From one of Canada’s finest writers comes a masterful novel about the clash of art and advertising, the cultish grip of celebrity and the intense connections that can form in times of crisis.
An unidentified man storms a television studio where KiddieFame, a controversial children’s talent show wherein kids who are too talented are “killed off,” is being filmed. He is armed with an explosive device, and issues only a single demand: an interview with journalist Thom Pegg. It’s a strange request, everyone agrees. A disgraced former investigative journalist, caught fabricating sources, Pegg is down on his luck and working for a lowly tabloid. The demand surprises everyone – Pegg most of all, and he is reluctant to play a role. But pressure from federal authorities leaves little choice, and so it is that Thom Pegg finds himself the envy of all the high-level journalists on hand as he makes his way into the darkened studio to uncover the truth.
Outside, as the hostage taking heads into its third day, enthralled and horrified onlookers watch the drama unfold through a constant stream of media speculation and rumours that race through the crowd. In the throes of this crisis two characters – one running from former glory and the other from corporate burnout – meet and instinctively connect. Eve is an Olympic gold medalist and much-loved local daughter who jogs the city’s streets at night and searches for her long-lost brother, Ali, in its shadowy corners. Rabbit is a secretive street artist who is just completing a massive project involving strange installations on the rooftops of hundreds of buildings throughout the city. Both carry the scars of their pasts, and seem to be searching for a way to become whole.
It’s a fearful time, when people have serious doubts about the future and about each other, yet are compelled to come together to vent their anxiety and make themselves heard. Outside the studio, chaos reigns, and Eve and Rabbit must navigate police checkpoints as they skirt the unruly masses in pursuit of the truth of what happened to Ali. Inside the studio, however, it’s all about control, as Pegg listens to the hostage taker’s story and begins to realize the terrible, violent truth about what he has planned.
When the crisis comes to a head, events collide and riots grip the streets. Prospects seem bleak as the tension of the hostage taking is unleashed upon the city. But when Rabbit’s secret installation is finally activated, people are shocked into seeing the power beauty still has in this world, and into recognizing the real possibility of hope. The Blue Light Project is a hard-hitting and emotionally wrought commentary on the forces that attract and repel us, and the faith that enables us to continue, even in our darkest hours.
Now recognized by both reviewers and readers as one of Canada’s prose masters, Timothy Taylor took a somewhat unexpected route in establishing his writing career. After completing an economics degree at the University of Alberta and an MBA at the Queen’s School of Business, Taylor worked for four years in commercial banking, during which time he arranged to transfer from Toronto to his childhood home of Vancouver, where he still lives. However, Taylor had long known that he wanted to write, so he made the decision to leave his job and try to make a go of it, establishing his own Pacific fisheries consulting practice in order to give his new freelance writing career some stability.
As Taylor mentioned in one interview, it was all part of the slow process of developing himself as an author: “It’s difficult to have serious writing ambitions and run your own business at the same time. Both pursuits deserve your full attention, but writing won’t return a living wage at the beginning, so there are some hard realities.” Yet Taylor also feels that his writing has benefited immensely from his work in other areas: “I needed exposure to people in different fields with problems and issues and objectives outside the world of writing. If I had tried to start a novel in my mid-twenties after studying creative writing, I can’t imagine what I would have written about. I admire people who succeed this way and, recently, I’ve met quite a few.”
During this time, Taylor began writing his first novel, Stanley Park, and also worked on his short fiction, which began to be accepted by literary magazines. This turned out to be a valuable step for Taylor, as he began to feel a part of the literary community. As he said in one interview, “For me, literary magazines were really important to how I ended up making contact with anybody whatsoever. Because, I think, for beginning writers the only dialogue you have going on about your writing – where anybody will actually talk to you – is the letter exchange you have with lit mags…. And that conversation – you writing and submitting, and them writing you back this letter – represents this small dialogue, and it’s the only one you’re having.” The time spent perfecting his short stories came to fruition when Taylor’s “Doves of Townsend” was awarded the Journey Prize (Canada’s equivalent to the O. Henry Award) in 2000. Remarkably, he had two other stories on the competition’s final shortlist that year, and was the first Canadian writer ever to have three short stories up for the prize and included in the Journey Prize Anthology.
