The High-Rise In Fort Fierce

About the book: 
A gritty, Canadian Cormac McCarthy. A rich interplay between the characters and their surroundings, an environment that swarms the characters, sometimes inflicting harm.

Drugs. Violence. Racism. Despair. The tiny, northern town of Fort Fierce has issues in spades, and most of them fester in the high-rise by the lake.

In this visceral, emotionally raw, and completely absorbing collection, Carlucci takes his readers through the ravaged history of Franklin Place, from its construction during the Cold War to its demolition decades later. We meet the Franklins themselves, three generations of landlords, each more paranoid and alienated than the last. And we meet their tenants: a drug dealer, a lonely bigot, a political activist, a struggling father, a wandering sex offender, a woman who refuses to give into it all. They wander in and out of each other's lives, with little in common but the building and the mould behind its walls.

In The High-Rise in Fort Fierce, Carlucci immerses us in a dim yet eerily familiar world. Love and death, conflict and compromise, fear, determination, and the tense relations between indigenous and settler populations thread the warp and weft of his dark and irrepressible tapestry. We cannot look away. 

My review: 
This book! If you ask me, it’s got ReLit Winner written all over it! Kudos PaulCarlucci for chiseled prose that breaks your heart and makes your eyes bleed! This is the new noir at it's best!

"And if a writer has genuine star quality, a sharper, deeper radiance than most, then he or she ought to be identified and celebrated without delay. 
Time may be of the essence. Margaret Macpherson, a relatively unknown Maritime-born Albertan, is such a writer, and Body Trade, her seventh book and second novel, is the proof. She writes with the psychological insight of Carol Shields, the gravitas of Margaret Atwood, the poetic reflexes of Earl Birney and the earthy eroticism of Leonard Cohen, but her voice remains uniquely her own."  
Lesley Hughes, Winnipeg Free Press

Still Mine and Still Water
Still Mine and Still Water by Amy Stuart are both commercial successes and can hardly be considered to be hidden treasures but I enjoyed them both so much that I wanted to feature them on The Minerva Reader. And, bonus, I contacted Amy Stuart with a few questions and she kindly took the time to be interviewed for The Minerva Reader!

To contextualize each book (taken from Goodreads)
Still Mine:
Clare is on the run. 
From her past, from her ex, and from her own secrets. When she turns up alone in the remote mining town of Blackmore asking about Shayna Fowles, the local girl who disappeared, everyone wants to know who Clare really is and what she's hiding. As it turns out, she's hiding a lot, including what ties her to Shayna in the first place. But everyone in this place is hiding something from Jared, Shayna's golden-haired ex-husband, to Charlie, the charming small-town drug pusher, to Derek, Shayna's overly involved family doctor, to Louise and Wilfred, her distraught parents.
Did Shayna flee? Was she killed? Is it possible she's still alive?
As Clare uncovers the mysteries around Shayna's disappearance, she must confront her own demons, moving us deeper and deeper into the labyrinth of lies and making us question what it is she's really running from. Twisting and electrifying, this is a get-under-your-skin thriller that will make you question what it means to lose yourself and find yourself in the most unlikely places.

Still Water:
Sally Proulx and her young boy have mysteriously disappeared in the stormy town of High River. Clare is hired to track them down, hoping against all odds to find them alive. But High River isn’t your typical town. It’s a place where women run to—women who want to escape their past. They run to Helen Haines, a matriarch who offers them safe haven and anonymity. Pretending to be Sally’s long-lost friend, Clare turns up and starts asking questions, but nothing prepares her for the swirl of deception and the depth of the lies.

Did Sally drown? Did her son? Was it an accident, or is their disappearance part of something bigger?

In a town where secrets are crucial to survival, everyone is hiding something. Detectives Somers and Rourke clearly have an ulterior motive beyond solving the case. Malcolm Boon, who hired Clare, knows more about her than he reveals. And Helen is concealing a tragic family history of her own. As the truth surges through High River, Clare must face the very thing she has so desperately been running from, even if it comes at a devastating cost. Compulsively gripping and twisty, Still Water is a deep dive of a thriller that will leave you breathless.


