In the Cage on The Next Chapter

A little while back I recorded an interview for CBC’s The Next Chapter with pegacorn-like book champion Shelagh Rogers. I’ve done a little bit of radio before, on the Richard Crouse Show on Newstalk 1010 & iHeart Radio, though this one was the deep dive into book stuff and, mainly, the guts of my new novel, In the Cage, and what it took to write the story, and where it all comes from.

Despite all of that, and trying not to sound like a total hoser while yammering on, Shelagh was great and really loved the book (she even mentioned in on a FB video from CBC Books a few months ago, with Candy Palmater). She asked some excellent, well thought-out questions, and got some good answers out of me.

The segment played on actual radio back on October 30th and again on November 4th, but it is all archived here, on the CBC website, and you can listen to it anytime on there, or through their audio player. Also on the show were Alison Pick and Lorna Crozier, and you can find their segments there in the links as well.

Thanks the most to Shelagh, Barb Carey, and Dean, who recorded the show. I am grateful to have made it on the show, and to have my ramblings distilled into such a concise representation of the novel and what it’s all about. You are the best.

Also, big thanks to CBC Books for sharing the interview on social media and everywhere else. I very much appreciate all of those posts.

More to come as I collect my thoughts and get a chance to post between events and such…


John Irving asks me things for Electric Literature

In an extremely magical turn of events, the John Irving has interviewed me for Electric Literature, an outstanding literary website out of the US, with an impressive reach and readership. We worked on this awhile, as John asks very good questions, and I wanted to give those questions some good answers. I tend to go on, and cuss and say motherfucker more than I maybe should. Nonetheless, I think we figured it out.

You can check it out here, where we talk about my novel, In the Cage, and things like writing the rural poor, the real gravity of combat sports and training, and some of the reasons I write the way I do, including my literary influences, family history, and the place I grew up and why it is weird and had so many stories to tell.

This is a pretty solid primer for an event we’re doing that is part of IFOA’s All Lit Up series, and will take place at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto, on the 29th of November. That’s something that I’m really looking forward to, as I know that John can interview the hell out of somebody, and, when he’s into something, he gets right to the bones of it. I am honoured to do it, and hope that you’ll all come out if you like. It’ll be a good night.

Until then, thanks for reading all of this. I’ve just been out to Calgary Wordfest, did a launch in Edmonton at Audreys, and am now in Vancouver for Vancouver Writers Fest. My events are available if you click here. Tell everybody you every knew to check all of these things out.

Believe in your dreams…

I’m now represented by The Cooke Agency

I’ve been a little behind on updates, due to book and life endeavours, but I’m happy to share a few bits of news on here now that I’ve had the chance. The first one involves my finally deciding to seek representation again for my work, after some years flying solo and tweeting an unhealthy amount.

At the suggestion of John Irving, and after some very good in-person meetings, I officially signed with Dean Cooke and Cooke Agency recently. They are one of the most successful and respected agencies in Canada, and have a number of critically acclaimed, globally recognized authors on their list, such as Irving, Jeff VanderMeer, and Patrick Lane. As well as some of the best emerging writers I know of, including Trevor Corkum and Vivek Shraya.

They also have a number of co-agencies around the world to sell their authors’ properties, and the clout of Cooke Agency International. I met their whole team and talked over a lot of possibilities for the future, and was really impressed by what they had to say. I’m very much looking forward to working with them.

There was some interesting news this week, just after I signed, in that Cooke Agency is joining up with McDermid Agency, another fine company with agents that represent many of my friends and favourite writers. So, they’ll both be expanding their resources after that merger.

Dean has just gone to Frankfurt Book Fair, and I’m excited to see how that goes. In the meantime, I’m still touring In the Cage, and will be heading to Calgary Wordfest later this week, and Vancouver Writers Fest after that, all which I’ll talk about in a forthcoming post. Check out my events & readings page for more info on those events, and more

For any inquiries about my work, or rights questions, feel free to contact Dean and The Cooke Agency here.

Cheers. KH

IN THE CAGE got some good ink over the weekend

If you managed to grab the Saturday edition of The Globe and Mail, you might have seen this guy with the beard and a review of his book, In the Cage (now in stores), in the arts section. If you want to check it out, you can click here and read it online. It was a solid take on the book from author J.R. McConvey, and I have him to thank for quotes like the following (also thanks to Mark Medley for assigning the book):

“Hardcastle’s sentences are clean and hard, but the combinations are complex and deliberately crafted. Imagine the slow wrapping of a fist, knuckle by knuckle, and you get a sense of how Hardcastle tightens his narrative with a precision physics that’s grim, hypnotic, sometimes heartbreaking, always humane…

“Whether you like a fight or not, chances are, something in this novel will move you. In the Cage is a fierce, beautiful book.”

