Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Dead Reckoning cover leaves author gob-smacked & thrilled


Any writer will tell you that, in the life of a book, one of the great moments is when you first see the cover. In this case, wow! Hats off to Alan Jones at HarperCollins Canada, who designed this cover for Dead Reckoning. The judges were unanimous, apparently -- the sales-and-marketing folks, editor Patrick Crean, and moi. And I, for one, am gob-smacked. How does he do it?
Six weeks ago, when I delivered a USB stick containing about 80 images to managing editor Noelle Zitzer, I said hello to Alan -- and drew his attention to one picture I especially liked. I had gleaned it from a large-format book, one of the glories of my personal library, published in 1877: Arctic Expeditions by D. Murray Smith. Alan liked the image, too.
He began working his magic, trying this variation and that, and also playing with other images -- with the fantastic end result you see above. OK, so this rendition is not final, final, final, if only because the Latin quotation is a placeholder. But it’s 97 per cent, near enough to count, and I am thrilled.
P.S. The book launches in September. Publicity director Colleen Simpson, literary agent Beverley Slopen.


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Kerouac's Ghost tracks the King of the Beats into the Sixties


News flash: The newly revised, final final final edition of my novel Kerouac's Ghost has just become available via Print on Demand. Yes, you can still get the ebook. But if you prefer to peruse a physical artifact, voila: here it is from Bev Editions. For the rest, I offer incontrovertible evidence that I am an obsessive reviser: would you believe four published versions? AND that the first version emerged from Pottersfield Press in 1993. Not only that, here's a taste . . . .

Chapter 21:
Jack Says Don't Do It 

If human consciousness is a neural megalopolis, then a psychedelic trip is a chart-blasting earthquake. It reduces buildings to rubble, knocks out communications, plunges the city into wounded silence. And if that city is a San Francisco of the Psyche? If it straddles a major fault-line? On Mount Jubilation, the rush of Frankie's first acid trip brought me not only that Haight-Ashbury experience but my own psychic adventure in Newton Center, Massachusetts, where with Allen Ginsberg, in January of 1961, I visited Timothy Leary. The guru-to-be was still working as a psychology professor at Harvard, supposedly chasing down a cure for alcoholism.
Leary told me psychedelic drugs could work miracles. They could change the world. They made religious experience universally accessible. I popped his mushrooms and relived a nervous breakdown I had narrowly survived in the navy, when I had ended up in the psychiatric ward because I thought I could see inside people's heads.
That trip shook me to my foundations. But it did not raze me. And later that year, when Leary produced more mushrooms in Ginsberg's New York City apartment, I chewed a dozen or so. Leary took me walking through the snowy streets of the Lower East Side and we tossed a loaf of bread like a football. Then I started hallucinating—saw buildings toppling, people turning into cackling demons. The usual horror show, with everything happening on several planes at once. Every sentence Leary uttered contained five or six meanings.
 Next day, I awoke to myself—but I wasn't the same. It was the morning after an earthquake. In some sectors, the destruction was minimal. Elsewhere, nerve centres and filters had been knocked out. I was disoriented. If objects could change essence without changing shape, a simple chair becoming a golden throne, how then did I know what I thought I knew? Reality was provisional. Our modes of perception were conditioned responses. Anything was possible.
Despite my differentiated consciousness, and my thirty-nine years of age, psychedelic drugs had reduced me to pre-adolescence. And here's the worst of it: the effect stayed with me. Months after that second psychedelic trip, during a thirty-day drinking binge that brought me, red-faced and ranting, to an old favorite bar in Lowell, Massachusetts, I met a ne'er-do-well steeplejack named Paul Bourgeois, an ex-thief who had spent twelve years in jail.
After listening to me rave drunkenly that my ancestors included not only French Canadians but North American Indians, Bourgeois concocted an insane story that spoke directly to the drug-traumatized twelve-year-old in me. Bourgeois was Moon Cloud Chief of the Four Nations of the Iroquois. He had just returned from Prince of Wales Island near the North Pole, where 3,000 of our people, half-French, half-Iroquois, were starving to death. Trouble was, nuclear submarines were cruising beneath the polar ice cap, polluting the water and contaminating the fish. As Moon Cloud Chief, Bourgeois was en route to Washington to complain. What's more, we were cousins, he and I, because two of the four tribes in the North were named Kirouac and L'Evesque, Memere's maiden name.

Incredibly, I believed all this, even when I got sober. I wrote letters telling friends that soon I would be travelling north to join my Iroquois brothers. And I hung onto this fantasy for six months. Eventually, I brought Bourgeois home to Florida where, under pressure from Memere, he confessed the truth and made me listen. Nobody understood it—how a cheap con artist with an eye for beer money could snooker a famous author. But that was because nobody understood the destructive power of psychedelic drugs. . . .