Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

First and Only Books: “Sometimes you only get to win the championship once.”

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First and Only Books: “Sometimes you only get to win the championship once.”

Continuing on the theme of the last dispatch about the treasure of first books, how about the phenomenon of those writers who give the world a first book and … no more.

I was thinking of this when I recently read for the second time Leonard Garnder’s magnificent 'Fat City', a slim and exquisite masterpiece about the lives and hopes of amateur boxers and skid row personalities in Stockton, California, in the late 1950s. The story, the characters, the language, the setting, everything is note-perfect in that novel. It was only when I looked up Gardner’s bibliography to choose the next novel of his to read that I discovered the man had never published another book. Nada. Zip.

Gardner commented to an interviewer that “sometimes you only get to win the championship once”. It’s a stoic response and maybe a little egotistical, but there’s a part of me that doesn’t buy it. I can’t help but wonder if fear had anything to do with the fact he never published another novel. Where do you go from such perfection and over-acclaim of that first novel? Is it a blessing or a curse?

How about Harper Lee and that little-recalled paperback, 'To Kill A Mockingbird'? Or Sylvia Plath's 'The Bell Jar'? Our own Alistair MacLeod's only novel, 'No Great Mischief', was over a decade in the making.

Send me your suggestion of a writer who gave us just one brilliant book and then disappeared.

And congratulations to Peggy Blair on being shortlisted for a CBC Bookie ;-)


1 comment

Thanks, C.B., it's very exciting! Really thrilled to see The Beggar's Opera next to such great books. Cheers, Peggy

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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C.B. Forrest

C.B. Forrest is the author of the literary crime novels The Weight of Stones and Slow Recoil.

Go to C.B. Forrest’s Author Page