In this wild, stylish, wickedly funny debut, Shilo Jones charts the journey of three players caught in a high-stakes property development--a dangerous and depraved game that plays out behind the veneer of everyday city life.
Jasminder is determined. Carl is blitzed. Mark is righteous.
Unfortunately, they've pitted themselves against one another and they're throwing everything they have at the same condo development in North Vancouver. The Solstice deal promises what they want most for themselves--freedom, respect, status, wealth--and it is their chance to be truly "on the up."
Over the course of a week, the trio vie for their piece. But there are complex personal obstacles standing in the way for each. Jasminder Bansal, an aspiring journalist with a powerful ambition and a family connection to gangland violence, is playing a dangerous game to get the information she needs from a slick property lawyer with links to an international criminal boss. Carl "Blitzo" Reed, co-founder of an ecological investment firm, has a wildly distorted sense of reality and a morally questionable connection to the property. Mark Ward, a veteran of the Afghanistan War with a strong conscience, is barely coping with the effects of PTSD, but he's forced to call on the skills he has learned as a soldier in order to repay a debt to his criminal brother, Clint. Jasminder, Blitzo, and Mark use anything at their disposal to pursue their goals, and no one is left untouched: speculators, government officials, realtors, activists, builders, day-labourers, investors, lawyers--not even a potbellied pig.
On the Up introduces Shilo Jones as a writer with a singular voice. Here he gives us a raucous, biting satire, packed with bleak humour, outrageous characters, and pathos, that shows us what can happen when greed, desperation, will, loyalty, and an insatiable desire for status collide.
About the author
SHILO JONES has worked as a tree planter, a stonemason, an English instructor, and most recently, a stay-at-home father. He holds a BFA in Visual Art from Simon Fraser University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. He lives in Kelowna, BC.
Excerpt: On the Up (by (author) Shilo Jones)
Everything hinges on being believed. I've spent months angling to get inside the corruption story and finally . . . a meeting with the man who employs my brother's killer. Vincent Peele, real estate attorny and the youngest board member of Marigold Group, one of the largest development firms in the country. You don't rise that far and fast without—
"—this is maybe not the best idea? Friday evening, life-changing interview with the boss, what kind of guy am I, to spring that on you with zero notice?"
Vincent uses his teeth to remove his soaked riding gloves while I tell him no problem, it's an honour, I appreciate the opportunity. I wipe moisture from a plastic patio chair and settle into the persona I've created to handle him, keeping my voice quiet and my body language subdued. The trick to getting sources to speak freely is to appear non-threatening. Mentally rehearse my pitch, how I've improved my proactive sales-oriented attitude, the steps I've taken to craft strong relationships with—
Vincent leaps out of his chair, admires the mud splattered across his fluorescent yellow rain jacket. Like a child, it seems he's having a difficult time staying still. "Just went for a killer mountain bike ride. Look at me! covered in mud, maybe even blood. It's awesome! There are bears in the woods. Predators. March, they're hungry. See a bear, Jasminder? Not many bears where you're . . . anyway, cool. Tigers, though?" Vincent curls his hands into claws, pretends to snarl and scratch. "Do tigers still exist? Do I have mud in my teeth?"
Give him a you-must-be-joking hand wave, sip my tea, and decide he's the kind of okay-looking that, depending on lighting or mood, could easily become obnoxious. His face narrows from the square foundation of his beard to a sharp widow's peak. Precisely trimmed eyebrows. A mouth that hangs slightly open. He has the shitty habit of not looking directly at me, like I'm an interruption in an otherwise outstanding view. Vincent catches me sizing him up, gets the wrong idea, buries his fingers in his beard, says "uh-huh, yeah" under his breath, takes a selfie with the North Shore Mountains in the background.
