Our December pick for the Canadian Living Book Club is April Fool by William Deverell, a whodunit set in southwestern B.C. (Click here to read an excerpt from the book.) We chatted with Deverell about his novel, his characters and his favourite causes.
Canadian Living: What inspired you to write this book?
William Deverell: My fans. Reviewers. Everyone under the sun seemed to be urging me to bring back Arthur Beauchamp, the protagonist from Trial of Passion, a novel I'd written several years earlier and which won the Dashiell Hammett award. I think I finally understand why readers find him so engaging and (frankly) loveable -- it's because of his many frailties, his weaknesses: he was presented in that earlier novel as troubled, self-doubting, driven to impotence by a vibrant wife whose infidelity rendered him an alcoholic cuckold. In April Fool he retains similar human faults -- and, as my neighbourhood bartender once told me, people admire weakness in others if for no other reason than it makes them feel better about themselves -- especially when the character is a high-ranking member of that powerful and much-denigrated profession, the law.
CL: Like Arthur Beauchamp, you are a lawyer by training who has chosen a peaceful life on the Gulf Islands over practising in the city. What other similarities does Arthur have to you?
WD: I was hoping you wouldn't ask that question. I am now forced to insist with as much vehemence as I can muster that I am not an impotent alcoholic cuckold. But I am also forced to admit that Arthur's retreat from the city was inspired by my own, that I also felt burned out by the courtroom and that I too read poetry, listen to classical music, and am married to an organic gardening activist. One takes inspiration for his characters where one finds it -- in this case, my life, my career (and my own inner insecurities).
CL: April Fool revolves to a great extent around an environmental issue -- preserving land from development. Why did you choose this as a theme?
WD: I have long been involved in environmental causes, particularly on the Gulf Islands, where I have strongly opposed thoughtless developments (one of them right next door to us) that are causing great harm to a unique ecosystem that is supposedly protected by law (the B.C. Islands Trust Act). I fear I am one of those eco-neurotics who run around depressing everyone with bad news about the planet. But I also fear we humans are threatening the extinction of one species too many (ours) if we don't wake up to the dangers threatened by climate change and exponential world population growth.
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CL: Do you think it's part of your role as a writer to bring awareness to issues that are important to you?
WD: Yes, but not to hammer people over the heads with my views. My first goal is to entertain, and if readers appreciate some of my underlying messages, all the better.
CL: What is your favourite part of this book?
WD: The ending, I suppose. It's always such a joy and relief to get there. But while I also enjoy the whodunit guessing game with readers, I often laugh out loud as I'm working with some of my picaresque island characters -- who are (by the way) all coming back in my next novel, Kill All the Judges, to further harass Arthur Beauchamp.
CL: If you were organizing a book club meeting about your book, what are some things you would ask readers to discuss?
WD: a. The interweaving of plot lines (the murder case against Nick Faloon, the battle to save Gwendolyn Valley). How do you think that works?
b. The story is told in the present tense and from alternating points of view: Beauchamp and Faloon -- does that structure succeed?
c. Arthur Beauchamp as an enduring character -- do you want to see more of him; if so, why?
d. Do I raise issues (political, environmental, legal) that interest you? If so, why?
e. Who would you see starring in a film version of the book?
f. U.S. publishers often complain I am "too Canadian" for their readers. What comment would you make about that?
CL: What books and authors are you inspired by?
WD: Usually someone I'm currently reading. (Right now, John Lanchester, before that my friend Michael Dibdin. Next up Kazuo Ishiguro's latest.)
CL: Are we going to hear more of the adventures of Arthur Beauchamp?
WD: You bet. He has a lot of miles to go before he FINALLY retires. Hopefully, if things work out, you'll see him on the screen as well.
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