Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Fiction Literary

The Undertaking of Billy Buffone

by (author) David Giuliano

Latitude 46 Publishing
Initial publish date
Apr 2021
Literary, Small Town & Rural
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2021
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it


The Undertaking of Billy Buffone is a story about the trauma - immediate and ongoing, personal and collateral - inflicted by Rupert Churley, who preyed on boys in Twenty-Six Mile House, an isolated town in northern Ontario. The suicides, the conspiracy of silence, the secrets and the damage done to the boys, their friends and families, persist long after the murder of Scouter Churley.

About the author

David Giuliano is an award-winning writer of articles, essays, and poems. His book Postcards from the Valley: Encounters with Fear, Faith and God was a Canadian Best Seller. He has published two illustrated children's books: The Alligator in Naomi's Pillow and Jeremiah and the Letter e. His most recent book, It's Good to Be Here: Stories we tell about cancer, is a spiritual memoir about his 20-year journey with cancer. The Undertaking of Billy Buffone is Giuliano's first novel. He lives in Marathon, Ontario with his wife.

David Giuliano's profile page

Excerpt: The Undertaking of Billy Buffone (by (author) David Giuliano)

- 1 -

Scouter Churley's Camp


When I woke up on the floor at Scouter Rupert Churley's camp,there was a pilled blanket tangled around my ankles. I wasotherwise naked. My head thrummed. My mouth tasted like asquirrel had slept--and possibly shit--in it. Eyes clamped shut,against the splintered shards of light raking my eyeballs, I rolledonto my side and buried my face in the crook of my elbow. Istank of alcohol, smoke, and adolescence. Beer and wieners cur-dled in my belly. I lay as thick and as still as a puddle of spent oiland repeatedly swallowed the acid seeping up my throat into mymouth. A film of perspiration coated my body. It dripped frommy face, and pooled in the small of my back.

On hands and knees, I crawled across the gritty cabin floor,out the flap of torn screen hanging in the frame of the slidingdoor, and vomited from beneath the bottom rail of the porch.A stew of beer and pink meat spattered down onto a flat rockand the dirt around it. Technicolour yawn. That's what we calledvomiting.

The summer of 1975, Larry and Anthony and I were doinga lot of technicolour yawning. A lot of it for Boy Scouts anyway.Officially we were Venturers, because all three of us were olderthan fourteen years of age. There was, however, nothing BoyScout-like in the values espoused, or the activities engaged in atChurley's camp. We were decidedly not trustworthy, loyal, help-ful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave,clean or reverent.


Larry was the sort of kid who jabbered in a non-stop con-versation with himself, while knitting his fingers in front of hischest like a mad scientist. His eyes bulged, and he never seemedto blink. Acne bubbled on his face like a burn victim.

Anthony was a chubby, sweaty kid with hair perpetuallymatted to his forehead. His pathological lying, and need to beliked, were embarrassing. He lied badly, constantly, and with-out reason. He claimed, for example, that Bobby Sherman washis cousin. He was bullied at school and cried easily. I didn'tconsider either of them friends. In town we never spoke to oneanother. We were camp mates and accomplices in deviance.

Until that summer, Billy Buffone was my best friend. I wasprobably in love with him, though I would never have admittedit, especially to him because I was afraid he would reject me. Butit was me who made the irreparable--and ultimately fatal--mistake of disconnecting my life from his.

Billy refused to come to Churley's camp when I extendeda half-hearted invitation. Even if he had been willing his moth-er, Mrs. Buffone, wouldn't have stood for it. "Matthew," Billywarned to me, "I smell something up with that guy." It soundedexactly like something his mother would say. "Let's just go upto Jackrabbit Lake," he pleaded. "I got a new tent." I turned myback on his tears, and what, at the time, I considered his imma-turity, and we drifted apart. It wasn't a decision, more like a snapdeparture. I didn't even acknowledge it had happened to myself,until everything fell apart. We were inseparable and then weweren't.

My hand slipped on the algae-covered decking boards andI fell flat on my chest. My head snapped forward and my faceslammed down hard on the deck. I lay there inhaling the stinkof rotting wood and nose blood. Nausea washed over me againand I puked up the remains of the previous night. Then I pukedyellow bile and then dry heaved like a cat with a hairball. Myabdominal muscles spasmed long after my stomach was emp-ty. I pressed one nostril closed to nose-jet blood out the othernostril, along with snot and a piece of hotdog lodged there fromvomiting. My body shivered. Were it not for the mosquitoesdrilling for blood in my unprotected flesh I might have curledup and gone back to sleep on the porch.

Instead, I rose to my knees and, with the help of the railing,pulled myself to my feet. Still gripping the handrail, my barefeet slipped on the slick boards. As I stood, gravity caused myinsides to drop, and I felt the bruised tenderness of my anus. Ihad been the "drunkest boy" again. Drunkest boy was sort of agame Scouter Churley introduced to us.

Editorial Reviews

In a narrative that unfolds like old time rock-n-roll Giuliano delivers a pitch-perfect, whip-smart glimpse into the lives of highly memorable characters in a small Northwestern Ontario town ,br />- Dayle Furlong, Lake Effect & Other Stories

The Undertaking of Billy Buffone is a fearless journey into the troubled souls of the citizens of a northern Ontario town. The traumas simmering within this close-knit community are real, gritty -- and often spiral into greater problems. One by one, each character discovers that life's burdens cannot be carried alone forever; the cost is too great. Truths are revealed and shame loses its power. There is redemption.

Interwoven throughout the novel is the spiritual life of the community, and this is where author David Giuliano shines. Faith -- whether Christian, Indigenous or a hybrid of the two -- is an agent of healing in this story, a path forward when all other avenues seem hopeless. Mercifully, you won't find the gauzy glow of religious stereotype here. Giuliano explores his characters' spiritual lives with the stark authenticity of someone who's both a leader and a pilgrim on the journey of faith.
-Jocelyn Bell, Editor/Publisher, Broadview

The landscape, and the lake are living presences, and provide a setting for the mystical and the messy aspects of life to meet in ways that are both familiar, and surprising. As someone who grew up in Northern Ontario, I recognize the places, and find the characters believable.

David's writing is infused with love for the landscape of Northern Ontario, and for its people. There is beauty and brutality in the narrative, which is rendered with honesty and compassion. I love the glimpses of the spiritual reality that supports and surrounds the characters, as they each grapple with mystery."
-Darrow Woods, finalist, 2019 Arthur Ellis Awards, Crime Writers of Canada

In The Undertaking of Billy Buffone, Giuliano conjures small town Northern Ontario, the shame that allows harm to carry on well past due, the way tragedies can overlap and intersect, as can our healing trajectories, bringing folks together in a universal human experience of loss and redemption. -Nathan Niigan Noodin Adler, author, Wrist and Ghost Lake

Matthew is a practical, matter-of-fact narrator, telling us about his best friend Billy, his hometown, and oh yeah, the fact he's dead and watching Billy's life from beyond the grave. he Undertaking of Billy Buffone is alternately tragic, sensitive, and portrays the strength of friendship with great tenderness." -Alison Manley, The Miramichi Reader

Every once in a while, a book comes along that captivates you, all of you. This is one such book. The title reveals itself to the reader in gradation, the character development captures your attention as each page divulges a bit more. Teachings from the indigenous culture combined with teachings from Christianity allow the reader to grow spiritually. The narrator speaks honestly about some pretty tough topics that can wake in the reader the trials and tribulations of people who walk on our streets now. Just maybe reading this book will build empathy and compassion resources.-Anna Maria Barsanti

Other titles by David Giuliano