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Fiction Set in Alberta
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Fiction Set in Alberta

By kileyturner
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tagged: fiction, alberta
From Thomas King to Marina Endicott, authors are inspired by the richness and complexities of Alberta. Here are some great fictional works set there.
The Little Shadows

The Little Shadows

also available: Paperback
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Here is the eagerly anticipated new novel from a brilliant writer whose last book, Good to a Fault, was shortlisted for the prestigious Giller Prize and won the Commonwealth Prize for Canada and the Caribbean.
The Little Shadows revolves around three sisters in the world of vaudeville before and during the First World War. We follow the lives of all three in turn: Aurora, the eldest and most beautiful, who is sixteen when the book opens; thoughtful Clover, a year younger; and the youngest siste …

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Gentry Fox was the shortest man Clover had ever seen, shorter than she was by far. As if someone had pressed down on the head of a normal man, but some time ago, so he’d had time to get used to it.
He had to look up, even at Bella, which he did with a sideways glint. ‘What—have—we—here?’ he asked, his voice both gravelled and silky.
The girls stood in a line, not sure whether to proceed. He waved a hand, beckoning them to the stage, and they went stiffly down the raked aisle, not entirely sure of their footing in the thicker darkness of the auditorium. Mama patted Clover, who moved aside to let her through. She took two steps and stopped, perhaps afraid, Clover thought. But no. She had paused only to make a better entrance. Mr. Fox looked up, inquiring, when she did not speak—then, looking again, gave Mama a very warm, familiar smile. He laughed and bowed, and bowed again, coming forward as he bent and rose and bent.
‘Oh, my dear sir, you may recall that I have had the distinct pleasure of making your acquaintance before,’ Mama said to the little bowing man. Bowing now herself.
‘But of course, of course I recall,’ Mr. Fox said, murmuring and mincing. ‘With the greatest, my dear Flora, the greatest of pleasure.’ Pleasure, pleasure. They were nodding dolls, bowing and re-bowing. Clover felt Aurora pull her close, then slide an arm behind to pull Bella into place.
‘And these?’
‘Oh, these! My dear Mr. Fox! You see before you—my daughters.’ Dark eyes gleamed in his dark rumpled face, turning from one girl to the next. His squashed neck was supple. Inspecting Aurora. Then Clover, Bella. And back to Mama.
‘They are jewels,’ he said with great simplicity. ‘They sing? They dance?’
‘They do!’ Mama clapped her hands because he was so clever.
‘May we?’
‘Will you? Will they? Johnny Drawbank! Clear those hands away, if you will. Lights!’
This was a much bigger stage, a much bigger theatre. Not a jewel box like the Empress; the floorboards not as clean beneath the dirty chairs, and the stage not clean either. Deep, though, and high—four long curtain-legs before the backdrop. Clover thought doing it in one here would be a pleasure, because the stage bowed outwards and left an acre of room in front of the great red curtain (its ragged bottom draggling on the boards, gold bobble-trim gappy and dimmed).
Work-lights shone on the piano, and on the stage. As Mama and the girls climbed the moveable gangplank over the orchestra pit, on came the footlights, the gas flaring gently, and the stage became welcoming. ‘We’ll start with an old song,’ Mama said, twinkling down at Mr. Fox. ‘After the Ball,’ she murmured to the girls, and sat herself at the piano gracefully. Her little hands raised themselves over the keys, and paused, and then were off, playing with unusual care and a rippling dash—the conservatory glass, the palms, the tinkling waltz heard from a distance . . . They told the sentimental story plain, the way she had taught them, not as a tired tale but as if this were their Uncle Chum explaining his bachelor life to them. None of the girls could remember meeting him, but they all had affection for him, from this imaginary memory. It made Clover believe that Mama must have a soft spot for Chum too, after all.
‘. . . oh, Uncle, please.
Why are you single; why live alone?
Have you no babies; have you no home?
I had a sweetheart, years, years ago;
Where she is now, pet, you will soon know.
List to the story, I’ll tell it all,
I believed her faithless, after the ball . . .’
Watching the girl he loved being kissed, standing empty-hearted with two glasses of punch in his hands . . . How plaintive the old man became, and what a small, stupid thing to ruin someone’s life: ‘he was her brother! ’ Then they were into the chorus again, waltzing in place to prove they could do it in one:
 ‘After the ball is over, after the break of dawn—
After the dancers’ leaving; after the stars are gone;
Many a heart is aching, if you could read them all;
Many the hopes that have vanished
After the ball.
Mama ended with a fading chord, well in keeping with the natural delivery of the song, and left a dainty hand poised in air for a moment as the girls bowed. Then she twirled on the piano stool, face out to the audience, to Gentry Fox. He rose from his seat in the front row with a hearty ‘Bravo!’ clapping his hands delightedly.
Coming forward to the stage, he stretched out a hand to Mama as if he could reach hers, which not even a tall man could have, and she reached down to him without moving from the stool.
‘Lovely, lovely girls! Lovely to hear that old song again, so freshly rendered! And how well I recall you, my dear Flora—at the Hippodrome, was it not?—with that little number.’
