Review of Summer's Idyll
Junior, you are a born storyteller! These teacher-written words of praise ring loud in the mind of Don Gutteridge’s book-loving eleven-year-old male protagonist Billy as he bolts from school on the last day of class. So the novel Summer’s Idyll begins on Thursday, June 29th, 1944 set in a fictional Ontario lakeside town as seen through the eyes of the child of an absent father, a soldier fighting the Nazis somewhere in Europe. This ‘what did you do on your summer vacation’ bildungsroman begins only twenty-three days after the allies stormed the beaches of Normandy, and so the reader knows that each headline, every newspaper story, every scrap of information might bring the terrible black-bannered news of death of someone’s father, someone’s brother, someone’s husband. Set against this backdrop of distant war brought close to home, we experience the childhood adventures of an imaginative narrator rendered in the lyrical prose of a master. Don Gutteridge in addition to being an award-winning poet is the author of twenty-two novels including the twelve-volume Marc Edwards mystery series. Summer’s Idyll may just be his greatest masterpiece. In the tradition of Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, Emily of New Moon, Who Has Seen the Wind, we fortunate readers glory in the experiences of a precocious child pondering the big questions of life and death, the mysteries of sex and gender, all the while playing and frolicking and being wonderfully alive during that time of great awakening in the cusp between late childhood and early adolescence.
John B. Lee Poet Laureate of the city of Brantford in perpetuity
Poet Laureate of Norfolk County for life
Don Gutteridge is the author of more than forty books: fiction, poetry and scholarly works. To view all books go to Don Gutteridge/Wikipedia.
In 2013 an e-book was published: Lily's Story (Bev Editions), available from Kobo, Amazon et al. It is now available in print format (paperback, 2014, 613 pages, $32.95) at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Indigo et al.
He is the author of The Perilous Journey of Gavin the Great (Borealis Press) and seven historical mysteries set in 1830s Upper Canada and featuring Marc Edwards and Horatio Cobb, the first six published by Simon and Schuster and number seven by Bev Editions, available at Amazon et al.
This series, known as the Rebellion Mysteries, captures life in British North America in the 1830s. Americans eyed Canada for annexation and Canadians agitated for autonomy from both Britain and the United States. Marc Edwards, a dashing solicitor bored with legal studies, joins the British army and is posted to Fort York in Toronto, a colonial backwater. No place for glory.But Marc is asked by the governor to investigate a murder. Was it a political killing by rebels trying to oust British masters? Or was it personal? His loyalty to the British Crown becomes complicated when he falls in love with Beth, a Reformer, and he finds his sympathies drifting. Marc solves the crime but romance awaits.
The novel opens with Marc's humiliation in the pursuit of an assassin, and the murder of a prominent politician during a public rally. The investigation takes Marc and his colleagues from the offices of the rebels struggling against the British to the mansions of the ruling elite. It also takes them into the lives and bedrooms of several charming ladies. And it increases Marc's tension between his duty to the Crown and his love for Beth, an American-born widow who continues to be active in the Reform movement.
Marc, posted at Fort York in Toronto in 1837, is chafing under his routine duties with his regiment. The arrival a touring theatrical company in the British colony promises light diversion. But events turn nasty when his friend Rick Hilliard falls for a young actress and is accused of murdering his rival for her affections by stabbing his with his sabre. Marc's investigation reveals that the victim was smuggling American rifles to local rebels agitating for the expulsion of the British rulers. Was it a political murder or a crime of passion? Marc's involvement with the theatre group yields an astounding revelation about the secret of his own identity.
Autumn 1837 and Lieutenant Marc Edwards is sent with his British regiment to subdue increasingly hostile French rebels in what later became Quebec. The brutality causes Marc to question whether the sacrifices he has made for the British Crown have been worth the cost. On his return to Toronto, Marc is accompanied by a group of seemingly innocent civilians. It become clear that some fellow travellers are not who they claim and Marc is the target of an unknown assassin. When a member of group is found murdered, Marc realizes he may have more than one killer to worry about.
After being injured on the battlefields of Quebec, Marc Edwards is disillusioned with life in the military and quits to start a family with his new wife. Lord Durham has been sent out to find a resolution to the fighting plaguing Britain's North American colonies. His nephew becomes the chief suspect in a horrific crime. The ruling elite of the colonies attempt to take advantage of the situation in order to keep power for themselves, and it's up to Marc to uncover the truth and ensure peace and stability for the land he has come to call home
Death of a Patriot
Marc, now studying for the Bar with Robert Baldwin, is brought in to work with Constable Cobb in finding the killer of an important American officer, foilloiwng the battles of the Patriot War. Marc's young friend has been accused of the crime and Marc needs to find the real culprit and clear his name. While the trial ensues, overseen by a disgraced American barrister whom Marc hires, Marc and Cobb are taken in their investigation as far afield as Woodstock and Detroit, where they encounter the infamous Hunters Lodges and find evidence to solve the crime.
