Thursday, February 28, 2019

Shadow Puppet by Jeffrey Round: A Review

Gay Toronto private investigator and perennially single dad Dan Sharp is at again, digging around, solving mysteries among the very Canadian locale of Toronto in early winter.

In Shadow Puppet, the seventh Dan Sharp mystery, Toronto writer Jeffrey Round turns a fine, almost perfect book with a minimalist finale. There are funny moments, dramatic turns, heartfelt found-family subplots, and creepy scenes as Sharp hunts down what he suspects is a potential serial killer at large in Toronto’s LGBTQ+ community. It’s a story that could be ripped from the headlines regarding actual events in Toronto’s Gay Village, yet as Round indicates in the preface, he penned the tale before the revelations came out about a real-life serial killer preying on the community. (See this piece in Vanity Fair about accused serial killer Bruce McArthur.)

Dan Sharp is hired to track down a missing young man who is part of Toronto’s LGBTQ+ community. He inadvertently stumbles on a possible link between other missing young gay Muslim men in the community and navigates nightclubs, creepy characters, and even a perilous dating scene.

Published by Dundurn Press, 2019.
The novel is sprinkled with several horror allusions that I appreciated. These include the creepy old basement and the ancient furnace at the Viking apartment building setting, the latter of which reminded me of the furnace in Stephen King's The Shining ("It creeps," the caretaker said in the opening scene of that novel.). Thankfully, though, the furnace does not blow up and destroy part of the Viking and the serial killer therein. (I was prepared to feel cheated if this Deus Ex Machina occurred and was very relieved with it didn't). I like how Round deals in horror tropes but works them in so that they are part of the texture of the story and simply the scarier aspects of Sharp's job. 

The pop culture references, dashed throughout, work nicely to add levity to Sharp’s bleak investigation, which occurs in an early Canadian winter. My absolute favourite was a comparison of a leather-man character to The Incredible Hulk. 

However, I was mildly disappointed that the story did not feature a character with the last name Moran, as Tony Moran did in The God Game, the previous Dan Sharp novel in the seriesThus, I did not see my surname throughout a Dan Sharp novel a second time. 

The date scenes that Sharp endures/experiences are painfully accurate. His exchange with a fanatical/paranoid/egotistical body-builder is a particularly humorous scene that had me laughing aloud as I read it in bed. A scene where the P.I. makes inquiries at the Mr. Toronto Leather competition was also a particular delight where contestants and audience members alike lavish him with far too much unwanted attention in the spotlight. Admittedly, this scene was particularly enjoyable for me, as I have written many news stories about Ottawa’s Mr. Ottawa Leather competition for Capital Xtra, (I used to call it the leather beat. Get it....?). It’s a ridiculously funny scene, but believable and demonstrative of how Dan has an appealing look to even the leather crowd. 

The epilogue is a kick to the heart, but I won’t spoil it.

While Shadow Puppets is the seventh Dan Sharp mystery, it occurs between The Jade Butterfly and After the Horses, the third and fourth Sharp novels. The only flaw in the book I see is that a reader familiar with the Sharp mystery series will know that Dan will likely make it out unscathed. On that note, Round’s foreword, explaining this in-between continuity to readers, remains a wise editorial choice.

For the next editions of the books, perhaps Dundurn Press should number them in chronological. As well, Dundurn should eventually market all the Sharp books in a set. That would be an undeniably sexy gift set.

(Both of my suggestions, I’m guessing, may already be in the works.)

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Arc's Poem of the Year Contest Entry Deadline Tomorrow (Feb. 15)

Are you a poet with an unpublished poem that deserves to be out in the world? Then you're in luck. It's last call to enter Arc Poetry Magazine's Poem of The Year Contest. Deadline is tomorrow (Friday., Feb. 15, 2019).
I could be reading your poem in a different country.
So, what are you waiting for? Get that poem off the hard drive and submit it to Arc's Poem of the Year Contest.
Possibility of cash prizes, payment and publication.
See deets here.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Al Ewing's The Immortal Hulk adds to Hulk Mythos

