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Here's what four of my books look like

I like writing, dislike marketing — but hope some people are enjoying the final product

I immediately loved the cover design. The novel is based on character and place, but explores ideas about imaging technology.

If you think about it, there's more than one way to interpret the title. It's about people, but also about myths in a place given to believing myths.

Winner of the Writer's Guild of Alberta 2005 Wilfred Eggleston Award for Non-Fiction. Sadly, the main arguments remain relevant.

My contribution was the chapter on Don Getty, a politician who was too shy for public life and accomplished more than often thought.

Books by Mark Lisac

Current and past publications — check availability at: Amazon, Indigo, other retailers

My first book was published in 1995. The most recent was published in 2023. It's been an adventure.

My general attitude toward producing a book is that readers at minimum deserve good writing. That's a highly variable concept, of course. Different people have different tastes. For me, it means fitting the prose to the story, not finding excuses to indulge in show-off writing. That is an application of form following function, I suppose. There should be some real effort put into the writing; I see a lot of novels in which the writing is ordinary or weak or filled with hackneyed conventions because the entire focus is on plot.

I like a straightforward narrative. The current trend of interleaving different time periods is overused and often not necessary. There may be some argument for presenting the narration in the voices of several characters, all with their own views of what happens. But that structure has not often been handled well since William Faulkner, although Iris Murdoch did a good job of it at the end of The Black Prince. Characters and place come first. Ideas can be explored — some of my novels may or may not do that a little too much — but I don't take the view that fiction is a good way to tell what is basically a non-fiction story, or to present a thinly disguised social or political commentary. Even books that have something to say in those realms can say it by telling stories primarily about the experiences of their characters, as writers including Mark Twain, Ralph Ellison, George Eliot, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and K. C. Constantine have shown.

Here are my books, and what I hoped to achieve in them (see covers at top of page):

  • Dream Home, 2023: I aimed for a combination of a fun read with fleeting references to serious underlying themes present in Alberta and probably elsewhere. It can be read in a number of ways, including as a marginal addition to the East of the Rockies series that began with Where the Bodies Lie and Image Decay. A few surprises that should be apparent to most readers are revealed as the story develops.

  • Red Hill Creek, 2021: I wanted to write a novel both about the city of Hamilton and about the way that memories of the Second World War suffused much of life in the 1950s. That led to thinking about the residue of other conflicts as well. The story mixes ordinary life and lighter moments with more serious elements.

  • Image Decay, 2020: This novel is a prequel of sorts to Where the Bodies Lie. I was intrigued by George Rabani, who had been a minor character with a cameo role in the earlier book. What sort of person was he and how did he become that person? The book is often seen as a mystery or thriller. That is its general form, but it is really about the interaction of several characters pursuing their own interests and obsessions, and about the rather odd place where they live, which can be read as having strong similarities to Edmonton and to Alberta. I was also intrigued by the way that people interact with visual imaging technologies and explored that as well.

  • Where the Bodies Lie, 2016: My first novel. It is somewhat more clearly a mystery or thriller than Image Decay. But it is also basically about character and place, the place being somewhere east of the Rockies and west of Saskatchewan. I chose not to name the place because I did not want to set a fictional history in the real province of Alberta. Leaving it as a kind of Brigadoon also fit a larger context: the book has a lot to say about myths, which play a large role in Alberta's public life, and probably in the public life of a lot of other places. It was shortlisted for the Crime Writers of Canada best first novel award in 2017.

  • Lois Hole Speaks, editor, 2008: A collection of speeches delivered by Lois Hole, widely admired former lieutenant-governor of Alberta. I was honoured to be asked to edit the collection and write a biographical introduction for it.

  • Chapter on Don Getty in Alberta Premiers of the Twentieth Century, 2004: Getty had good press when he served as Alberta's energy minister during the 1970s. He had a much more difficult time while serving as premier during the rocky economic period of the late 1980s and early 1990s. I tried to present a balanced view. He managed to achieve a lot while being subject to general criticism. The chapter draws in part on his unpublished, ghost-written autobiography; that section presents information not generally available elsewhere. I also interviewed Getty for the project and was surprised to learn that he was a quite reserved person, even a shy one. That likely led to difficulties for him as he tried to function in the political spotlight.

  • Alberta Politics Uncovered, 2004: A slim but I hoped trenchant survey of the realities of Alberta politics, and of the misconceptions and myths that were rife in the province's political life and identity. It won the Wilfred Eggleston Award for Non-Fiction from the Writer's Guild of Alberta in 2005. In 2020, someone tweeted that many of the observations were still relevant. That was heartening in one way. It was also dismaying as an indication of how slowly change occurs in the province.

  • The Klein Revolution, 1995: One of the first attempts to describe and analyse the political and economic crisis that Alberta lived through in the early 1990s, and the way in which a new government led by Premier Ralph Klein dealt with that crisis starting in 1993. There is still strong disagreement about that government and its policies, to the extent they are remembered. My analysis was necessarily partial because I wrote the book so early in the days of Klein's time as premier. Some of the conclusions may be arguable. But I believe the description of what Albertans were thinking and feeling in 1992 during the run-up to Klein's election is accurate, and not recorded elsewhere in any real detail. Some larger matters also muscled their way in. A section on Klein's trade trip to Asia in 1993 discusses not only the importance of Asian trade for a province looking for ways out of economic crisis, but the likelihood of serious environmental issues arising from the growth of Asia. I also remain happy that the book was structured as a sort of conversation with early 20th-century U.S. journalist Lincoln Steffens — a choice made because of my impression that the era of rational discourse through books was eroding. That impression later grew stronger as the influence of social media and charlatan politicians grew. The opening anecdote of the book has sometimes been misconstrued as a sign of resentment on my part; it was actually an amusing example of how Klein liked to test people by being earthy and provocative.