There was also a fine review of the novel in The Toronto Star on Saturday, written by novelist James Grainger. I liked his mentioning that the novel subverts some of the rote CanLit tropes we all have to deal with every book season, but didn’t agree on his ideas about how a fighter, and a man capable of violence outside of the cage, would inevitably have that bleed too far over into his personal life so as to more plainly damage his family and his relationship with his daughter, especially. It is a funny thing that has happened to me more than once in my career, being told some behaviour is implausible for poor, marginalized, or perhaps even violent people, but there is much evidence that there are multitudes contained within even the poor, even the criminally involved, and I wrote the story the way it was as a reaction to that.

Previously, some years back, this book was rejected by a big publishing house because they said poor people would have more familial conflict as a result of poverty, when my experience, being a poor person in a more or less loving and caring family, was that the family was tightest and least likely to get after each other when they were facing down real, serious exterior threats together. I also wonder, in Grainger’s reading, if being a “fighter” is equated with being “violent.” I talk about this in a few interviews this fall, but I think it is important to note, for someone who has trained, and experienced physical violence in the street, that I don’t consider an MMA fighter to be a barbarian or a participant in a violent act. It is a sport, and they are athletes. I would not assume a hockey player is the same person off the ice as they are on it, and nor should people assume the same of an Mixed Martial Artist. Daniel, of course, is not just fighting in the cage, but his extracurriculars do not come from any bloodthirsty desires. He starts small to try and make a buck and gets stuck in that world. And, the novel begins at a period when it has become truly violent, and that makes him determined to get out.

To be fair though, I did know that this reading was likely by some, and it doesn’t really hamper Grainger’s review or enjoyment of the book overall. He calls it a minor quibble, and those are part of the job. It’s also well within a reader’s rights to read a story differently that you intended, and I did get very nice lines out of the review, like this…

“Hardcastle tells this saga of lowered expectations in short, action-based (and often dialogue-heavy) scenes that forgo the internalized monologues, commentary and descriptive passages so prevalent in contemporary CanLit. The effect is to firmly anchor the action in a culture and an economy that negates the inner life and the ability to reflect upon and change the course of one’s actions. It also bestows upon the novel’s many fights, staged and spontaneous, and scenes of violence a thrilling immediacy.

“This is not to say that Hardcastle’s style is invisible. When the action demands, he successfully relocates the rolling, Biblical sentences pioneered by Hemingway, Faulkner and McCarthy to his small-town Ontario milieu, and the dialogue is as punchy as Elmore Leonard’s, though deliberately less comic.”

Not too shabby at all.  So, a pretty good little Saturday again, and I thank both reviewers for their time and words. Thanks to the editors at both papers too, the aforementioned Mark Medley, and the very kind Deb Dundas at The Star.

Cheers. KH

In the Cage has officially been published. A pretty good little Saturday.

Today is the official publication date of my novel, In the Cage, from Biblioasis out of South Detroit (Windsor), Ontario. I’ve had it for a little while, but it is always a weird feeling to land on the actual release day. The book is widely available, and in bookstores all over the land. You can also order it online through the following:


The above photo is from the Bay & Bloor Indigo in Toronto, just a stones throw away from where I first dropped my bags and drank my first university beer some 18 years ago, almost to this day. At Victoria University, within the University of Toronto. I’d gone to see Stephen King’s IT at the movies this past Saturday, and stopped by on the way out to see if In the Cage was in stock. As you can see, they didn’t mess around at that store, and that sort of hit home to see it on the shelves like that, especially so close to where I first started my post-secondary education, a pivotal moment for me as a human, and as a writer.

The fact that I’d seen a Stephen King movie beforehand was fortuitous, given that Mr. King was a formative influence on me when I was writing as a young person, and it was reading his books, probably far too early, than made me want to be a proper writer. And, at the time, a horror writer. I later traded in my horror aspirations for more historical, less overtly supernatural awfulness in the work, in no small part because of my reading Cormac McCarthy. But, I kept the focus on atmosphere and tone, above all, and learned the importance of writing real characters that the reader can empathize with, especially working class characters, and that all came from King first. Something that separates his work from many peers, even those deemed more “literary,” and that makes him such an effective writer of the downtrodden and waylaid.