‘Oh, Gentry, a hundred years ago,’ Mama said, blushing and bobbing. Bella laughed too, to see her so pleased. Clover looked at Mr. Fox with attention: a living clue to Mama’s old life. But beside her she could feel Aurora waiting, tense, and her own confidence drained away. ‘Now you must let me give you some lunch,’ Gentry said, taking out a card case. ‘Hand my card to the girl at the Grandon Hotel, they do a royal tea there . . . and thank you for warming an old man’s heart. You are visiting in the neighbourhood? With family?’
Mama got up from the piano, her face fallen into a polite parody of her earlier happiness. ‘You have no work for my girls, then, Gentry?’ she asked—her voice sad, but her face remaining cheerful.
‘My dear Flora, they are young and charming, and I am inundated with acts. Between you and me and your eighteen best friends, this is a poor place I find myself. We have only seven on the bill—all but continuous, you know—three shows a day, a hardscrabble life.’
‘But what a training ground!’ Mama said lightly—still working, still arguing, however her words might be disguised as chat.
 ‘But such delicately reared girls, my dear Flora, could not be expected to— And my bill is full for this and several weeks to come.’
‘But I see you lack a closer,’ Mama said. Her last effort.
‘Oh, as to that, I use the pictures as a closer. Nothing beats a very old pictograph for encouraging an audience’s hearts for home.’
‘I bet we could chase them better, if we’re so bad!’ Bella called over the footlights at him, laughing at her own audacity.
Clover pinched her quickly, but Gentry laughed too, darting a sharp look at Bella’s cheeky, lively face. But he still held out the calling card. Lunch, not life.
‘Well, thank you, Gentry, for seeing us. It was a piece of old times to find you here,’ Flora said, folding her music as if they hadn’t a care in the world, as if they were, in fact, visiting family and perfectly easy. As if they hadn’t spent twenty-three dollars on train fare.
She and Aurora looked at each other, and she lifted her chin and smiled.
‘Off we go, then,’ she said. ‘But perhaps we had better return to our friends for luncheon, thank you all the same.’
Aurora lighted down on the first step, lifting her skirt delicately over her tight-laced new boot. The second step, the second boot (and above it, a stretch of smooth white stocking). The third step, the fourth.
‘But, Mama,’ she said, smiling into Gentry’s upturned face. ‘I think I’d like some tea.’
He held out his hand with the card again, and she took it, and then his arm, for help in navigating the last steps.
‘Thank you, Mr. Fox,’ Aurora said. She stopped to pull on her elegant mauve kid gloves. ‘And will you come with us? My sisters and I would love to hear how you and Mama come to know each other so well; how you come to be in this theatre, and what wonders you are working in this out-of-the-way place—we see your dodgers all over town!’
Gentry blinked, but resisted, even though her eyes were so clear, their colour shifting from blue to green, a dark line around the iris. Beautiful, yes. The curve of her clear warm cheek and jaw ran enticingly into the hidden reaches of the neck, under that glossy pile of bright, ruly-unruly hair.
‘Alas, no, I shall be engaged all afternoon with wretched business,’ he told her sadly.
Aurora gave him a beautiful smile, exchanged his arm for her sister’s, and walked up the raked aisle. The tiny waist of her jacket remained steady; below it the skirt swayed, its length tantalizing along the ground in an eddy of dust. The youngest one, the filly, hopped off the last step and sparkled at him, then dashed after the elder two. ‘Look at her, the darling! All legs and heels and promise,’ he said to Flora, before he could check himself. ‘But I am sentimentalizing. Time to retire to the country!’
Flora took the steps without assistance, pulling on her own gloves, her music in its leather case beneath her arm, and at the bottom, bowed to Gentry. He looked at her soft face, brown curls at her brow. Still pretty as paint, even softened into middle age. A loving heart, if a silly one. She stepped down onto the floor, not wanting to tower above him more than she could help—for his sake as well as her own. A stroke of luck to have found him here. It could not be wasted.
‘Gentry,’ she said, then drew in a breath. ‘I wonder—I’ve done my best with my dear girls, but they need polish, of course. I wonder if you would consider taking them on for a few weeks, for nothing—well, or for just the usual travelling expenses, alone—to gain experience, to be introduced to the profession.’
She had caught his attention. Either his pockets were to let, or his native stinginess was stirring. How much this would cost her, coming and going, she thought she knew.
‘I’m sure we could go farther afield and find paid work, but it’s you, the association with someone of your calibre—oh! I know very well how much good you did me, all those years ago, and I wish that same good for my girls. Can you find it in your heart to blame me?’  ‘The thing is, Flora,’ he said, not unkindly, ‘your dainty girls are too refined for this place—it would be cruel. They are not—’ ‘They are. I promise you. They are better by far than I.’ Her urgency led her to put a hand on his arm. A small hand in a black cloth glove, it vanished on his black sleeve.
‘Gentry, for old times’ sake—I beg you.’
After a moment, he bowed one last time. ‘Madam, that plea is impossible to refuse. Not today. But bring them here at nine tomorrow, and I will see what can be done.’
She found it hard to look at him, after putting herself so low before him, but busied herself with her music case.
He gestured towards it: ‘Have you a lobby photograph for the girls there?’ He saw from her face that they had none. ‘After your lunch go to Leroy’s Studio on 8th Avenue. They will not overcharge you.’ As Flora went up the aisle, he called after her. ‘What happened to your schoolmaster?’
‘Oh—’ She shrugged and almost smiled. ‘Oh, he died.’ She nodded, and went through the bright doorway.

