Author Tags: Fiction
Raised on an apple orchard in Vernon, B.C., UBC Creative Writing graduate Adam Lewis Schroeder became a teacher of Creative Writing at Okanagan College in Penticton on the strength of his first collection of short fiction, Kingdom of Monkeys (Raincoast), nominated for the Danuta Gleed Literary Award. His stories take the reader from 19th century Singapore to wartime Bali and an opium den in modern-day Thailand. The final story is a reworking of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness in which Kurtz is found alive and well. The decaying set of Apocalypse Now has become a shrine for a Brando cult among the locals.
Schroeder's first novel Empress of Asia (Raincoast 2006) evolved from his curiosity about his grandfather's generation and World War II. At the deathbed of his beloved wife Lily in 1995, the protagonist/narrator Harry Winslow receives the address of Michel Ney, a man who had saved his life in World War II and was assumed to have been killed by the Japanese. He proceeds to investigate Michel and Lily's fifty-year-old secret, recalling his own whirlwind courtship with Lily in bombed-out Singapore during World War II and travelling to contemporary Thailand.
In All-Day Breakfast (Douglas & McIntyre, 2015) a grade eleven field trip to the plastics factory goes awry when the students and their teacher, widowed dad Peter Giller, get sprayed with unidentified pink goo. The goo’s side effects initially seem harmless — sawdust-scented B.O. and extreme bacon cravings — but eventually escalate to fingers falling off, elimination of the need to pee and an inability to read. As the story progresses and teacher Giller’s behaviour becomes more bizarre, he loses custody of his own children to his mother-in-law. In a bid to get his kids back and his condition cured, Giller crosses the country, encountering “pinstriped bureaucrats, affectionate farm girls and monsters plucked from mythology” along his journey. As promotional materials note “All-Day Breakfast will satisfy all appetites for the visceral, the violent and the hilarious.” All-Day Breakfast was shortlisted for the 2016 ReLit Award in the novel category.
Kingdom of Monkeys (Raincoast) 1-55192-404-8
Empress of Asia (Raincoast 2006) $29.95 1-55192-987-2
In the Fabled East (D&M 2010) $29.95 978-1-55365-464-3
All-Day Breakfast (D&M 2015) $22.95 978-1-77162-064-2
[BCBW 2016] "Fiction"
In the Fabled East by Adam Lewis Schroeder (Douglas & McIntyre $29.95)
from Cherie Thiessen
Adam lewis schroeder says he never planned to write three books about Southeast Asia. Set in bombed-out Singapore and contemporary Thailand, Schroeder’s first novel Empress of Asia (2006) evolved from his curiosity about his grandfather’s generation and World War II. “I first travelled to Southeast Asia with my wife in 1996-97,” he says, “and a visit to Changi Jail in Singapore inspired me to do the work that became Empress of Asia.”
With stories set in wartime Bali, 19th-century Singapore and an opium den in Thailand, his first fiction collection Kingdom of Monkeys (2001) featured a reworking of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Kurtz is found alive and well, and the decaying set of Apocalypse Now is a shrine for a Brando cult among the locals.
Returning to Thailand in 2001, Schroeder became intrigued with Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos—the countries comprising the former French Indochina. “They loomed as this delicious mystery,” he says, “but a mystery without a story.”
After collecting more material in Laos and Vietnam in August of 2007, Schroeder has embraced and embroidered a mystery involving a Fountain of Eternal Youth in the forests of Laos, giving rise to In the Fabled East.
As a story, the search for eternal life and Shangri La is a bit hackneyed, but Schroeder’s dexterity, using multiple narrators, turns the tale into a risky literary enterprise well worth the journey.
We first travel with Pierre Lazarie, a romantic-minded Sorbonne graduate who, upon receiving his Baccalaureate in Oriental Studies, sails to Saigon to take up a clerical position as a bureaucrat. He is schooled by Henri LeDallie, an acerbic, cynical senior bureaucrat.
Adélie, a hauntingly beautiful Parisienne, begins to tell her story much earlier, in 1886, having endured deaths, sudden penury and early widowhood. By 1909, beset by tuberculosis, she leaves her nine-year-old son and her mother-in-law to search for a healing fountain in ‘the fabled east,’ apparently never to return.