LdN: Of course the most obvious question is this: will there be a third novel (or more!)? And if so, can you tell us about it/them.
AM: Yes! A third (and final) novel is underway. Just like Still Water did, the third book will pick up where the previous one left off, but I’ll do my best to write it so that any reader picking it up on its own doesn’t feel completely lost. 
LdN: Over the course of the two novels, your protagonist Clare shows a great deal of personal growth. Was her characterization planned from the start or did it unfold as her story was written? Tell us about Clare and how you came up with creating her. 
AM: I created Clare because I wanted to see a thriller novel centered around a complex female lead, one with a deep personal history and tendencies and coping mechanisms that reflect that history. About 100 pages into the process of writing Still Mine, it occurred to me that I would not be able to wrap up Clare’s story in only one novel. I wasn’t sure how many it would take, but I knew more than one. She begins the journey in a deep personal struggle, and I knew I wanted the arc of the series to fundamentally be about her growth and healing. So I committed myself to writing enough books to get her there.
LdN: You very artfully place the novels in a North American setting that could be Canada or the U.S. Was this deliberate on your part, as a marketing tactic? I believe, for example, that Linwood Barclay was strongly encouraged by his agent to set his books in the U.S. - was it the same for you? 
AM: At first this happened unintentionally. In the editing process for Still Mine, I found myself cutting out the sections that defined the location more clearly because they weren’t helping move the plot forward. The more that happened, the more I realized that it was beneficial to the story to have the location unclear enough that the reader could choose to place it as they see fit. This was done not from a marketing perspective so much as from an imagination one. I’ve heard from readers who thought it was in the Rocky Mountains in BC and others who pictured Virginia. I love that the story bends its place for the reader. Certainly no one at the editorial level insisted I do it either way, but I don’t think it hurt the books US prospects that the location was ambiguous. 
LdN: Your novels are thrillers but they also tackle important social issues such as abused women, dysfunctional families and drugs. What part of the novel writing comes more naturally to you - the societal issues or the thriller/plotting aspects?
Neither came particularly naturally to me at first. It was very important for me to authenticate the social issues, so I did a lot of reading and watching and listening to stories so that Clare’s experience would ring true. I think plotting is a trick that can be learned to some degree. I’m very lucky to have an experienced editor who’s been able to coach me on how much to reveal and how much to pull back so that the plot unfolds at the right pace.
LdN: Would you consider writing a novel without Clare and if so, what would it be about? (This question can merge into the first one, if you like.)
AM: I have ideas for novels beyond Clare, but right now they are hard to articulate or talk about. It almost feels like cheating on Clare to discuss what will happens when her story is done!
LdN: Can you name Canadian writers who have inspired you and can you tell us a bit about why they did? 
AM: Going way back, I have always been inspired by Alice Munro. She is the absolute master of writing plot into a small space. Like no other writer, she can create rich stories in only a few dozen pages. More recently, a crop of Canadian thriller and mystery writers have emerged and I’m inspired by them every day. They include Iain Reid, Nathan Ripley, Laurie Petrou, Roz Nay, Louise Penny, Shari Lapena and many more!
LdN: Malcolm Boon is a fascinating, enigmatic character and so is his relationship with Clare. Can you tell us about how you came up with him?
AM: With Malcolm I wanted a character who felt very frustrating and tough to know. We meet people like that all the time, and I didn’t want to fall into the trap of giving him away too fast. His enigmatic ways are a big part of the story and the plot and of Clare’s struggles. In earlier versions of Still Minea lot more about Malcolm was revealed, so it took time to scale him back. But don’t worry, the third book will blow things wide open. 
LdN: What, for you, are the toughest challenges when it comes to writing and what are your greatest joys?
AM: My greatest challenge without a doubt is time. This year I’ve been working full-time as a high school teacher, and my second novel was released, and I have three kids. So finding the time is a constant struggle and not one I’m very good at. The joys are the moments where something finally lands. That scene or plot point that’s felt nagging or impossible and suddenly I just figure it out. It’s a rare enough event to feel truly special when it happens. 
I thank Amy for taking the time to chat with me today on The Minerva Reader and I look forward to novel #3!