I figured, since I was going down a nostalgia hole, I’d saunter through campus and see the old buildings and grounds where I’d spent those early adult years reading literature and getting my ass handed to me in my first writing classes. On the way through, I passed Northrop Frye Hall, where I took my second, and most significant creative writing course, with the great poet and professor, A.F. Moritz. That is where I got my stories hammered into shape, after a rough start to the course (Moritz did not like my faux-Kerouac ramblings or latent horror tics, soon to be abandoned). Those stories got me into grad school in Wales, where I did the work that became the bedrock for what I’m doing now. All that happened here, and without it, who knows where I’d be…

So, now the second book, and first novel, is here. All of the things I’ve mentioned are ingredients that went into it, somehow or someway, and it was strange to have so many of them involved in that one day. Nonetheless, they are appreciated very much. As are all of the people who worked on In the Cage at Biblioasis, foremost the mighty John Metcalf, and also Dan, Casey, Chris, Meghan and others who have come and gone. I’ve also made no secret of the debt I owe to readers Jenna Illies, Naben Ruthnum, and Kris Bertin. And to the kind endorsements and support of writers I admire, like Donald Ray Pollock, Waub Rice, and, especially, John Irving. Thanks also to Michel Vrana for one hell of a cover.

I hope that readers who find the book get a charge out of it. My writing isn’t for everyone, and it’s not for the faint of heart, or those who like their caricatures and tropes to stay put, but I’ve been lucky to have some loyal supporters and readers so far, and hope to build on that. I’ll do my best to keep writing stories that matter to me,  and that I think will matter most to my readers, however they’re likely to sell or be accepted by CanLit, whatever that is and will be as time goes on.

I’ll be touring in support of In the Cage throughout the fall, and perhaps longer if I’m lucky. You can find all of those dates and locations here. I’ll also have an interview featured on The Next Chapter with Shelagh Rogers this season, and have a few more interesting things in the works, like an interview between John Irving and me for Electric Literature, and that will likely be published after my US pub date of October 10th.

Until then, thanks to everyone, sincerely, for the support and for following my work. You are all champions and legends of the fall. In closing, to show my appreciation, I will leave you with this photo from my Saturday adventure where I made the mandatory post Vic trip past Trinity College aka U of T Slytherin…

Take care all. KH

In the Cage shows up on the Toronto Star Must-Read list, some new reviews, more…

In this past Saturday’s Toronto Star, my new novel, In the Cage, got a mention as one of the must-read titles for the fall of 2017. Thanks to the magical Deb Dundas. Here’s the link to that full article.

There were some other writers on there that I admire, like Naben Ruthnum, author of Curry, Dina Del Bucchia, with her new book Don’t Tell Me What To Do, and a fellow that I’ve mentioned in recent interviews as an influence on my work from the earliest beginnings, Stephen King. So that was alright. There are many other formidable writers on that list, so you should check them all out.

Otherwise, I’ve also got this nice review from fellow Journey Prize finalist, and Guelph-based ginger, Andrew Hood. The author of such books as The Cloaca and Pardon Our Monsters. Hood has posted his review on The Bookshelf, and you can find it there…

Thanks to Andrew for the words. They are on point, and I really appreciated his reading of the novel.

To that end, you can go on places like Goodreads and weigh-in with your thoughts on In the Cage, and post magical five or one star reviews. Hopefully with some kind of hilarious dismissal or endorsement of this thing.  I expect it to be equal parts liked and loathed, and that’s a good thing, given what goes on in the novel. So, please share your take on it if you are inclined.

More to come soon. Tomorrow is the big day. Though I have seen that people have got the book already, after ordering online or heading to certain booksellers. Thanks to those folks, and I apologize somewhat for the ruination of your feelings and your week.


Shelagh Rogers likes IN THE CAGE, other good things…

On Monday, I sauntered down to the CBC headquarters in downtown Toronto to record an episode of The Next Chapter with the magnificent Shelagh Rogers. I was apparently the first interview of the new season (though the air-date is TBA), and we had a good, hour-long chat about my novel, In the Cage, and many of the ingredients that went into it. As folks in the business know, TNC is a nationally syndicated program that gets a lot of listeners, and can really help you move some books. Not least because Shelagh is such a fine reader and interviewer and supporter of literature.