The Bishop's Pawn
Following a fiery sermon by Bishop Strachan a prominent barrister is found brutally murdered with a note tied to him saying 'Sodomite!' Marc, a good friend of the victim sets out to find the murderer and finds himself led to New York, where he discovers a gentlemen's club devoted to the sexual exploitation of minors. He soon discovers the name of the man who is responsible for the murder and returns to Toronto to expose him and save the reputation of his friend.
His many volumes of poetry are available from Oberon Press.
Excerpts from Reviews
Turncoat is an impressive debut and the start of an intriguing series. Too bad most school history teaching lacks the wit and sparkle of this tale.
...John North, Quill and Quire
The story is written with understanding, compassion and wit. A well-written history mystery should be both enlightening and entertaining. Turncoat is both.
...The Hamilton Spectator
A lively,witty and frequently shrewd novel--a painless lesson that puts entertaining flesh on istory's bones.
...Joan Barfoot, The London Free Press
Don Gutteridge combines history and story seamlessly, and Solemn Vows is an excellent sequel to Turncoat. Once again, readers will be left wanting more-- the pages cannot turn fast enoughand there are many surprises along the way.
...Merry Hakin, Scene Magazine
This third novel in Don Gutteridge's terrific historical series is the best thus far, and that is saying a lot beause Gutteridge knows how to build and pace a mystery novel. Gutteridge weaves his tale perfectly, with believable characters and perfect scene-setting.
...Margaret Cannon, The Globe and Mail
And moral dilemmas never change, including the struggle between conflicting loyalties that gives Vital Secrets its title There are rarely unambiguous, untroubling answers. The questions, in whatever century they're asked, are always relevant. That he raises them between the covers of a smoothly written, vividly descriptive, tense and thoughtful murder mystery is an entertaining bonus.
...Joan Barfoot, The London Free Press
I have enjoyed all three of Don Gutteridge's previous Marc Edwards books. Dubious Allegiance shares their strength and deep roots in Canada's past, but is less a mystery than a well-written, graphic and moving history. Praise to Don Gutteridge for bringing so skillfully to life this important piece of our past: the long and hard struggle for responsible government.
...Jenni Morton, The Saskatoon Star-Poenix
Don Gutteridge returns in fine style with Dubious Allegiance. Gutteridge delves deeper into his hero's emotions and allows the reader to feel his pain and desire, his uncertainty and generosity of spirit. Another success in the series of Marc Edwards mysteries-- a truly exciting way to learn a little Canadian history while indulging in a great story.
...Merry Hakin, Scene Magazine
A novel that is swift, humane, vividly written and valuable for those not ordinarily much interested in historical fiction of any sort. Gutteridge has used his retirement to very fine purpose, continuing to illuminate important matters of both history and humans in smart, gripping fashion.
...Joan Barfoot, The London Free Press
Not many authors would have the nerve to link Lord Durham, whose famed report played such an important role in Canada's past, with a grisly (invented) murder in a Toronto brothel in 1838, but Don Gutteridge did not hesitate to do so in Bloody Relations. And he pulls it off. As always, Gutteridge brings a piece of Canada's fascinating past to bold life.
...Jenni Morton, The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix
Death of a Patriot
As in earlier stories Gutteridge combines history and mystery with great success, offering up a political and emotional barnburner that is sure to leave readers satisfied.
Merry Hakin, Scene Magazine
For six books running Don Gutteridge has been doing Canadian mystery fans a great favour with is Marc Edwards series. As in his earlier series Gutteridge never lets the historical time period overwhelm the story or the characters. Death of a Patriot once again delivers the goods.
Sarah Weinmann, The National Post
This is the sixth volume, and in my opnion, the best of the continuing saga of Marc Edwards. Vivid character development and description have always been a hallmark of Gutteridge's writing and continues with this volume. The saga includes many unforgettable characters, including the wonderfully portly Horatio Cobb and his down to earth wife Dora Gutteridge provides many plot twists in presenting a very readable and fast-paced tale.
Gene Burdenuk, Goodreads
Reviews of Lily's Story
Don Gutteridge literally dramatizes the parochial in this frontier tale taking place in Lambton County in the 19th century, but in a way that does not overly romanticize or sentimentalize the lives of its characters. The prose is exceptionally rich. reminiscent of Ernest Buckler's The Mountain and the Valley. A narrative that spans from 1845 right through the First World War, there is something of a haunting yet non-maundering apologia, and yet the author contains it in the subtle tones to keep emphasis on the very human story that unfolds.