A third narrator is Captain Emmanuel (Manu) Tremier, Adélie’s son, in his 30s. He does not take centre stage until late in the novel, but he does make a brief appearance soon after Lazarie’s arrival in Saigon. Prior to joining his new battalion, Captain Tremier asks Pierre Lazarie’s new employer, the Immigration Department of the Colony of Cochin-China, for assistance in finding his mother.
The captain pulls out an old photo of her. One look, and Lazarie is in love. He will find her.
It matters not that Adélie would be 56, if alive—which is highly doubtful, given that she suffered from advanced stages of tuberculosis. In Heart of Darkness style, the reluctant LeDallie and the excited Lazarie begin their trek down the Mekong and beyond, into the remote jungles of Laos.
Within a tiger’s leap of their goal, misfortune bares its teeth, and LeDallie can no longer continue. Lazarie is forced to retreat, and his dream of finding the woman in search of the mythical Fountain of Eternal Youth must be reluctantly abandoned. Back in Saigon he will become more and more like the old colleague he’s replaced, as he loses his idealism and youth.
It’s 1954. And we’ve begun to figure out where this is all going. The French Indochina War is limping to its bloody conclusion. France has surrendered at Dien Bien Phu and Captain Tremier is in retreat with his ragtag handful of soldiers, bushwhacking through the jungle toward Laos.
Eventually, they wind up in the village of the Sadat, modeled after an actual Khamu village, Mak Tong. More cannot be revealed. With Schroeder, the plot can take surprising turns, and revealing it would simply not do.
With this young writer, in addition to characters you want to hang out with (or eavesdrop on), you’ll get an engrossing, frequently surprising plot to keep you second-guessing. You’ll also get a new appreciation for how good the English language really is in the hands of a literary acrobat.
Perhaps most importantly, you’ll get so immersed in the world he creates that it might take some time to emerge from it.
A member of the UBC creative writing ratpack, Adam Lewis Schroeder is setting his sights closer to home with a murder mystery, to be set in 1958, in Penticton, where he now lives.
Review by Cherie Thiessen, who reviews fiction from Pender Island.
Press Release (2015)
Occasionally--and only rarely--blurbage from a publisher can't be improved upon.
Such is the case for the promo-hype for Adam Lewis Schroeder's new tongue-in-cheek zombie novel, All-Day Breakfast (D&M $22.95) 978-1-77162-064-2
When widowed father and substitute teacher Peter Giller leads an eleventh-grade class on a field trip to a plastics factory, he thinks the worst that could happen is that the parent volunteers won’t show up (they don’t), the kids will be rude (they are) or the free lunch will be terrible (it is).
Then a leaking pipe sprays Peter and the students with a mysterious pink goo and “the worst that could happen” spikes from inconvenient to catastrophic. At first, the goo’s side effects are mild: short-temperedness, sawdust-scented B.O. and an unquenchable craving for bacon. Then things get spooky: Peter’s fingers start falling off, his students forget how to read, no one has to pee—ever—and empathy for human suffering plummets, especially if anyone gets between them and their bacon.
Peter can’t figure out what’s happening—surely he’s not a zombie? At no time in any movie does a zombie drive a car and count on his reattached fingers the ways in which he is not a zombie, and anyway, Peter craves bacon, not brains. But normal people don’t put their bodies back together with staple guns and thumbtacks, or contemplate biting off ears. Peter’s definitely not fit to be around his children, and his mother-in-law “temporarily” adopts them.
Peter’s children are all he has left, and he’ll do anything to be with them again. He races across the country in a stolen ambulance to face down pinstriped bureaucrats, affectionate farm girls and monsters plucked from mythology in his search for the cure—if it exists—to his horrifying condition.
Schroeder, we are also told, lives in Penticton, British Columbia, with his wife and two sons, "and practices drums for hours at a time. He is co-secretary of his sons’ school’s parent advisory council so if you smack talk himyou may regret it. Adam earned a master’s degree from the University of British Columbia and teaches Creative Writing at UBC Okanagan. He loves the Pittsburgh Steelers. He is the author of In the Fabled East (Amazone.ca Best Books of the Year), Empress of Asia and Kingdom of Monkeys: Stories, each a finalist for national or international fiction awards (Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book)—none of them won, but that’s fine. His new novel with Douglas & McIntyre, All-Day Breakfast, is his first and best foray into the world of zombies."