The following year, Stanley Park was published as part of Knopf Canada’s New Face of Fiction program, to outstanding reviews. (It was at this point that Taylor was finally able to wrap up his consultancy business and write full time.) The novel follows a food artiste named Jeremy Papier into the inner sanctums of Vancouver’s culinary scene, and Jeremy’s father, an anthropologist who camps out in Stanley Park to study homelessness, into the city’s underbelly. Stanley Park was shortlisted for the Giller Prize, the City of Vancouver Book Award, the Ethel Wilson Award and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize.
That novel was followed by Silent Cruise, a collection of short fiction, in 2002, and Story House, a novel, in 2006. Both books received broad critical acclaim. The Blue Light Project followed in 2011, and has been lauded for not only its thriller-like intensity but the important questions it raises about how we live in our world, and what our future might hold. Taylor has also been widely published and recognized for his non-fiction magazine work, and has been a finalist for or winner of a dozen separate magazine awards. Today, Timothy Taylor continues to publish stories in Canada’s leading literary magazines, in addition to writing travel, humour, arts and business pieces for various periodicals, and writing for film.
“It’s tempting to race through The Blue Light Project. It has the compelling narrative momentum and intricate plotting of a thriller. Resist the temptation, because…[it’s] as much a novel of ideas as it is a page-turner. It’s a crucible of topical issues…. By turns hopeful and alarming, The Blue Light Project is a thought-provoking take on what one character calls ‘our toxic times.’” —Toronto Star
“Taylor is an intelligent writer, and one whose novels suggest that he has strong political convictions. Some of the best and most unsettling moments come when the grim ironies of the plot illustrate how governments…are quietly dismantling long-taken-for-granted rights and privileges and replacing them with libertarian pseudo-freedoms.… Taylor will one day be a Canadian icon.” —J.C. Sutcliffe, The Globe and Mail
“Beautifully written and brimming with important ideas.… His themes are absolutely of the moment, and his characters are consistently fascinating.” —NOW (Toronto)
“Part politico-thriller, part urban romance, part cautionary tale, The Blue Light Project offers up an unforgettable portrait of the city as living being. Taylor’s unnamed heartland metropolis is wounded and wild with fear, yet it fairly hums with life force, its darkened rooftops and laneways the scene of redemptive chance meetings and seemingly random creative acts. An exhilarating, at-times alarming, read – not a call to arms so much as a call to the regenerative power of art.” —Alissa York, author of Fauna and Effigy
“I read this novel straight through from cover to cover, and the next day I started it again. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before. The Blue Light Project is a triumph of a novel. It will engross and engage you, make your heart beat faster and your mind slow down. Timothy Taylor is without a doubt one of Canada’s finest writers.” —Steven Galloway, author of The Cellist of Sarajevo
“Delightfully engrossing.… Holding The Blue Light Project together is Taylor’s prose style, which jumps across the page like a joyful, risk-loving parkour artist.” —Winnipeg Free Press
“An ambitious novel, one that challenges its readers to pay attention or get left behind, but it is definitely worth the necessary concentration.… It is about the power of art to heal in the aftermath of tragedy. And from a literary standpoint, it works extremely well.… A wonderful novel – a thought-provoking and challenging story that will lead to debate and discussion among readers and might even change the way you look at our celebrity-driven culture.” —The Vancouver Sun
“The Blue Light Project slows down today’s accelerated world in order to sympathetically probe the constraints of celebrity, public art and biopolitics in the context of contemporary terrorism. At the core of this suspenseful novel is a hostage crisis that is terrifyingly real. Taylor forces us to consider probabilities. What might happen at the confluence of fear, love, and hope?... Just as Taylor’s first novel, Stanley Park, concludes with one of the most memorable meals in contemporary literature, the final illumination in The Blue Light Project will haunt readers for decades to come. Writing at times with the incisive vision of Margaret Atwood, the broken lyricism of Michael Ondaatje, the social realism of Rohinton Mistry, and the brutal honesty of Douglas Coupland, Timothy Taylor now firmly ranks among Canada’s finest authors. The Blue Light Project is an important book. Pay attention.” —Laura Moss, associate professor, Department of English, UBC, and associate editor of Canadian Literature