George Mercer's fourth novel, Fat Cats, won a Gold Medal in the Best Regional Fiction (Canada West) category of the 2019 Independent Publisher Book Awards and his Dyed In the Green series won a Silver Medal in the overall Fiction Series category.
George Mercer's Fat Cats, set in B.C., is about park warden who "goes rogue." When a cougar shows up on one of the Gulf Islands, a group of neighbouring landowners want to see the cougar tackle the overpopulation of deer on the island--but the cougar is shot and killed. Frustrated, park warden John Haffcut takes matters into his own hands and puts a cougar back onto the island. Then he has to deal with a notorious cougar tracker who is intent on killing it.
As a Gulf Island National Park's monitoring ecologist, Mercer is familiar with the challenge of maintaining native ecosystems in the absence of predators. "Before I retired," Mercer says, "I was often asked what I was going to do with all my spare time. I used to joke that I was going to do exactly what John Haffcut does in Fat Cats."
E. George Mercer of North Saanich was born on May 1, 1957 at Gander, Newfoundland. For more than three decades he worked as a national park warden in Canada, including work in six national parks on both east and west coasts, the North and the Rocky Mountains. His passionate interest in parks and protected areas fuels his writing. He has a website for non-fiction writing and another for fiction. He came to B.C. in 2004.
"Parks have always been my passion," says George Mercer, "and after a long career and being blessed with good health I plan to make my series a success. Eventually I hope to make my little company Write Nature "count" by helping people, especially kids, reconnect with nature. It's never been about the money. I just want people to read my writing and hopefully get something out of it."
Mercer's first self-published novel, Dyed in the Green (2014), is part of a planned five-book series about Canadian national park wardens and their exploits with poachers, developers and bureaucrats. Initially set in Cape Breton Highlands National Park, this "Dyed In The Green" series follows a main character across Canada.
The sequel, Wood Buffalo, is set in Wood Buffalo National Park (northern Alberta and the NWT), won a Gold Medal for Fiction in the Canada-West regional category of the 2018 Independent Publisher Book Awards and his third book, Jasper Wild, won the Gold Medal for Cover Design in the Fiction category.
After crossing Canada, the series will make a stop in an African national park before continuing East and concluding where it began in Cape Breton.
Fat Cats: Book 4?Dyed In The Green Series by George Mercer
(George Mercer $19.99)
Review by Ron Dart
A spate of books has lamented the deterioration of our national and provincial parks, from Switchbacks by Sid Marty (1999) to Dale Portman?s The Green Horse (2017). They are part of a much longer tradition of overtly conservationist writing in Canada, from Roderick Haig-Brown?s The Living Land (1961) to the work of Farley Mowat.
Now comes George Mercer?s Fat Cats, the fourth novel within his largely unnoticed conservationist series. His previous three park warden mysteries?Dyed in the Green (2015), Wood Buffalo (2016), and Jasper Wild (2017)?were set in Cape Breton Highlands, Wood Buffalo and Jasper national parks.
This time Mercer uses the beauty and natural bounty of little-known Sidney Island within the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve as the site and metaphor for dilemmas that arise when one mixes parks, environment, wild animals and human habitation.
That title, Fat Cats, is a teaser, as Mercer once more presents the dilemmas confronted by park wardens when conservation versus development issues arise. A cougar?the fat cat?has made its way to Sidney Island and is killing families of deer. Meanwhile there are also human fat cats afoot who are keen to place real estate values ahead of the natural environment. Park warden John Haffcut, fresh from clashes in Jasper National Park, must decide which predator is most worthy of protection.
The other main characters include a cougar mercenary versus a cougar tracker, a park superintendent, Indigenous leaders, politicians, wealthy landowners, park bureaucrats, an ex-military man and a widowed beauty of the human variety.
Fallow deer are taking over Sidney Island and wreaking havoc with plants and private gardens. How should these deer be culled? And how can the indigenous blacktail deer population be revived? Is hunting the way forward? Or will a cougar do the deed now that a cougar has swum across from nearby Vancouver Island?
John Haffcut emerges as a sort of environmental Sherlock Holmes, trying to solve the mystery of how to bring calm to the island. Questions arising from the death of an affluent landowner mount in intensity and the main actors on the stage collide and cooperate for different reasons. ?Who is hunting whom??
Fat Cats probes, in intricate detail, layered motivations, temperaments and ambiguous external challenges. The reader is drawn, page by page, to the nail-biting end of the novel as John Haffcut?s principled yet conflicted journey culminates in an unexpected ending
I?ve been lucky enough to have read the first three books in this series and I join other expectant readers in anticipating future volumes. Rare are the writers who weave together an obvious concern for the parks and conservation in a national and grand manner. George Mercer deserves to be recognized as one of them.
Born in Gander, Newfoundland, George Mercer worked for 35 years as a park warden, starting in 1979 at Newfoundland?s Terra Nova National Park and ending in 2012 as monitoring ecologist at the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. In between, he worked at Cape Breton Island, Fundy, Wood Buffalo, and Jasper national parks.