For both cover images - art by Alex Ross.
With issues 12 and 13 of The Immortal Hulk, British writer Al Ewing earns a place among Hulk myth builders such as legendary Incredible Hulk scribes Peter David and Bill Mantlo. Ewing knocks the walls down, expanding on Bruce Banner's abusive father, Bruce as a boy, the Hulk's multiple personalities, the nature of gamma radiation and the gamma blast, and the bond between Bruce and Hulk (which, surprisingly for a symbiotic relationship, or not so surprising, involves love)

I should also add that these issues include Kabbalah metaphors, the rare redemption of an antagonist Crusher Creel (aka The Absorbing Man), and a battle between Hulk and a very Lovecraftian entity, The One Below All.

While Ewing has established an otherworldly, weird-horror tone for the title, the writer has proven he has things to say beyond a return of the character to his devious horror roots. Stan Lee originally envisioned the Hulk as originally a sort of Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde/Frankenstein's creature hybrid, who shed the meek form of egghead Bruce Banner at sundown to prowl the land at night. He was devious, articulate and smart, as Ewing portrays him now.

It has been years since the character had such interesting and intelligent treatment - likely since the grey Hulk (or Mr. Fixit) inhabited the title back in the late 1980's and early 1990's. I should know, as I first collected The Incredible Hulk in the early 1980's. I stopped seriously collecting back in '98, when Peter David left the book after at 12-year run that I grew up with. 

However, I check in every so often to see how my old friends are doing. And I'm very glad that I checked in last year when Al Ewing came on as the new writer and Joe Bennett as the new regular interior artist.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Marvel's Generations: A Fun Read

The trade paperback of the 12-issue series of Marvel's Generations is an undeniably adorable team-up of the older generation and newer generation of Marvel icons. Of particular note is the Miles Morales/Peter Parker meeting, with Ramon Perez’s pencils paying tribute to Steve Ditko’s pencils and parachuting the whole story into The Amazing Spider-Man # 33. Generations is predicated on the MacGuffin that our current heroes inexplicably appear in the original hero’s timeline. Thus, Amadeus Cho-Hulk appears in the New Mexico desert and meets the Hulk fighting the army. When each story ends, the new-generation hero conveniently returns to their current timeline. In this way, each interaction is often a one-shot opportunity for, say, Carol Danvers’ Captain Marvel to compare notes with Captain Mar-Vell (also with delicious retro-art in the style of Jim Starlin). So, if readers can accept this conceit and enjoy each piece as a character mash-up and eschew stronger story elements, Generations is an undeniably fun read. The medley of  amazing writers and artists involved, including Greg Pak and Matteo Buffagni for "Banner Hulk & Totally Awesome Hulk"; Brian Michael Bendis and Ramón Pérez for "Miles Morales Spider-Man and Peter Parker: Spider Man"; and Margaret Stohl and Brent Schoonover for "Captain Marvel & Captain Mar-vell", doesn't hurt, either.
The luscious promotional art from icon Alex Ross that adorns the trade paperback.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

All In a Day interview with Alan Neal about Another Dysfunctional Cancer Poem Anthology

You can listen here to Meaghan Strimas and myself being interviewed about the Another Dysfunctional Cancer Poem Anthology (Mansfield Press) on CBC Radio's All in a Day with host, the ever-gracious Alan Neal. Launch November 21 in Ottawa. The Sawdust Reading Series.

Another Dysfunctional Cancer Poem Anthology Successful Ottawa Launch

On November 21, I ran a very successful Ottawa launch at the Sawdust Reading Series of Another Dysfunctional Cancer Poem Anthology (from Mansfield Press) co-edited by Meaghan Strimas and the last Priscila Uppal.

I was lucky enough to appear on CBC Radio's All In a Day talking to host Alan Neal, earlier in the day, along with anthology co-editor Strimas, to give the launch an on-air boost. The interview's here but I also blogged about it briefly.

While I've had poems published in magazines and online and in chapbooks, etc., this is my first placement in a book-book. As well, this was the first time that my partner, writer and poet Anita Dolman, also saw a poem in print in the same book.

