William Deverell — Novelist

The official website of William Deverell, Winner of the Dashiell Hammett Award for Literary Excellence in North American Crime Writing

Snow Job

SNow Job book cover

This is the novel that many dared me (a thrice-failed candidate for office) to write: a novel that takes the mickey out of our posturing politicians while maintaining the tension of a true thriller but with great dollops of humour. A genre-jumping finalist for the Stephen Leacock Award, it was read with glee, I’m told, by Ottawa insiders, One wrote: “Warmest congrats on Snow Job, it is your and Arthur’s fulfillment. I was especially delighted by the recognition of the poisonous mix of vanity, fear and highly conditional loyalty that makes up political life at the top. I thought of your acuity as I wandered through various Xmas parties on the Hill this year - rife with angst on all sides.”

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There’s a story to be told about how my utter incompetence as a politician saved me from a dismal career and propelled me into another one that had been my true dream. First, a synopsis:

Retired lawyer and courtroom star Arthur Beauchamp is in Ottawa because his wife, Margaret Blake, the leader of Canada’s Green Party, is now its first MP. But he hates it there: the cold, the politics, his place in his wife’s shadow, the too-thin walls of the condo they are renting. So when a delegation of government officials from the Central Asian country of Bhashyistan is blown sky high on its way to the Ottawa airport, and the shares of a Calgary-based oil company promptly drop like a stone, Arthur can’t resist taking on the defence of the suspected assassin, a high-school teacher last seen getting into the back of a stranger’s car. Then the Conservative government, led by the toper Huck Finnerty, is plunged into crisis when Mad Igor, the dictator of Bhashyistan, declares war on Canada.

Meanwhile, on Beauchamp’s beloved Garibaldi Island, Arthur and Margaret’s goat farm is being taken care of by a couple of newly released, convicted eco-guerillas, a no small matter that brings both Arthur and Margaret to the attention of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service - and a scheming glint to the eye of its head of operations. Soon, Canada’s newest MP and the husband she eclipses realize they are being shadowed by possibly the most incompetent spy since Mata Hari.

“Deverell’s latest Arthur Beauchamp novel cranks the wily old lawyer’s adventures up several notches, and then some. It’s wildly imaginative, delightfully satirical, and irresistibly funny.”

“No one skewers the foibles of lawyers and judges quite as William Deverell does: with deadly aim and delicious wit. And now Canada’s funniest crime fiction writer has penned perhaps the most searing, most hilarious send-up ever of the shenanigans that pass for politics in the nation’s capital.”

“Smart, beautifully written, and really, really funny satire featuring Arthur Beauchamp, one of Canadian crime fiction’s truly original characters. The best novel by Deverell ever.” — Margaret Cannon, Globe and Mail

“Though the story is dead serious at its heart, Deverell has much material that is as funny as anything he’s written.” — Toronto Star

“Fine writing and tongue-in-cheek delivery with acid shots at our political circus, and so close to reality that it seems even funnier. A must-read.” — Hamilton Spectator

“Deverell’s imagination gets high marks for postulating what happens when an obscure country declares war on Canada.” — Quill & Quire

For those interested in the provenance of this work, here’s the author’s note at the end:

At the risk of shaking readers’ confidence in my sanity, let me make confession: I was once an ambitious (though inept) politician. As a young lawyer running for the New Democrats, I’d made two disastrous tries for Parliament and > > one for the BC legislature, in Vancouver Centre, ultimately proving myself so hapless at hustling votes that I was punished by losing a nomination — by a single vote — for the succeeding election. Without me to drag down the ticket, > the NDP went on to win handily and formed a government.

I quit politics, morose with shattered ambition, disenchanted with what the fifteenth Governor-General of Canada, John Buchan, called “the greatest and the most honourable adventure.” (Fact check: he was a fiction writer, his fortés > > espionage and horror.)

In sublime irony, that one-vote loss freed me to pursue a different dream, long held. Had I achieved office, I might never have written anything more entertaining than a sitting member’s cynical memoir of frustration, compromise, and > lost ideals.

So Snow Job is a tribute to Buchan’s great (if not so honourable) adventure, from an incurable political junkie. To the snide, a Canadian political thriller may seem oxymoronic, but I’ll wager there’s more vibrancy and intrigue and fun > > and foolishness on Parliament Hill than in Washington’s Congress of millionaires or in Britain’s bloated Parliament.

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