That being said, it is less a story centred on characters than it is one fucused on the geography of the region where the characters play out. It is the dramatization of a territory that lends Lily's Story an almost visceral feel, aided in part by Gutteridge's masterful strokes of descriptive, parochial colour that places it in the tradition of literary high modernism. Gutteridge arranges all the ingredients in what a good historical fiction in this genres requires: erudition and a narrative exquisitely contoured by historical facts that are just dense enough to provide believability without being obtrusively self-announcing, and in just the right density to maintain a continuity where the story is not just an ornament hung on those details.
What appealed to this reviewer was the delicate touches that truly bring out the landscape in a non-obtrusive, unforced manner, filtered through the challenges of a frontier people.
..Kane Faucher, The Western News
A review of Lily's Story in the form of a personal letter to the author by Colm O'Sullivan, professor emeritus, Western University.
What I am attempting to do here is not write a standard book review but to give you some of the personal and no doubt idiosyncratic responses of an appreciative reader's re-reading of your novel, Lily's Story. I can readily see why you consider this book your magnum opus; through your writing here, the village of Point Edward, Lambton County, Ontario, has found a voice to express its unique identity and the stamp it has placed on its people, as surely, if not as widely, as Shropshire and Wessex and the Mississippi River and Yoknapatawpha County have found their voices. This is primarily a novel of place; the sense of place is palpable; the events arise uniquely from the character of the place and its times and simply could not have arisen from any other source. And the place is also what made you and drove you to write what you write.
The period your story encompasses, three fourths of a century or so, is of course the seminal stage in the birth and growth of Point Edward and its adjacent territories, the metamophosis from semi-settled, semi-nomadic frontier life to more or less civilized, grounded living. Existence for these pioneers was harsh, with much drudgery and physical hardships and entirely lacking the social schemes we take for granted to cushion the blows life throws at us. Although some traces of pageantry and grandeur come their way at irregular intervals to remind them of the great imperial enterprise of which they are a peripheral part, there are few joys or pleasures in their lives other than the most basic ones, and there is much pain, especially the pain of loss of loved ones. What appears to sustain them is an indomitable spirit allied to a strong sense of wit and irony. Lily is thus their ideal representative in that she has no sense of entitlement or even expectation of fair play, but is the ultimate Stoic and entirely admirable. As a minor actor, indeed in a frequently menial role, in the heroic enterprise of taming the wilderness and creating civilization, she expects no recognition, seeks no plaudits and accepts losses and disappointments with courage, resourcefulness and even equanimity. And these are the qualities the task at hand requires. In her practical philosophic stance there is no room for fear of the vagaries of the future or even of death. This is the courage that sustains her even as some of her neighbours forget she ever had a past or a name or a life other than Granny Coote; her sense of self is still strong. And her story is well worth the telling; even for this reader, whose forebears never stood on the soil of the New World, Lucy's story is part of my cultural heritage, a racial memory I can claim as my own.
Lily's Story is for me then above all a novel of place; it is in part a recognition of the place to which I immigrated. In my early years in teacher education when my school visits were mostly to rural elementary schools, I developed a habit of poking about in old cemeteries and peering at the inscriptions on the most eroded tombstones. What I was doing, though I didn't realize it at the time, was looking for hints of Lucy's story, of the sights and sounds and smells of the world she and her contemporaries inhabited. Your novel has brought much of that to life for me, not just the ambience of her daily life but also the set vignettes we know only in their twenty-first century incarnations: Lily's brief soujourn in London during her pregnancy; the frenzy during the oil boom in Petrolia and Oil Springs; the Underground Railroad and the threat of the US slave-recovery laws; the chicanery of the railway companies; Sir John A quietly vomiting into the bushes at the hustings. And there is your poet's instinct for exactly the right phrase, "the rite words in the rote order" as Joyce called it, as in: "From the left side of the platform, Mr. Mackenzie skewered him with his Presbyterian eye." And then there are your vivid recreations of nature, winter storms, torrid days, polar nights, dogs and deer and flowers and forests and gardens. Don, you have given us a cornucopia; thank you.
