Author Sean Arthur Joyce will introduce his new novel Mountain Blues at the Salmon Arm library in October.
Mountain Blues is the story of a village in the Valhalla Mountains that must struggle to save its emergency ward from government cutbacks.
When reporter Roy Breen arrives in Eldorado after 15 years working at a big city newspaper, burnt out and ready for a slower pace of life, he is soon pitched into the town’s crisis.
He must decide whether to blur the lines between objective observer and activist, knowing that closure of the village’s ER could mean the end of the community.
Along the way he meets the many eccentric yet lovable characters that inhabit Eldorado and its surrounding communities.
“It’s that rare creature—an activist story that’s fun,” says Joyce, who drew on nearly 30 years of experience as a freelance journalist and a lifetime Kootenay resident to craft the story.
Joyce launched the novel in May with readings in Calgary and across the East and West Kootenays.
He points out that in nearly every one of the communities he toured the book to, he heard similar stories of attempts by Interior Health to close or compromise community hospitals or emergency wards, something he describes as an emerging pattern.
“The irony is that when I wrote the novel in 2015, our own hospital ER in New Denver was secure and fully functional,” he writes.
“Then, just months before the book was released in May this year, we got the news that, unless we could secure the services of two additional doctors, we could face a reduction to “banker’s hours” in our ER. This in a remote village where the nearest major hospital is at least 100 kilometres away.”
His fictional Roy Breen character met up with his ‘real’ self (the author) as he was drafted to help with the physician recruitment efforts in New Denver this spring.
He also wrote about this in an article on ‘Life Imitates Art’ in the forthcoming issue of ARTiculate magazine, the Kootenays’ arts and culture journal.
Joyce is drawing praise for his prose from various sources.
“Joyce brings a unique toolbox of writing skills to bear in Mountain Blues that makes for crisp, lyrical prose, an engaging narrative, memorable characters, including an emotionally articulate cat, and a lightness of touch that is as surprising as it is delightful,” writes renowned Canadian poet and author Gary Geddes .
Nelson author Brian D’Eon also gave Mountain Blues a strongly favourable review. “Joyce cannot hide the love he has for his characters.
“He loves not just their strengths but their flaws, their best intentions, their sweet humanity.”
Mountain Blues is published by NeWest Press. Founded in 1977, NeWest Press is one of Canada’s first independent literary publishing houses, with a particular interest in books by Western Canadian authors.
The tour was sponsored in part by the Kootenay Columbia Cultural Alliance (CKCA), the arts and culture agency of the Columbia Basin Trust.
Joyce will read from Mountain Blues, which has been compared to Stephen Leacock’s classic Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, providing a humorous take on current events in a small mountain village, at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13.