Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Fiction Literary

The Sum of One Man's Pleasure

by (author) Danial Neil

NeWest Press
Initial publish date
Sep 2023
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2023
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it


1963 - Finn Kenny fled Ottawa after being implicated in an RCMP purge of suspected Communist sympathisers and "homosexuals", ending up on Vancouver Island working for the Spencerwood Estate alongside devoted caretakers, the Bishops. Theodore Spencer was Finn's saviour, a barroom companion who offered him a way out of his predicament. But when Spencer dies suddenly, Finn's life is turned upside down as he's forced to work with the cold, calculating lady of the house.

Thrown together unexpectedly, Finn, Lady Spencer, and the Bishops are faced with the worst of one another, as they struggle to keep the estate together. Learning more about each other's lives, they must come to terms with the truth that everyone has secrets buried at the centre of themselves.

In his searching sixth novel, Danial Neil questions the stories we tell of our own lives, the version of ourselves we show to those closest, and the ways in which we are able to find common ground.

About the author

Danial Neil was born in New Westminster, British Columbia and grew up in North Delta. He began writing in his teens, journaling and writing poetry. He made a decision to be a writer in 1986 and took his first creative writing course in Langley with Alive magazine editor, Rhody Lake. While working for the City of Delta, he authored the motto, "Ours to Preserve by Hand and Heart" for the city's coat of arms in 1988. Danial worked steadily at his craft. His short story "Grace" was published in the 2003 Federation of BC Writers anthology edited by Susan Musgrave. He went on to participate in the Write Stretch Program with the Federation of BC Writers teaching free verse poetry to school children. As well participant in Word on the Street Vancouver. He won the Poetry Prize at the Surrey International Writers' Conference four times, and went on to study Creative Writing at UBC. His first published novel was The Killing Jars in 2006, and then Flight of the Dragonfly in 2009, my June in 2014, and The Trees of Calan Gray in 2015. Dominion of Mercy is his fifth published novel. He has completed twenty novels since beginning his writing journey. His prose has been called hauntingly beautiful and lyrical. His poetry and fiction articulate a close relationship with the land, its felt presence in his narrative and vision. His characters arrive like guests and leave an edible presence in a reader's experience. Danial lives in Oliver the South Okanagan of British Columbia.

Danial Neil's profile page

Excerpt: The Sum of One Man's Pleasure (by (author) Danial Neil)


They told me that they had been watching me. An odd thing to say to an employee of the federal government of Canada. I thought, perhaps, it was part of a performance review. It was not unheard of in Ottawa in 1958. But there were rumours, chilling accounts of similar revelations. I was working on foreign trade, lumber exports to the United States, and overseas. I was highly educated with a degree in Forest Management and Silviculture. I was told that two men were waiting to see me in the lobby of our office block. They didn't say who or why, but that it was a serious matter and that I should attend at once, and that there was nothing to fear. Perhaps, I thought, it was one of the Americans that I had met with over softwood lumber. Meetings had been going on all week. Or, perhaps, it was the businessman from B.C., who was looking for new markets, new opportunities. I got on quite well with him. But I was afraid. It was a feeling I had. There was something malicious on the wind that was rushing down the city streets. And it had the face of the trusted.

I stood at the back as the early November snow fell heavily over the mourners. They huddled in their woolen coats and hats, solemn with their leaking noses and red-rimmed eyes. Some wore poppies pinned to their chests. They remained, stoic, statue-like in the cold, and in good numbers considering the weather. There were immediate family, and local people of course, and there were business types, a few government representatives, and others who didn't seem to fit my assumptions. The snow settled over the casket and the shoveled earth, and clung to the branches and limbs of the oaks and maples that stood in their perfect cemetery rows. And out on Fawn Hill Road, it fastened to the telephone lines, their sagging bellies dipping dangerously between poles until the snow loosened by its own weight fell in long lines to the ground. Nothing moved other than the relentless falling of snow. Even the jaunty crows were absent in their numbers and taunts. There was no sound. Not even Reverend Le Fleur could offer an encouraging word against the muted pall of it as he held aloft an umbrella to shelter a selected few like mice under a toadstool. I had gained certain powers of observation, a keen eye that comes when you lose trust in the world.

Other titles by Danial Neil