February 12, 2003

Next week the Voice will feature part one of an interview with H. Mel Malton:

Getting tired of waiting for the same authors to pen a new book? Want to find something fantastic and Canadian? How about one of the books of H. Mel Malton?

In a world dominated by J.K. Rowling, perhaps you’re ready for the hilarious, offbeat descriptions of my new favorite author. No, she doesn’t write sci-fi for children. Her three Polly Deacon mystery books have grabbed me by the heart and tickled me pink! I am an unadulterated fan, I admit. I swallow her books up in quick succession and they sit on my bookshelf in honor.

“Mel” is a writer who challenges description. Check out this passage from her third book:

“You interested in a nightcap?” Becker asked, fumbling for the light switch. What he actually said was more like “Yinneres dinna nicap?” (we were really sloshed), but I knew what he meant. I complied, but we had hardly had more than a sip of whatever it was he splashed into two glasses before we were tangled together on the Ikea sofa, making noises that would have made Bryan, had he been there, say “eeew, gross.”

In all three of her books, Down in The Dumps, Cue The Dead Guy, and Dead Cow in Aisle Three, she has a turn of phrase that captures the reader’s imagination and their funny bone.

In Down in The Dumps she introduces us to her heroine, Polly Deacon. Polly lives in Langtree and, of course, a dead official is found in the local dump. Polly is one of those people who figures out what happened by accident. She’s not a Sherlock Holmes intentionally bent on finding the clues to crimes. She is for hire but mostly for puppet making, and she has a habit of milking goats!

In Cue The Dead Guy we find out who killed a member of a performance troupe Polly happens to be with. It makes for great description of life with a poor touring company.

In Dead Cow In Aisle Three we have to find out who killed a kid hired to be a new store’s mascot. Was the murder intended for someone else? I won’t tell you the killer ending – yes, pun intended – I want you to go out and order at least one of these books, perhaps as your new author for 2003?

I’m not sure how you react, but the titles of the books alone get me laughing. As a matter-of-fact, I’m sure I’m downright worrying to stewardesses and travelers alike when I’m on a long airline flight and merrily belly laughing my way through the hurky jerky flight.

The cover art is well done and I always enjoy showing the books to buddies.

The tiny biography at the back of the books says she was born in England and immigrated to Canada with her parents in the 1960s. Her photos are always kind of dark and “artsy”. What is it with authors and dark photos?

Polly Deacon, Malton’s main character, lives as a painfully poor puppet-maker in Ontario and has found a fine man friend who lets her live “temporarily” on his property. She hasn’t left yet.

Many crazy characters join Polly. Included in them is her on-again-off-again boyfriend. He’s a local cop, Mark Becker. The three books to date have left us laughing over their ridiculous relationship. I’m sure it’s far more realistic than many of us would like to admit! Becker is your ex, my ex, your brother: he’s, well, a Jerk with a capital “?J’. Anyway, their antics always make us giggle.

Polly has some – errr habits we won’t discuss. She breaks the law and it doesn’t bode well with Mr. On-Again:

There are some problems being in this neck of the country. There are just too many murders, but thankfully the facts fall into Polly’s lap. Hmmm:didn’t Jessica Fletcher (Murder, She Wrote) have the same problem?

Mel’s characters are not for the timid. They crackle with youthfully slanted realness and anything but drab, humdrum “normality”. She takes us into her world of puppet making. She educates us. She shows us starvation: how many times has the character been cut off for not paying her Petro Canada bill?!

The third book took me along as usual but from the second I saw a pair of kids happen on the scene with a problem I knew there was trouble for Polly! Sure enough, Polly has finally left us hanging at the end of a book. Each of the other books has been politely wrapped up at the end. Now I’m climbing the walls waiting for book four! I have to find out how she’s going to get her poor dear Polly out of this pickle. Or is she?

If you want a fun author to read, I hope you pick up one or more of the books of H. Mel Malton and enjoy her writing as much as I do.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to try to find out when her next book is coming out.

H. Mel’s first book was short-listed for the Arthur Ellis award for Best Crime Novel of 1998. She’s currently living in Huntsville, Ontario on a farm with her two dogs -Karma and Ego. I love that great wildlife outdoors reality she lives. I Wish I could go live on a farm and write successfully for a living.

Next week, the Voice features part one of a two-part interview with H. Mel Malton:

Laura Seymour first published herself, at age 8. She has since gone on to publish a cookbook for the medical condition Candida. She is working toward her B.A. (Psyc).