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The Outlander

The Outlander


In 1903 a mysterious, desperate young woman flees alone across the west, one quick step ahead of the law. She has just become a widow by her own hand.

Two vengeful brothers and a pack of bloodhounds track her across the western wilderness. She is nineteen years old and half mad. Gil Adamson's extraordinary novel opens in heart-pounding mid-flight and propels the reader through a gripping road trip with a twist -- the steely outlaw in this story is a grief-struck young woman. Along the way she enc …

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The Garneau Block

The Garneau Block

tagged : literary, humorous

A local phenomenon goes national! This sparkling novel has the warmth and wide appeal of Stuart McLean’s Vinyl Cafe and the wit of Will Ferguson.

What Alexander McCall Smith did with 44 Scotland Street, Todd Babiak does with The Garneau Block. This addictive and charming, laugh-out-loud funny novel enchanted readers when it was serialized in the Edmonton Journal in the fall of 2005 — and now, The Garneau Block makes its national debut.

The Garneau Block follows the knowable citizens of the a …

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1. The Coldest Morning in Recent Memory

Madison Weiss woke to the smell of scorched dust and nearly wept. Though she had lived in Edmonton her whole life, and knew well that with September came the first blast of the furnace, Madison felt the city — at least the five houses on her block — deserved a year off. Summer had ended poorly, by anyone’s estimation, and lying in her garage-sale bed, in the suite her father had built in the basement of 12 Garneau, Madison could see no romance in autumn.

The previous night, reading a new collection of nineteenth-century haikus, Madison had forgotten to close her curtain. Now the heatless sun splashed on the upper half of her bed, informing the engines of worry in her brain that a new day had begun. She would have preferred to construct a fort of darkness with her pillows, but she had to be at work in a few hours and the dizziness had arrived.

In the tiny half-bath, as she finished throwing up, Madison remembered:

First autumn morning
The mirror I stare into
Shows my father’s face.
And she threw up some more.

The secret to a comfortable pregnancy and an agreeable post-partum experience is regular exercise. Madison had learned this from Dr. Stevens, a former classmate at Old Scona. Of course, the fact that one of her teenage peers was a doctor, with an Audi and a husband and her own two-storey clinker-brick house overlooking the river valley, was reason enough to search the clinics of Edmonton for an aged gentleman with a British accent, loose jowls, and cold hands. But Madison trusted her doctor, Dr. Stevens, and by way of consolation she did have fat ankles and dry hair.

Madison put on her tights and shiny yellow running jacket. Now that the explosion of hormones in her body had begun its slow work on the size of her behind, Madison appreciated the utility of the rear flap that extended nearly to her knees. She ate a banana in the dimly lit kitchenette and watched a spider stitch its web outside the small window with a view of 10 Garneau’s mustard-coloured vinyl siding. Mid-banana, she wondered about her baby’s father, where he might be at this moment. Trois-Rivières? Prison?

At the door, Madison paused. The furnace had warned her that it would be the coldest morning in recent memory, so she took a moment to prepare herself. Madison closed her eyes and pretended it was February. In February a morning like this would be a miracle.

She stepped out into the September-February morning, breathed in the crisp air and hurried back inside. Television beckoned. Surely there was something on besides bland cartoons and that program where they talk about Jesus and ask for your credit card information.