The reading on the cold winter night was was touching. We had a good crowd, of at least 50 attendees, at Bar Robo. Sawdust Reading Series director Jennifer Pederson was deferential, and extremely accommodating, as we had a couple of contributors with mobility issues. 

The vibe of the room was warm, between the short open mic, overseen by host and series assistant director Liam Burke, and the contributors and organizers all giving props to Meaghan Strimas, myself, Mansfield Press publisher and editor Denis De Klerck and Sawdust. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Denis, and commiserated with him that he should have taken the train instead of driving. He gave Anita and I a copy of Priscila's last poetry collection, for which I am very grateful.

I hadn't hosted in a while, so I only did the first set, while Jennifer did the second (my choice), but I was met with great enthusiasm, as I knew nearly every contributor there. That said, I availed of myself well, I thought, even thanking my ten-year-old son on the couch in front frow (his copy of the third installment of The Hunger Games trilogy in his lap). 

I even got to be the connection between many generations of poets, from the poets I booked for the Tree Reading Series from 1999 to 2005, and newer contributors, such as Rusty Priske, and walking events such our good friend rob mclennan and younger writers who are series regulars. For me, a highlight of the evening was passing Arc Poetry Magazine managing editor Chris Johnson immersed in a conversation with walking event rob mclennan in front of the bar, discussing Montreal-based poet Artie Gold.

Thank you, Jennifer Pederson and the The Sawdust Reading Series, for a smoothly and thoughtfully run show (now for just over four-and-a-half years, she told me!) and publisher Denis De Klerck of Mansfield Press for being gracious and Meaghan Strimas for all the coordination - in other words, for making it all happen. Thanks to my partner, the fine writer Anita Dolman for giving a shout-out as well for my sister Kim Moran MacIntosh, as I did in conversation with Alan Neal on CBC Radio's All in a Day. Thank you, the great audience in attendance and, of course, all the writers I have known from my event-running and, of course, my fellow contributors, for bringing light and community effort to darkness. So, yes, feeling gifted.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Arc Poetry Walk: The Byward Market on Dec 8

Arc Walk Ottawa #6 : Byward Market : curator/guide: rob mclennan

Arc Walks Ottawa is a series of guided walks based on poetry themes and capitalizing on the rich poetry history of Canada’s capital. Residents and visitors alike are welcome to join in on the walks to learn and revel in Ottawa’s poetry.

The sixth and final walk of this series will take place in the Byward Market on Saturday, December 8th. This walk, led by rob mclennan, will showcase the poetry of this historic neighbourhood, including sites significant to Susan McMaster, Diana Brebner, Stephanie Bolster, William Hawkins, Neil Flowers, The Vanilla Reading Series and The Vogon Reading Series, WORDFEST 1983, John Bart Gerald and Capital Slam, among others.

The walk will begin at 3:30PM outside of the National Gallery of Canada on Sussex Avenue. During the hour-long walk, participants will visit locations where they will hear about some of Ottawa’s contemporary poetry history, and hear from a special guest poet or two. Come prepared for rain or shine!

Special guest poets include slam poet Danielle K. L. Grégoire and longtime Ottawa scribe Colin Morton.

Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa, where he is home full-time with the two wee girls he shares with Christine McNair. The author of more than thirty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, he won the John Newlove Poetry Award in 2010, the Council for the Arts in Ottawa Mid-Career Award in 2014, and was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize in 2012 and 2017. In March, 2016, he was inducted into the VERSe Ottawa Hall of Honour. His most recent titles include the poetry collection How the alphabet was made (Spuyten Duyvil, 2018) and the forthcoming Household items (Salmon Poetry, 2019) and A halt, which is empty (Mansfield Press, 2019). An editor and publisher, he runs above/ground press, seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics (,Touch the Donkey ( and the Ottawa poetry pdf annual ottawater( He is “Interviews Editor” at Queen Mob’s Teahouse, editor of my (small press) writing day, and an editor/managing editor of many gendered mothers. He spent the 2007-8 academic year in Edmonton as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta, and regularly posts reviews, essays, interviews and other notices at