With respect and affection: Colm
Review of The Perilous Journey of Gavin the Great
Loyal readers of Don Gutteridge might know him better through his lushly painted historical fiction, so it might strike some as an odd detour that he undertook to write a book geared to a younger audience -- though it is not unprecedented given this reviewer's belief that there is some tentative complementarity between the literary foci of both Gutteridge and Saramago. Written in the fable genre, perhaps one could be forgiven for being reminded of Watership Down, but there is always a moral lesson nested in the narrative trials of animal characters. In this case a raccoon by the name of Gavin exemplifies how the challenging circumstances of a devastating deluge can make the most meek and unassuming individual rise to the occasion to become a leader. As Gavin of Earthwood, his brothers and various survivors they attract along the way delve ever deeper into Everdark, they encounter many horrors, but through Gavin's decisive leadership and the troupe's teamwork, their difficult quest amisdst the nightmarish creatures eventually - according to Gollah's will - leads them to prosper. The story is peppered with clever and readily identifiable allusions such as Noab's Arkle, Hex Calibre, Zeebub, and the Knaves of the Round Tablet, and populated by a very colourful cast of characters, whose names betray their natures. That the story ends happily is no spoiler, for ti is truly the journey (which makes Gavin great) that is more important than the destination: what he learns about the maligned and feared Tallwalkers, and the lessons about friendship and leadership that are immediately transferable to audiences young and old.
Kane Faucher, The Western News.
Beginning in Lambton County, Ontario in 1840, Lily's Story follows its namesake lead character on an extraordinary journey. Living most of her life as an orphan after the death of her mother and her father's abandonment, Lily makes her way in a difficult world. Uneducated and with little support from her remaining family, she finds herself in some interesting situations; through marriages, babies, physical labour and abuse, Lily struggles to look after herself and those around her. Life is not easy -- women were little more than possessions, there are few opportunities for schooling, and the future is bleak. When speaking to a politician who proclaims the importance of everyone getting out to the polls to have their voice heard, Lily simply replies, " I don't get no vote, I'm a woman." Racism also abounds; escaping US slaves are smuggled into the country, often to find a cold welcome, and Native Canadians are denigrated. But there is love and camaraderie among the poor. They fight and reconcile, they help each other and present a united front to the upper classes of society. Surrounding these everyday situations, the country is in upheaval -- the Riel Rebellion, the First World War, the 1918 influenza epidemic; cities are growing and Canada's identity is emerging. Epic by any description, Lily's Story shows readers a beautiful and brutal picture of Canada's early years, and although the main character rarely speaks, her voice rings clear in every word.
Merry Hakin, Scene Magazine
Gutteridge returns in fine style with Dubious Allegiance. He delves deeper into his hero's emotions and allows the reader to feel his pain and desire, his uncertainty and generosity of spirit. Another success in the series of Marc Edwards mysteries-- a truly exciting way to learn a little Canadian history while indulging in a great story.
...Merry Hakin, Scene Magazine
I have enjoyed all three of Don Gutteridge's previous Marc Edwards mysteries,set in Upper Canada of 1836 and 1837. Dubious Allegiance is less a mystery and than a well-written, graphic and moving history. Praise to Don Gutteridge for bringing so skilfully to life tis important piece of our past: the long, hard struggle for responsible government.
...Jenni Mortin, The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix
A review (excerpts) of The Way It Was: by Kane Faucher, The Western News
There is no doubt that the poems collected in this svelte volume have been memorially 'lived in;' they must negotiate a world with -- and without -- words...Gutteridge's poetic offerinegs are seemingly designed as accessible snapshots of life, a snippet of sentiment, the sudden reanimating blush of a faded history...Each tells a story in the form of a vignette, its context established quickly like the flash of a photographer's bulb...Accented with very memorable imagery, such as the widow Mrs. Bray being "bee-deep" in her flowers, or the tasteful alliterations of "glittering gladioli" and "dappling daze.": all serve to call us home to our humble archive of memories to delight in when the slap of a strap, and engine drone, the spectacular light of a crepuscular evening and the passage of life to a wordless world are personally profound events. Both pleasant and haunting, we are treated to a world of velvet voices and muttering mortars in a memorial transfer from past to present, from present to beyond.
Kane Faucher, The Western News
A review of Tidings
What an absolutely stunningly beautiful book. I love the lyric simplicity of Tidings (and in this context the word simplicity is very high praise indeed). I read poem after poem and think it is a masterpiece. There is an abiding sadness, but the sadness of wisdom, of knowing that if we live long enough, we lose loved ones, we keep them in our hearts though they are gone. Long ago I coined the phrase “the presence of absence” to capture in as few words as possible what I felt when I thought of those loved ones I’d lost. We preserve them in poems. We keep them alive in memory and dream. We weep and grieve and lament and celebrate. This book is profound and wise and consoling. I will be reading it again and again because it goes deep. It has the courage of autobiography without the honey trap of the confessional.
John B Lee, award-winning poet