As a federal by-election begins in the small town of Newton, Ontario, the body of a local teenaged girl is discovered drowned in a nearby lake. An investigation soon confirms it is a suspected homicide.
For Ian Guthrie, a journalist for the local paper, the death of this young girl is eerily similar to a suspected homicide more than two decades before of a young woman – one who was romantically involved at the time with a current candidate in this by-election, Kent Wolseley.
Wolseley, recently returned to Newton, has made a name for himself as a rising star within his party and is rumoured to have leadership ambitions.
As Guthrie begins to look into the similarities of the circumstances surrounding the two girls’ deaths, he soon realizes there may be a connection to Wolseley, one his party and the campaign machine around him will stop at nothing to suppress.
“Black Irises is a rare gem. John Delacourt has written a page-turning crime novel that can sit alongside the best in literary fiction. You’ll fall into his lush prose, marvel at his rich characters, and ponder some powerful issues, all the while racing to read just one more page, just one more chapter. I loved it.” – Terry Fallis, author of The Best Laid Plans
Purpose of this Crowdfunding Campaign
I want to give those people who I have either worked alongside in Ottawa or out across this country on political campaigns some purchase in a story where I have done my best to capture the world they know so well.
I also want to give those who might recognize the fictional place called Newton a kind of reader’s key to this small town, and give them a share in this specific enterprise of remembering.
I have been told that those who are involved in – or simply care a great deal about – politics in Canada don’t read fiction, that the subject doesn’t lend itself to the serious business of storytelling (such as it is, both in seriousness and as a business). I just don’t think this is true.
My last novel, Ocular Proof, published last year, took place in Europe and took on some big themes. Though Black Irises takes place in small town Ontario, the canvas seems just as colourful, and the characters just as significant. I would like to think my readers might agree.
What Your Contribution Will Do
Your contribution will help provide for the editing, design and printing of Black Irises as it goes from final draft to book form.
Black Irises is my second novel. My first, Ocular Proof, was published in 2014. My short fiction has appeared in numerous publications in North America, including the New Quarterly and Black Heart magazine. I am also the author and co-creator of more than ten plays, two of which made Toronto’s NOW magazine’s “Best of” lists in the late nineties.
I studied at the Humber School for Writers after graduating with an MA in English Literature at the University of Toronto. Soon after, while teaching and writing plays and short fiction, I became involved in politics. I now work in a communications role with the current federal government.
Aside from writing fiction, I have also written for television and have reviewed books for the Ottawa Citizen and the Ottawa Review of Books.
Excerpt from Black Irises
Lake LeSueur was six miles out of town, up along the ridge of the escarpment. It was gouged into the limestone bedrock as the glaciers retreated, a cut so straight and deep the waters did not mix and churn. There was just layer after layer of sediment that went so far down that whatever floated to the bottom would never be recovered. Arrowheads, pistols, compasses encased in brass, wedding rings cast off by widows long since dead, it was all down there, a record of ages out of reach, far below the murky spectrum of emerald light. Lake LeSueur is where they found the floating body of Sydney Brewin.
It all happened because of the season’s change this time of year, Peggy Vaughan said. “This is what happens every fall out in the country now, once they get back to school. Remember when we were kids it was motorcycles and boys? Now it’s the girls and all the summer romances ending. That’s all that’s changed.”
It did not need any further explanation for Peggy. She took one last sip of her second coffee of the morning then unpeeled a chalky blue stick of Dentyne. Super Mom, the coffee mug read, emblazoned with a caped blonde that could have been a stripper. Or Peggy thirty years ago. No sugar in the gum, three sugars in the coffee.
“Still they can’t find the boy. Gallant says they’ve got a dog and handler up there. Probably going to get an OPP chopper to cover the area,” said Guthrie.
“Bruce said that? How does he know?”
“He got here first this morning. Phelps, the constable, he lives two doors down from him on Morton. Bruce must have called me before seven. Hadn’t even had my coffee.”
“Well they’ll find that boy soon enough. Where’s he going to go?”
“All I know is Gallant’s got me on this. Five hundred words for noon.”
“He should do it himself if he was talking to the cops.”
“Those days are over, Peggy.” Guthrie grinned as he took in the smoked glass door of Bruce Gallant’s new office. He could make out the faint silhouette of the new editor-in-chief at his desk.
“He’s probably got nothing else to do, believe me.”
Guthrie turned to grab his notebook from the mounds of newspapers, magazines and scraps of paper on his desk. He wasn’t going to take the bait and respond.
“Andrew Fisk … never heard of the Fisks.” He had an arm through his jacket and was walking towards the double doors now, his gaze fixed on the scars in the floorboards as dark as cigarette burns. “Maybe from the new subdivision?”
“Not Fisk, Trask. Andrew Trask. He worked at the Hallmark with my niece Ashley. She said he painted his fingernails black.”
“So, double suicide.”
Peggy nodded, solemn as church prayer. She turned over a page of the Toronto paper in front of her, licking two fingers with a sharp intake of breath. Scanning for the lottery numbers. So frustrating, they were in a different place in the paper from week to week.
“I should be a couple hours at most. There’s this and I’ve got to file the council story for Gallant by six.”
“Nice drive. All the colours now, the whole line of maples on Daly. The leaves will all be falling by the weekend.”
“I’ll call in if I’m coming in later.”
Guthrie took the long route up the escarpment. He drove slowly as he sipped his espresso. He could take his time; the council story was half done. The farmers’ fields rolled out in lines of broken stalks of corn. He flicked down his window and took in the morning air. The tilled soil was still dark and heavy with the smell of the rain last night. The sun was warm on the sleeve of his jacket.
There was a line of new campaign signs along the chain link fence of the quarry. What caught his eye first were the red and the orange ones with the names he couldn’t quite place and would not remember. There were no blue signs save for one square on the corner by the traffic lights, easily the size of four of the others. This one had a photograph of the candidate under the big blue letters that announced what Gallant had called “the prodigal’s return” in his column last week: vote Kent Wolseley.
Guthrie still hadn’t really reflected upon Kent’s return to town after more than two decades. Maybe it was inevitable; he should have understood thirty years ago, when Kent Wolseley had first become conscious of how his forelock looked, tousled so, and of how to jut his chin to signify purpose and drive, that he was already creating a role for himself here. The whole soap star approach to handsome was still there in this photo on the sign, even if the jet-black hair was flecked with grey, the cheeks had become slightly puffier and the gaze into the camera was now strangely unfamiliar because of the crow’s feet around Kent’s eyes. Kent Wolseley, Guthrie’s first best friend, was expected to win this by-election by a landslide.
And he could still remember Kent as he was at nineteen, extending his hand across the table at the Brunswick Tavern to shake with that theatrical courtliness, a gesture more for the new friends Kent had brought with them out for drinks rather than one of genuine reconciliation, because that night he and Guthrie had just cut short the argument that ended their friendship. And though they had met a handful of times since then over the years, even reconciled perhaps, Guthrie realized now that he would have been better off if he had stood down that night. Now it seemed that not much else mattered than what time did to you, and Kent Wolseley had understood that far better than he did.
Or maybe he just always had better luck.