Fiction Works


The characters from Susan Musgrave’s Cargo of Orchids are back in this brilliantly engaging novel. Rainy, the Mexican-American woman, and Frenchy, the African-American, along with Musgrave’s narrator X have returned and convincingly insist their story is not done. Once inmates on death row, now reunited and hanging out at an old house in a BC outport, they create a grand new afterlife adventure. As we are shuttled along an energetic storyline in an old hearse, through gated communities in Vancouver to BC’s First Nations island outposts, we witness the transformation of lives on the slopes of purgatory. The passageways are rife with wild rides, social satire and visually hilarious encounters. Musgrave’s trademark undercurrents of lurking peril and unexpected havoc play out against murder, drug encounters, and sexual tension but Given is a novel with its own rules of engagement.

Musgrave’s comic gifts and ability to transcend this earthly plane create a ghost story that becomes a masterful allegory for personal loss and the potency of love.

Cargo of Orchids

A brilliant mix of black humour, stark tragedy and poignant humanity characterize this stunning story of a woman living on death row for the unimaginable crime of killing her own child.

To pass the time remaining to her, and while waiting forthe last of her appeals to be exhausted, the narrator writs the story of the events that resulted in her incarceration. Her work as a translator draws her into an underworld of family-controlled drug cartels operating out of South America, and she falls in love with a son in one family. Pregnant, she is kidnapped to an island off the coast of Columbia, and slowly tricked into dependence on cocaine. Her narrative - violent and bizarre, but also riveting, erotic and filled with the heady flamboyance of orchids - runs parallel to her account of life in "Death Clinic," as Death Row is called at the Heaven Valley State Facility for women. It is a moving story of friendship amongst three female inmates - portrayed with devastating wit - who share only the fact that they each have a date with the executioner.  

The Dancing Chicken

The Dancing Chicken represents yet another departure for this daring writer.   It casts a satiric eye on the alliances and misalliances of small-town institutions and families, specifically the Holmes family.   Cod Holmes, who considers himself unhappily married to Nora, is on the verge of falling in love with Ursula, who is slightly mad. 

He is also spectacularly unfaithful with nurse Trout while visiting his daughter Brandy in the hospital.   Brandy and her lover have been shot down by the leader of a rival motorcycle gang, who takes refuge in the woodshed of Cod's mother Miriam.   Miriam believes him to be the resurrection of her long-dead husband Dodder. 

And so the family engages in the universal dance of sex and death in this mordantly funny new novel by one of our most imaginative writers.

The Charcoal Burners

"His eyes never left he as moved her across the floor....she could see the smokefires when she looked into his eyes, could see the ghosts of his ancestors."

Once in great while comes a first novel of such savage and powerful impact, its publication must be hailed as an important event.

"Her body was dripping: blue fluid, red worms. She was riding a cock horse to Bandbury Cross. She was cradled in the bosom of the deep...

"His presence filled her head. All sound became his breathing, and silence her heartbeat."

Susan Musgrave, acclaimed as one of the most extroardinarily gifted poets this country has ever produced, has written such a novel.

"She only knew that wanted to get away. She'd walk in circles, sleep in the cold, starve, eat roots, face bears -- anything to be delivered from this madman."

Here is a story that transcends the traditional limitations of literature, a story that travels fearlessly to the darkest recesses of the human mined and soul. The Charcoal Burners is a work unlike any other, reflecting the astonishing and terrifying vision of a brilliant young author.

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