I was lucky enough to attend An Evening with Linden MacIntyre in Meaford, Ontario earlier this month. This was a fundraiser for the local library and was held at the beautifully restored Meaford Hall. I was obviously excited about this because I had an evening to myself that involved wine and cheesecake on a stick (!) and stimulating adult conversation. I’m also a fan of Linden MacIntyre’s work. In case you aren’t familiar with him, Linden MacIntyre is a CBC journalist and Giller-prize winning author. I absolutely loved his book The Bishop’s Man and recommended it to my sister, who also raved about it. It’s thought-provoking and understated. And in a book tackling the difficult subject of the Catholic Church and sexual abuse, it doesn’t take the easy way out. It’s fantastic.
MacIntyre began by reading from his new novel, Why Men Lie. He then sat down with the evening’s host for a discussion of his novels and his career as a journalist. He talked about his own childhood in Cape Breton and how that informed his writing. He discussed some of his assignments as a journalist and how those experiences affected him. He has written about some of the more haunting experiences in his novels in order to exorcise them from his life. There is a character in his new novel who is based on a real death-row inmate MacIntyre interviewed before his execution. He was a Canadian convicted of murder in Texas, and agreed to speak with MacIntyre after rejecting all other offers. According to MacIntyre, the inmate asked why he should speak with him, and MacIntyre replied “Because they don’t want you to. They want to control what is said about you. They want to show a twenty-year-old mugshot of you on the news and have that be the end of it.” And so the inmate agreed to tell his story. MacIntyre claims that his conversations with that inmate so affected him that he couldn’t quite capture that in his journalism. And in writing about him, MacIntyre claims that he was able to let go of a man who had haunted him for many years.
After MacIntyre’s interview was over, I high-tailed it to the reception area so that I could have the chance to meet him and still get home at a reasonable time. I was third in line to have my copy of The Bishop’s Man signed. Linden MacIntyre signed my book and then I told him that it was an honour to meet him, that I had loved The Bishop’s Man and that I showed Fifth Estate documentaries in my criminology courses to my policing students (before I had C, I used to teach college- and university-level courses for a policing program). I used to show them his documentary about Steven Truscott, a 14-year-old boy who was wrongly convicted of murder in Ontario in the 1950s. Linden MacIntyre told me that he thought it was so important to expose people, and particularly policing students, to stories of the wrongly convicted. He then offered to send me one of his non-fiction books, Who Killed Ty Conn? He was gracious and charming and I was thrilled to meet him.
Pete wasn’t able to come with me that night, because we weren’t able to find a babysitter, but next Tuesday we’re going to a lecture by Brian Stewart of CBC news on media sensationalism and we’re both pretty excited for that. Learning!