Soon, Madison would be thirty. She knew, from literature and television shows, that this was no way for a thirty-year-old single mother to behave. So she burst out the door again and down the cobblestone path to the sidewalk. Madison did not linger next to 10 Garneau, with its grey flowerbeds and small jungles of dandelion and chickweed. Potato-chip bags and Styrofoam coffee cups had blown into the yard, and were now trapped under the apple and plum trees Benjamin Perlitz had planted. Benjamin Perlitz, once the most patient and committed gardener in the neighbourhood. A two-week-old strip of yellow police line, coated with dust, hung in the shrubbery. Madison glanced up at the second-floor window, into the darkness and silence of the room where he died, and turned away.

Leaves had already begun to change. Soon the North Saskatchewan River valley would be brilliant orange and yellow, and her morning jog would smell of decomposition and moist soil. The air was clean and the long shadows cast by neighbourhood trees were like old friends.

Madison turned to press against the mountain ash tree in front of her parents’ house for a calf stretch, and discovered a sheet of fresh white paper duct-taped to the bark. Since the night Benjamin Perlitz was shot and his wife and daughter disappeared into the secret grief of the city, Madison and her neighbours had become less likely to be surprised. But this was something. In all her years living under the regulatory shadow of the university, where it was strictly forbidden to affix advertisements, notices, and flyers on historically significant trees and lampposts, she had never seen such mutiny.

Laser-printed in capital letters, in a classic font: LET’S FIX IT.

Underneath, a date and time and the address for a downtown office tower. Madison knew instantly what Let’s Fix It referred to, and understood she was implicated in the “us” of the apostrophe s.

Across the street, the philosophy professor, Raymond Terletsky, ripped a sheet off the tree in front of his house, 11 Garneau.

“What is this?”

The professor crossed the street, waving the sheet like a flag. He was dressed unfortunately, in a turquoise sweater that didn’t quite cover the pink of his stomach. He was a tall man, with a slouch. His snug black pants, like all of his pants, displayed too much sock. Madison averted her eyes from Raymond Terletsky’s ensemble and saw that identical sheets of paper were duct-taped to every tree and lamppost on the Garneau Block.

“What is this?” said Raymond. “Is this new? Let’s Fix It?”

“They weren’t up last night when I came home from work.” Madison turned to study the sheets in silence with the professor.

He stood a little too close for her taste. The professor’s woody-fruity cologne was so powerful it threatened to give her a nosebleed. Raymond Terletsky smiled. “Someone is going to receive one hell of a fine for this.” He turned and raised his voice, though no one seemed to be about. “One hell of a fine.” Birdsong erupted, during which the professor waited for a response. Then he waved the sheet of white paper around with the back of his hand. “What does it mean, do you think?”
Pressing once more against the mountain ash, Madison released her left hand from the bark to point at the second-floor window of 10 Garneau.
“Well, obviously,” said Raymond. “But what does it mean?”

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also available: Audiobook (cassette) eBook
tagged : literary

Icefields is a story of adventure and discovery that unfolds amidst the stunning beauty of the Canadian Rockies. Presented within the frame of a tourist guidebook, this novel records life in the mountains, as time and the coming of the railroad slowly transform the settlement of Jasper from a place of myth and legend to a modern tourist town. Exhaustively researched, this novel blends geology and poetry, fact and fiction, history and imagination.

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Trade, The

Trade, The

A Novel
tagged : historical

The Hudson's Bay Company is about to exercise its uncontested monopoly over the lands drained by Hudson Bay. The first step is to find a new source of beaver pelts and profits, and the only hope lies in the unmapped territory held by the Blackfoot-speaking Indian tribes. The new governor mounts an expedition into the heart of this unknown land, a journey that will test the mettle of a new generation of Hudson's Bay Company men. With a new format and price, this brilliant novel tells an incredibl …

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The Last Crossing

The Last Crossing

also available: Audiobook (CD) Paperback
tagged : literary

Set in the second half of the nineteenth century, in the American and Canadian West and in Victorian England, The Last Crossing is a sweeping tale of interwoven lives and stories

Charles and Addington Gaunt must find their brother Simon, who has gone missing in the wilds of the American West. Charles, a disillusioned artist, and Addington, a disgraced military captain, enlist the services of a guide to lead them on their journey across a difficult and unknown landscape. This is the enigmatic Je …

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Sticks and Stones

Sticks and Stones

A Randy Craig Mystery
also available: eBook

The University of Alberta’s English Department is caught up in a maelstrom of poison-pen letters, graffiti and misogyny. Miranda Craig seems to be both target and investigator, wreaking havoc on her new-found relationship with one of Edmonton’s finest. “Janice MacDonald’s intelligence and insight into human behaviour make her one of the most promising new writers on the Canadian mystery scene.”— Gail Bowen“Spellbinding ... Janice MacDonald populates academe with real characters and …

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