Saturday, January 24, 2015

Out-of-Town-Authors: Linden MacIntyre

Winnipeg Free Press—PRINT EDITION
By Ariel Gordon

The great majority of Canada's writers work in another field. They've got a full-time or part-time job that they write around.

Laurence Hill, for instance, was a journalist for many years before settling down to writing novels full time, including the critically acclaimed The Book of Negroes. Closer to home, David Bergen was a high school English teacher.

But Linden MacIntyre, the author of six books, including the Giller Award-winning The Bishop's Man (2009), is as equally known for his broadcast journalism as he is for his books. He co-hosted CBC's the fifth estate for 24 years, which earned him 10 Gemini Awards and an international Emmy.

Freshly retired from CBC, MacIntyre is touring in support of his most recent book, a novel called Punishment. He recently spoke with Winnipeg writer Ariel Gordon.

Q. What do you want people to know about Punishment?

A. It's a story about justice and how fear and prejudice corrupt the search for truth; and the peril of ascribing moral qualities, like good and evil, to people as opposed to the deeds that people do.

Q: Now that you've got four novels and two books of non-fiction under your proverbial belt, what have you learned about writing? What have you learned about your own process?

A. That I'll never really be "an author" in my own mind, that the process is unbearably subjective, which means that it's impossible to ever know objectively if what I'm writing at any given moment has any merit, and that an author is only as good as his/her next book. This may well be a personal idiosyncrasy, a hangover from journalism where your ass is on the line every time you tell a story. I live with it.

Q. What, for you, are the differences between investigative journalism and 'creative writing,' be it literary fiction, memoir, or true crime?

A. I believe it's all part of the same process—commentary on reality, how we live, why we do things good and bad, how we cope with the surprises, why people can resemble gods one day and the lowest forms of life the next. The common imperative in any story is that it be relevant to everyone who reads it whether or not the reader likes it or agrees with it.

Q. You retired from the CBC in 2014 after 38 years, with cuts looming and allegations mounting against both Jian Ghomeshi and the CBC. But can you tell me about the moments you were most proud of, as a writer and broadcaster?

A. Too many moments to recount. Front-line CBC reporters are, on the whole, dedicated and rigorous. Recent "moments"—coverage of the shootout in the Centre Block of Parliament; the Ghomeshi scandal, from breaking developments to the in-depth critical analysis by The Fifth Estate. The enduring satirical excellence of Rick Mercer and the team of pranksters at This Hour has 22 Minutes. CBC's coverage of major sports events was, in my opinion as a viewer, superior to the products that now replace it, Grey Cup football, major hockey tournaments. I'm proud of CBC Radio, all of it. And I believe Radio Canada, our francophone sister ship, is vital to the cultural and political integrity of the country.

Q. Tell me about the hubbub after The Bishop's Man won the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2009.

A. The Giller, more than any other prize, brings an extraordinary amount of attention to an author and a book. It creates an instant flash of awareness and a bump in sales. In the long run, both book and author must live up to the expectations generated by the prize and the publicity, which means a lot of pressure for a while. I didn't have a hope of winning, so I was unready for the starburst when I did. Fortunately, many years in the media made it possible to keep my cool, but it was still at times unnerving—like when the Globe and Mail showed up to write a profile on my eleven-year-old Toyota SUV.

Q. What are you reading right now? What are you writing right now?

A. Reading David Benmozgis' book The Betrayers and a lot of non-fiction about a foreign conflict, which will be the backdrop for what I hope will be my next novel (which I'm already writing).

Linden MacIntyre will be appearing at McNally Robinson Booksellers on Monday, Jan. 26, to discuss and sign his latest novel Punishment. The event begins at 7 p.m.

No comments: