25th Trillium Award

Recommended Reads - Stratford & Perth County

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The Bloody Man

by Melanie Kindrachuk and Erin Knight

Stratford and Perth County is a hotbed of culture, and our Recommended Reads for this month, compiled by Melanie Kindrachuk of Stratford Authors and the Indextrious Reader, could have been much longer. Our list includes a dozen books by local writers, inspired by Stratford's history or set in the town and surrounding area. Whether you're a resident looking for your next great read or visitor planning your next trip, these books of poetry, romance, horror, drama and history will serve you well.

The Bloody Man (Blue Shadow Press), by Bevan Amberhill

Bevan Amberhill is the pseudonym of two cowriters, Bruce Barber and the late Virgil Burnett. In The Bloody Man (Blue Shadow Press), the first novel of a trilogy about actor-turned-writer Jean-Claude Keyes, our hero travels to Stratford, and to the Shakespeare Festival. Keyes is intending to finish writing his biography of actor Seamus O?Reilly, but when a young actor is murdered outside the theatre during a performance of Macbeth, Keyes must become a reluctant sleuth.

Base Spirits (Spirited Words Book Co.), by Ruth Barrett

Stratford author and actor Ruth Barrett found inspiration for her first novel, Base Spirits (Spirited Words Book Co.), in a crimes committed during Shakespeare's time. This supernatural thriller opens in the present day, with an unhappily married couple attempting to a vacation together at Calverley Old Hall. But the crimes committed in the old hall were so horrific that the spirits have remained...and soon Clare and her husband Scott find themselves transported into a terrifying wrinkle in time.

Oh There You Are I Can't See You Is It Raining (Snare Books), by Laura Broadbent

Laura Broadbent was raised in Stratford, Ontario and has resided in Montreal since 2005. Oh There You Are I Can't See You Is It Raining (Snare Books) is her first book of poetry, which won the 2012 Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry. She was recently appointed the reviews editor at Lemon Hound, and aside from poetry she also has a great Tumblr page!

One More Time, by Deborah Cooke

Bestselling author Deborah Cooke is also an enthusiastic ambassador for local writers. Her award-winning romance novels have their own spark and attitude. In One More Time, Deborah returns to the beloved Coxwell family — and finds a marriage in shambles. Leslie Coxwell has long been known as a highly capable working mother, but when her husband walks out and turns to his old flame for support, Leslie is determined to throw her every effort into getting Matt back. Luckily, her considerable resources include a smokin' lingerie collection. Originally published under her nom de plume, Claire Cross, Deborah has recently republished these classics of the genre under her own name.

Stratford Behind the Scenes (Stratford Shakespeare Festival) by Don Gillmor; foreword by Lloyd Robertson; photography by Erin Samuell

And of course we can't have a list about Stratford without mentioning the Festival! The latest book put together by the Festival is Stratford Behind the Scenes, which explores the process of building a season, from choosing the playbill to set construction to performance. It is a beautiful coffee-table book, with gorgeous photos from backstage and beyond — which, along with interviews and observations by staff, will lead readers on a fascinating journey into corners of the Festival seldom seen by members of the public.

Rogues' Wedding (Random House Canada), by Terry Griggs

Local resident Terry Griggs is a Governor General?s Award-winning author, with many novels set in Ontario. Her tales range all over the province, but in Rogues' Wedding (Random House Canada) in particular, Stratford gets a mention. The story begins when Griffin Smolders, new bridegroom, jumps out the window and disappears on his wedding night, only to be pursued by his beautiful and vengeful bride, Avice.

The Stratford Adventure of Adrian & Tiddlywinks, by John Sullivan Hayes

This children's tale was published posthumously by the author's daughter, with help from some Stratford friends. Through the eyes of a shy, young English boy and an adventurous, talented mouse we learn about the joys and universal challenges of life backstage in the theatre. The Stratford Adventure of Adrian & Tiddlywinks is an adventure-fantasy story that travels from England to Canada. It is based on the early days of the Stratford Festival Theatre and John Sullivan Hayes? own childhood as the son of a famous British actor. Several of the characters in this delightful tale bear the names and personalities of the first directors, actors and designers at the Stratford Festival.

Mable Riley (Tundra Books), by Marthe Jocelyn

Beloved children's author Marthe Jocelyn brings Stratford's history to life with Mable Riley (Tundra Books), a YA novel set in our town in 1901. When her older sister moves to Stratford, Ontario to take up a position as schoolmistress, the intrepid Mable Riley goes with her. She longs for excitement and finds it in an unexpected quarter, at the Ladies Reading Society. Mable wants to be a writer, and the story is made up of her letters home, poems she writes and excerpts from the novel she is working on.

Read Marthe Jocelyn's list of Five Things Literary: Stratford here.

The Guardians (Random House of Canada), by Andrew Pyper

A writer with Stratford roots, Andrew Pyper has written many fabulous books. We are all looking forward to his newest release, The Demonologist! However, The Guardians (Random House of Canada), a recent title, is fascinating because it deals with hidden secrets within a small town. Trevor, Randy, Ben and Carl were childhood friends, schoolmates and teammates on the Grimshaw Guardians hockey team. Life was a party until that fateful day when their music teacher disappeared and the teens decided to solve the mystery on their own, a decision that involved entering the Thurman House, where the unspeakable happened and was discovered. Reading Pyper generally means you are about to experience eerie, unexpected surprises. Keep the light on!

Twelve Letters to a Small Town (Ryerson Press), by James Reaney

This slim chapbook addressed to the town of Stratford is a delight. Twelve Letters to a Small Town is a nostalgic memoir of sorts, made up of James Reaney's poems on both Stratford itself, and the road between town and his father's farm. He lived in Stratford briefly but youthful experience stays with a person, and Reaney here expounds on both local history and his recollection of the past. It's a rather gentle look back at youth, covered in a haze of sentiment, but it paints a recognizable picture of Stratford's past. James Reaney originally wrote this suite of poems for composer John Beckwith to set to music in 1962. Readers interested in Reaney's work will also want to check out The Essential James Reaney (The Porcupine's Quill).

The Kind of Life It's Been (HarperCollins Canada), by Lloyd Robertson

The story of a local boy made good, Lloyd Robertson's recent autobiography, The Kind of Life It's Been (HarperCollins Canada), reveals stories about Robertson breaking into the radio business in his hometown of Stratford, and describes his life long career in the news business. As the longest serving TV news anchor in Canadian history, this Stratfordian has many tales to tell.

The Underpainter (McClelland & Stewart), by Jane Urquhart

Jane Urquhart was a Stratford resident for years and many of her books capture a sense of Ontario, and the restless movements of families and immigrants. The Underpainter, winner of the 1997 Governor General's Award for Fiction, is a novel of interweaving stories. Three people's lives are affected when the world of art collides with the messiness of human emotion. Austin Fraser, American painter, uses and betrays two Ontarians — his beautiful muse and a Canadian veteran he had befriended. The story ranges over New York, Ontario and France over the 1920s and 1930s.

Buy these books at your local independent bookstore, online from the publisher, or at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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