Stones weigh heavy
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Apr 30, 2010  |  Vote 0    0

Stones weigh heavy

Ottawa East News

Glen Cairn resident C.B. Forrest’s first literary crime novel, The Weight of Stones has been short-listed for the prestigious Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel.

“I woke up last Friday morning (April 23) with a note from my publisher congratulating me,” said Forrest.

“There had been announcement events in different cities across the country Thursday night and I did not make it to the one in Ottawa because I was watching the Senators play hockey. I had double good news; the Sens made it into game six and I had been shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis.”

He said it feels amazing to be nominated, and that readers have enjoyed his work.

“You're really putting yourself out there and you wait as you bite your nails for some feedback,” he said. “We all want that feedback, positive feedback, to know we’re going in the right direction. This makes me feel like my work has resonated with readers.”

The story centres on main character Charlie McKelvey, a father and police officer who’s son is murdered.

“His story was about him losing his son and how he dealt with that grief,” explained Forrest. “The core of the story is he’s a father seeking to avenge the death of his son but at the same time he's a police officer and he’s sworn to uphold justice. It’s really looking at the blurry line between revenge and justice.”

McKelvey first started as a secondary character in a novel Forrest wrote years ago and has left unpublished.

“His character really stayed with me I wanted to tell his particular story,” said Forrest about the unpublished story. “I think I may pull it out and dust it off and do an edit and see where it goes. It could be something of a prequel. Dig into his life and his motivations.”

The Weight of Stones has been called “A must read for 2009” by The Hamilton Spectator, and “Eloquent and precise” by Booker-nominated author Joan Barfoot.

However, when Forrest first set out to write the novel, he had no clear indication it would turn into the crime and mystery story it is now.

“I was probably half way through it and stopped and realized I had brought the element of the biker wars from Quebec in,” said Forrest, who studied journalism and worked for The Sudbury Star and Northern Life where he covered murder trials.

“I have done a lot of research on the biker wars in the early ’90s in Quebec. I had interviewed some ex-convicts who had been involved with that world and got some really good first-hand information on that life and that world, and suddenly I realized, that at its core, I was not only writing a very emotional novel about grief and a father losing his son, but there was a mystery at its core. The main theme is, does Charlie McKelvey have the right person in his sights or is he blinded by his grief? Is he chasing the wrong person? That’s the heart of the mystery.”

Forrest, who spent three years working on The Weight of Stones, said it was an incredible feeling when he first saw his book in print.

“My initial reaction when the publisher sent the first copy in the mail and I opened it up and held the book in my hand was, ‘Wow, I did it,’” he said. “It’s almost like delivering a baby. You kind of just hold it in your hands for a minute and think, ‘Wow this has actually come to life and people will be reading this.’”

His second novel, Slow Recoil, will be out in September 2010 and follows McKelvey as he moves on with his life.

“I’ve got plans to write at least one more after Slow Recoil so it could be a trilogy,” said Forrest. “And then there's a character in The Weight of Stones that deserves her own series; a female detective, Det. Mary-Ann Hattie. She’s an east-coast girl and I'm very fond of her character and would like to give her some space too.”

The Arthur Ellis Awards are presented in six categories for excellence in the crime genre published for the first time in the previous year. Winners will be announced on May 27 during a banquet in Toronto.

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