and you can check that out here.

There’s another thing or two to post before the year is up, and I’ll do so shortly. I’ve also got some upcoming fests and readings that I’ve confirmed, one of them to coincide with the French publication of In the Cage, and that one made me pee a little, and will take me across the Atlantic. So that is pretty alright. More soon…

Happy Friday, all.

Tonight I talk to John Irving at IFOA Weekly

Thanks to IFOA Weekly, and the generosity of the majestic John Irving, I am going to be at Harbourfront in Toronto, tonight, in conversation with the man himself about my novel, In the Cage. As it says on the poster above (official by IFOA I swear), we will discuss “survival in the rural underclass and what it means to pursue a noble life for one’s family.”

There will also be plenty of discussion about writing, process, the ingredients that go into a narrative like this, and the challenging nature of writing so intensely about poverty, violence, and people who live on the margins, while still maintaining a feeling of hope throughout. If you want a great primer on the talk, check out my Electric Literature interview with John, which will likely inform our talk tonight.

The event information is right here, if you click this line. Tickets are $10 and free for IFOA supporters and students. Hope to see you all there. It’ll be a good one.

Cheers. KH


More good reviews of IN THE CAGE

There have been some new reviews of my novel, In the Cage, that have recently appeared in the papers and on the internet and such. I’ve been touring around and doing readings, so I’ve not be posting as much as I’d like. But, regardless, here’s some more good ink for this book I wrote…

Somehow I missed this piece in the National Post by Robert J. Wiersema, who previously gave Debris one of its best reviews a couple years back, in Quill & Quire. In any case, you can find the full review of In the Cage by clicking this line. Wiersema says of the work:

Through Hardcastle’s style – sentences plain and broken, glinting with moments of beauty even in the depths of violence and pain – we become part of Daniel’s world, part of the very structure he fights against, inside the cage and out.”

There was also a very good review in the Winnipeg Free Press by Rory Runnells, who says, among other things: “Hardcastle shows a mastery of form and storytelling worthy of the attention he has received.”

You can click on this line to read the rest of the review. Thanks to Mr. Runnells and to the WFP for this one.

The screencap at the top of this post is from a  tweet about the novel review by Sally Cooper in the recent issue of Hamilton Review of Books. Check the rest of that one out by clicking here.

Also, there were some very nice blog reviews of the book. The first was by Anne Logan, and you can take a look at it on her blog I’ve Read This. I met Anne at Calgary Wordfest and she is #1. She also keeps tweeting photos of my book with her cat, so that is alright.

There was another on Consumed by Ink, the excellent book blog by Naomi MacKinnon. Here, In the Cage was called “far from heartwarming,” and that is very accurate. You can find the full review by clicking on here.

Last but not least, Steven Buechler has recently reviewed both of my books on his blog, The Library of Pacific Tranquility, and you can find the In the Cage review here. He really gets into the writing voice and sentences, which is something I always appreciate.

For his Debris review, click here. THANKS, STEVEN. And everyone who has taken the time to read these things I wrote, and write some stuff about whether that experience sucked or did not at all.

That’s all I got today. I’ll be posting again soon, now that I’m back in one place for the most part. Thanks, all.