The newest issue of Canadian Notes & Queries arrived last week, containing all sorts of goodness wrapped in a cover by Seth. My contribution concerns Helen Duncan, the best selling novelist of St Marys, Ontario, our adopted hometown. I'm confident in claiming that Mrs Duncan enjoyed more sales than all others, if only because she also holds the distinction of being the only St Marys novelist to have landed a publishing contract. Her books were issued by Simon & Pierre, were reviewed in Books in Canada and, decades later, can be found in academic libraries as far from this town as Australia's Flinders University.
Mrs Duncan managed to get three novels into print, but the only one I discuss in any length is her 1982 debut, The Treehouse. It's a bildungsroman, a roman à clef, and heavily autobiographical. The family at the novel's centre is modelled on Duncan's family. The house in which they live – that of the title – is modelled on the second of her three childhood homes. It still stands today at the corner of Jones and Peel.
I spoil nothing in revealing that the fictional family later moves into this Queen Anne on Church Street South:
As the title suggests, houses play significant roles in this novel; one might argue that they are better drawn than the characters they shelter. The most interesting is that belonging to the needy widow down the street. The model for this house also stands, at the corner of Jones and King, and is for sale as I write.
A perfect gift for the obsessive Helen Duncan fan.
This issue's "What's Old" features two selections from Regina's Spafford Books, and three of my own: Three Novels of the Early 1960s by Ross Macdonald (New York: Library of America, 2016), Collected Millar: The Master at Her Zenith (New York: Syndicate, 2016) and The Complete Poems of George Whalley (Montreal: McGill-Queen's UP, 2016).
Also featured are contributions by:
Did I mention that there's a new story by K.D. Miller? Well, there is!Marianne ApostolidesMax BeerbohmLeone BranderJim ChristyJason DicksonDeborah DundasAndre ForgetStephen FowlerPascal GirardEmily KeelerRichard KemickDavid MasonDilia NarduzziSarah NevilleSuzannah ShowlerBardia SinaeeBruce Whiteman
Suscriptions to CNQ – always a bargain – can be purchased here through the magazine's website.