?I?ve worked on everything from reintroducing American marten to Terra Nova Park, to peregrine falcons in Fundy, to woodland caribou in Jasper,? Mercer told the Victoria News. ?I look at small places like the Gulf Islands as a beachhead for conservation. It provides a land base and marine area where you can get the message out about the importance of conservation and living on the planet with a gentler hand.?
Ron Dart has taught in the Department of Political Science, Philosophy, and Religious Studies at University of the Fraser Valley since 1990. He was on staff with Amnesty International in the 1980s. Dart has published more than 35 books, his most recent being Erasmus: Wild Bird (Create Space, 2017) and The North American High Tory Tradition (American Anglican, 2016).
Dyed in the Green (2014) $19.99 ISBN 978-0-9879754-0-9 / ebook $2.99 978-0-9879754-1-6
Wood Buffalo (2016) $19.99 ISBN 978-0-9879754-2-3 / ebook $2.99 978-0-9879754-3-0
Jasper Wild (2017) $19.99 ISBN978-0-9879754-4-7 / ebook $2.99 978-0-9879754-5-4
Fat Cats (2018) $19.99 ISBN978-0-9879754-6-1 / ebook $9.99 978-0-9879754-7-8
Articles: 1 Article for this author
Dyed In the Green
by Gerry Lister
I received a "sponsored ad"; on my Facebook for a book titled Dyed In The Green which was published in early 2015. It is a novel written by a retired Canadian National Park Warden who worked in national parks all over Canada. The information provided said that the book would be the first in a series of books inspired by the men and women of Canada's national parks. The synopsis for the book states: "National Park Warden Ben Matthews expected challenges with his new posting at Cape Breton Highlands. But he got more than he bargained for. Facing a notorious poacher with a reputation for letting nothing get in his way, and the local communities who viewed poaching as part of their way of life, Ben and the park wardens are drawn into an intricate game of cat and mouse that takes a turn no one could have imagined.
Set along the world-famous Cabot Trail, Dyed In The Green is a powerful story of egos, greed and corruption, pulling readers along on an emotional rollercoaster that weaves bitter rivalries into a gripping story about protecting one of Canada's iconic, special places.";
Well I was sold. If the book measured up to this synopsis, it should be a decent read. I was particularly intrigued with the fact that it was a novel about park wardens set in my home country. My fear was that it would just be a Canadianized version of the Nevada Barr novels, which, for the most part, are just murder mysteries with the US National Parks as the backdrop. I don't mind a good murder mystery, but because I prefer to read "warden books";, I always hope that the next novel I read doesn't veer too far that way. I contacted George and obtained a copy for review.
The first chapter of Dyed In The Green didn't let on where this book would go, but as the chapters began to unfold, it was clear that this was primarily a book about some of the hurdles faced by parks wardens of a decade or more ago. Although no specific time period is ever stated, one can assume that the author is drawing upon his own experiences in the Cape Breton Highlands, and the story is taking place in the 1980's or 1990's. That is further borne out by the author's very good depiction of the working conditions of the wardens, and the fact that the wardens are generalists, and go about their duties without the benefit of cellphones or sidearms. Anyone with any knowledge of the current Warden Service knows that they are now a small, armed and strictly law enforcement focused agency. That was not the case for nearly 100 years, and the challenges of not only being unarmed, but of not being autonomous from the individual park's Superintendent, and of having only semi-functional equipment are key elements of this story.
Author George Mercer has created his own unique, but historically accurate genre with Dyed In The Green. While drugs, murder and other crimes are prevalent in this book, they are not the main substance of the story. We are all aware that many hardcore poachers also have a propensity for other crimes, so it is not a stretch to have the two worlds overlap as they do in this novel. The way that the author then takes certain elements of the criminal world and the wildlife poaching world, and drapes them with the fabric of the Cape Breton culture to create his storyline, is really quite creative and imaginative, yet completely plausible and believable.
I really enjoyed Dyed In The Green. It was full of interesting regional characters, outsiders trying to fit in but do their job, suspense, action, drama and sorrow. I was drawn into the story and found it very compelling and captivating. Not only was it a book that I found hard to put down, but it was one that left me wanting more when it was done. I have to say that the official synopsis for this book was pretty accurate in all respects.
I'm happy to know that more novels are planned in this series, and I am definitely looking forward to the next one, Wood Buffalo, for which there is a teaser at the end of this book.
Dyed In The Green (ISBN 978-0-9879754-0-9) is 350 pages (not including the Wood Buffalo teaser) and is available in both a soft-cover trade paperback, and also in eBook format. The book is for sale at close to 80 bookstores across Canada with a suggested retail price of $19.99. It can also be ordered directly from George by following this link - http://georgemercer.com/purchasing/. The shipping process quoted there is only for shipping within Canada, but you can contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for "international"; shipping rates. If you are eBook inclined, electronic versions of the book can be purchased online from Amazon.com ($7.89 USD, $9.99 CDN) and Kobobooks.com ($9.99 USD).
-- International Game Warden Magazine, provided by Gerry Lister, 2015