I enjoyed our conversation (I was told I didn’t suck entirely, but who knows?), and I hope you do too, and that it is interesting in as far as it explores things like writing craft, mining real life for material, and lesser-heard voices in this country’s literature. I’ll share the scheduled airing as soon as I have it (they have a very busy docket), and I hope you’ll tune in and listen.

The following day, I noticed that I got tagged in a CBC Books video where Shelagh and Candy Palmater discuss their favourite books leading up to the fall season. I didn’t know that I’d be on there, but Shelagh included it in her picks. You can view the video by clicking here, and please check out the full list of fancy titles both Shelagh and Candy chose by visiting this post on the CBC Books site. I owe Shelagh many beers…

CBC Books has been good to me over the last little while, along with The Globe and Mail, and I’ve also showed up on lists of writers to watch, and anticipated fall fiction titles. I’ve posted most of those links, but there is one more I’ll drop below, if you want to check it out. And please keep an eye out for other writers on these, like multi-talented jerk Naben Ruthnum, Canadian export to UEA, Eliza Robertson, and former Walrus fiction editor, and legendary U of T prof and cap-wearer, Nick Mount…

– 20 Works of Canadian Fiction We’re Excited to Read (CBC Books)

When there is more news or more reviews, I’ll report back about it and post the info on here. Also, my reading and festivalling and event list is building, so keep checking back on the Readings & Events page on this site if you want to know where i’ll be at and when.

Cheers. KH

CBC Books – 17 Writers to Watch in 2017

If you are looking for some books to read this year, by some of Canada’s best emerging writers, check out this list of 17 Writers to Watch in 2017, put out lately by CBC Books.

There are a number of authors on the list that I know and that I know to be excellent, such as Naben Ruthnum, with his new non-fiction book, Curry: Eating, Reading, and Race, and a forthcoming literary crime novel on the way. Also, Carleigh Baker, author of the short story collection Bad Endings, and fellow Trillium Award Winner Melanie Mah, for her novel, The Sweetest One.

Thanks to the CBC folks for including me on the list, and for spreading the word about all of our existing or forthcoming titles. It’s a honour to be part of it.


Preview Excerpt of In the Cage in The Globe & Mail, Most Anticipated List

In case you missed it in the print edition, the fall preview excerpt of In the Cage, along with a short Q & A, are up on The Globe & Mail website as well. You can take a gander at it all here, by clicking on this line.

Thanks to Mark Medley for setting this up, and to Dominic Bugatto for another magical bit of art to accompany my writing. I’ve been lucky with some really exceptional artists and designers producing accompanying work to my writing in journals, magazine, and the papers. And this is another very good bit of work.

I was also pleasantly surprised to see Mr. Medley’s post on Sunday, listing his most anticipated books of the fall season. It includes excellent writers and/or colleagues like Naben Ruthnum, Eliza Robertson, Nick Mount, Jessica Westhead, Michelle Berry, Kathleen Winter, and Wayne Johnston. For the full list, click on this line.

Thanks to the Globe for making my weekend. There should be some more profiles and interviews and reviews coming over the next few weeks, and I’ll post them as they appear.

Cheers. KH

In the Cage in Kirkus, Quill & Quire…

The mighty Kirkus Reviews has read In the Cage, and has posted a very positive review of the novel. Which you can read in full by clicking anywhere on this line. Here’s a little bit of it…

“This is a masterful mashup between genres, matching the masculine violence of the cage match with country-tinged, Mamet-esque dialogue that elevates these characters into rich portraits of desperate people living for sheer survival.

“A crime novel with the pulse of a sports drama and the bitter toxicity of the best country noir.”

Kirkus is a highly respected publishing mag, and very difficult to get reviewed in, so I am pretty damn happy with this take. I didn’t quite get their elusive Kirkus Star, but booksellers and librarians all over the place read up on the books included in there when they stock their shelves. Thanks very much to the folks at Kirkus, and to Biblioasis for casting a net far and wide for this novel.

The article about In the Cage, by Steven W. Beattie and featured in the Fall Preview issue of Quill & Quire, is also online now for those of you who did not see it in print. Find that by clicking this, and learn all about how I was just copying Hemingway and, later, copying Cormac McCarthy. THANKS, STEVE.

Now I am going to the beer gettin’ place…

Cheers. KH