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Garnet Rogers has released his debut novel … and you’re going to want to read it

James Gordon, Jan Vanderhorst (centre) and Garnet Rogers swap books on Sunday morning. Photo by Kate Vanderhorst.

It seems the past two years has seen an increase in the number of books written by musicians. Everyone from Alan Doyle, Richard Thompson and Paul McCartney to Dave Grohl and James Gordon have released memoirs, autobiographies and novels, all centred around music. Even folk DJs are writing books. Then there’s Garnet Rogers. His debut novel, Six Crows Gold, is a political thriller that has nothing to do with music. The idea for the story came from a very simple premise.

“I had this scenario about 15-20 year ago,” he explained. “I was driving though Iowa, and I had this [idea] of two guys waiting for coffee and a bomb going off down the street. I knew both of them had somewhat of a military background. The narrator in my book is ex-RCMP (Callum Sinclair), and his friend (Daniel Fiedler) is an ex-US Army ranger. It stayed with me, and I thought that’s a good setting for the story. But I had no idea what was going to happen after that.”

What happens is a Planned Parenthood office is bombed in Bethesda, MD, killing many people including a Republican senator’s wife. The two men are hired by the senator to find out why his wife was in the area at the time of the bombing. What transpires is an entertaining tale of American politics, white power groups, computer hacking and antique dealing.

“(Collecting antiques) came out of my travels,” Garnet said. “I’ve been collecting guitars for 30 years, and because I don’t fly, I’ve been in these seriously out-of-the way places. So you find yourself in Ogallala, NB, which is just a fly speck of a little town on the eastern side of the Rockies. So you drive in for the night looking for a place to stay, get up the next morning and find extraordinary treasures on the road — not just guitars but Navajo rugs, silver, arts and crafts stuff. So part of that is my own experience, and all the stuff that was mentioned about him buying, it’s all real stuff.”

When art imitates life

Included in that stuff is a 20-foot by 25-foot Louis Comfort Tiffany stained glass window!

“I actually played a concert in front of it in Middletown NY,” said Garnet. “I was trying to give [Callum] a purpose for all his wandering because he is at loose ends. I wanted also there to be sort of a funny or interesting side plot to the larger story of trying to find out who committed these bombings.”

Another part of the book is also a slice of life from Garnet’s own experiences.

“There’s one scene where these anti-choice protesters are confronting Callum, accusing him of being gay and all this stuff because he’s a liberal,” he explained. “They start going into these threats of what they’re going to do to him, and he starts acting out as if it’s getting him really sexually excited. That’s a real thing. That actually happened to me. I was in a pawn shop in Illinois. I came out with a guitar, and I threw it in my car, and it was right across the street from a Planned Parenthood clinic. There were these guys milling around with their signs, and women were going in with their heads down, not necessarily to get an abortion but to get health care. I sort of walked over and said, ‘What’s going on here?’ and they said, ‘They’re killing babies in there!’ So I went into the office and handed them a cheque and said, ‘I’m really sorry about those guys out there.’ So I came out; they started clustering around me and wanted to really get violent, saying all the things they were going to do to me. I started saying, ‘Oh yeah, tell me more! Oh God, yes! You’re going to tie me to a chair and hit me? Oh say it real slow!’ And they’re going, ‘What!?’ It was the best way of defusing a violent situation I’ve ever run into. They all threw their signs down and ran away. I thought, ‘I’ve got to put this in the book!’”

Drawing from personal experiences

One of the dilemmas the two main characters, Callum and Daniel, deal with is the difference between wanting justice and wanting revenge.

“It was more revelatory in terms of how my brain works than I really was wanting,” Garnet said. “Many of us fantasize violence, taking revenge on something, avenging or meting out justice. I have a tremendously violent background. My brother, Stan, and I, when we were on the road together, violence kind of overtook us a lot of the time because we kind of courted it. We’d been bullied as children, and we turned into serious idiots ourselves. Part of that I think was because we were very large. Stan was 6’4’’ and about 280. I’m not quite as heavy but taller, and it allowed us to act out bad things that we thought about. So there was that element in the book where [I think], am I writing this to just tell the story or am I just getting my yah yahs out [by] blowing something up or pounding the hell out of somebody?”

Balancing out the violence there is a bit of romance in the story, but it’s not the “knight in shining armour” type.

“When the narrator sort of comes to the rescue, so to speak, of this woman who runs the Planned Parenthood clinic, I didn’t want him to be ‘fixing’ everything for her,” Garnet said. “I wanted her to be a really strong character, and she is. [She’s] actually kind of scary!”

In creating Six Crows Gold Garnet didn’t seek out advice from anyone to see if he was on the right track with the story, not even his wife, Gail.

Making the art Garnet wanted to make

“No, I didn’t want to inflict that on her!” he said. “I read some piece of advice — it may have been from Ian Bell, who did the cover of the book. [He] said if you’re going to write a book, write a book you really want to read yourself, because you’re going to read it about 75 times. You have to do the proof reading, the editing and all that stuff. It was the story I wanted to read, and I make the records I want to listen to. It’s shameful [but] I will sometimes put on one of my records in the van and think, ‘Ahh, that’s not bad!’ All the work I’ve done with Scott Merritt where he does all this sort of magic. He sprinkles all this ’Scott Dust’ on my records and makes things interesting sounding. So with the book I wanted to write something I would have enjoyed reading.”

The novel was basically finished by December of 2020 with only minor adjustments needed, when the riots of Jan. 6 occurred in Washington D.C. and Garnet faced somewhat of a predicament.

“I thought, ‘Do I re-write anything to make myself look smarter?’ No, no-one’s going to believe it! He’s not that smart.”

The experience of creating these characters was so enjoyable, Garnet already has an idea for a prequel story for the main protagonist, he said.

“I like this guy,” he said of Callum Sinclair. “I think a lot of writers do this. I think he’s a better and more interesting version of me. He’s got better instincts and better ways of handling things. He’s smarter and kinder. There’s a lot of things in there I would like to be. He’s also younger and more fit!”

Describing Six Crows Gold as a political thriller would be accurate, though Garnet realizes not everyone would agree, given their political leanings.

“I don’t think anyone’s going to get past the politics. If you’re on the right hand side of the aisle, you’ll probably get 10-12 pages into it and say, ‘OK, I’ll use this to train the puppy!’”

To order a copy of Six Crows Gold, go to garnetrogers.com.

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