I was hired as an entry-level sales associate at Marigold Group five weeks ago. Making cold calls. Harassing mortgage admin. Guiding clients to local sights. The probationary period is over. My hope is that Vincent called this meeting to hire me permanently. To get this story written I need access to his office, his files. “It’s wonderful to finally meet you, Mr.—”
“Wonderful, always, sure.” Vincent crosses right leg in front of left, bends at the waist, grabs his grimy cycling shoe, stretches, flexes his shoulders. “Mmm . . . brutally tight hamstring . . . jeez! Getting structurally integrated tomorrow, soma deep tissue, re-educate the body, heard of it? Nah, didn’t think so. Invented locally? Pretty sure, yes. Isn’t this great? Exercise and espresso! Simple needs. I live a very minimalist lifestyle, despite doing so well for myself.” Vincent looks up without breaking his stretch, nods toward a group sitting at a table on the other side of the outdoor café, lowers his voice. “Those people? Giving me stink eye for stretching in a coffee shop? Uptight, not real Vancouverites, not true West Coasters, stiffs from back east who don’t understand what makes this place so special. But anyway. I’m glad you came. Because I’m a very relaxed person, you know, not business-uptight at all, maybe too casual—I thought, well, how ’bout I call our promising new sales associate Jasminder Ba . . . uh, Bay . . . Bi . . .”
“—right now, and see what she’s doing? Give the girl some good news heading into the weekend. Brighten her day! Of course, you don’t mind?”
“Mr. Peele? Are you offering me a full-time sales associate position?”
Vincent waves toward the clouds ringing the mountains. “Look at this city. Nowhere like it! We are so. Lucky.”
We’re at Lonsdale Quay, seated under a steel and glass atrium on a paving stone patio a few steps from the Pacific. The corners of the structure have gone green with algae or moss or something that thrives in near-constant moisture, and the wind coming off Burrard Inlet inspires me to wrap my scarf more tightly around my neck. A blunt, red-hulled tanker inches beneath the Lions Gate Bridge, looks close to clipping the underside of the span. Seagulls shriek and dive into the ship’s frothing wake. “So lucky, Mr. Peele. And no problem about the short notice. I was close by. With family. In Stanley Park.”
Watch him, see if he clues into the lie.
“Family? I have some of those. Vancouver, ooh!”
It might even be. Everyone says it is. But I’m not sure anymore. Horizontal lines of slate-coloured water and depthless cloud interrupted by a skyline that appears blocky and indistinct, flattened, as if carved from a single mass. And a new tower rising in the middle of the downtown core. Needle-thin and twice as tall as the rest, made of platinum or chrome or a material not yet discovered . . . and an invasive organic growth erupting two thousand feet overhead, a plague or virus spreading toward the city. No. I take a second look. Of course the malformed skyscraper doesn't exist. Visions. Hauntings? The anniversary of my brother's death is less than a week away.
Praise for Shilo Jones’s On the Up:
“Like Elmore Leonard in yoga pants, Shilo Jones is the new black-hearted bard of Vancouver's get-rich-quick soul. Told in prose that is jazzy, foulmouthed, delirious, and poetic, On the Up manages to skewer the city's deranged real estate frenzy, its soulless greenwashing, and its vapid tech utopianism—all in the same breath. To read this novel is to witness the arrival of a writer of lacerating perception and insight. On the Up may not be the book that Vancouver wants, but it's certainly the book that Vancouver deserves.” —Michael Christie, author of If I Fall, If I Die
“I've never read a better novel about contemporary Vancouver. On the Up is a brilliantly self-assured debut.” —Annabel Lyon, author of The Sweet Girl
“Buckle up for On the Up. Shilo Jones takes readers on a blistering literary joyride through the frenzied, darkened heart of Vancouver’s real estate development culture. Leverage and lunacy in Lotusland. Venality and violence in YVR. Jones crafts a mesmerizing tale that needed telling.” —Timothy Taylor, author of The Rule of Stephens
“Jones' jagged prose mirrors his desperate characters, rattling off one another in a high stakes game of snakes and ladders. On the Up splatters the underbelly of a city across your floor-to-ceiling windows and then lets the light shine through.” —Andrew F. Sullivan, author of WASTE
“Jones presents a nuanced picture of the criminal milieu, complete with insomnia, paranoia, grief, and hopelessness. His exploration of hyper-masculinity is equally precise and humane.” —Quill and Quire