"Everywhere I have been has proven to be a new diaspora." -- George Szanto.

George Szanto was born in Londonderry, Northern Ireland in 1940 and has lived in England, France, Germany, Mexico and the U.S. He has a Ph.D in Comparative Literature from Harvard and worked as executive director of New Heritage Theater in San Diego (1970-1974). He came to Canada in 1974, taught at McGill and served as president of Playwrights Canada (1980-1981). For more than two decades he lived in Montreal before moving to British Columbia in the late 1990s where he served as B.C. representative of the Writers Union of Canada for two terms from 2003 to 2005. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1988. Szanto speaks four languages and lives on Gabriola Island.

Unlike many 'White Male goes to Third World' novels where the narrator is a hero/adventurer, the mild-mannered foreigner set adrift in George Szanto's three novels set in Mexico is NOT the central focus for the drama, but rather a collector or caretaker of the truth. All three encompass the same Mexican town and characters, and the same earnest appreciation for truth, but they are not chronological.

Set in 1985, The Underside of Stones introduces a mild-mannered criminologist who is taking refuge in the semi-fictionalized town of Michoácuaro in Michoacán province. The cathedral clock has just stopped at 7:19--due to a recent earthquake that has killed ten thousand people in Mexico City--and time will stand still for another year. "The trilogy begins the day of the immense earthquake in 1985, and ends at the end of 1993," says Szanto. "January 1, 1994, is the first day of NAFTA, and the day Subcomandante Marcos walked in San Cristobal. After the earthquake, the government went into embarrassed hiding and the people of Mexico City had to cope for themselves--and more importantly, for each other. This was the beginning of what became known as civil society in Mexico--democracy from the ground up. With NAFTA and Marcos, Mexico became painfully politicized and economicized, and civil society ended." The newcomer Jorge (George) has retreated to Mexico to mourn the death of his wife, but the locals start visiting him, giving their versions of events before others can influence him, and he inadvertently becomes their local historian. "Don Jorge likes to listen," wrote Alberto Manguel in the Globe & Mail. "And learn. The stories that are revealed to him, like the underside of stones, contain many mysteries." With a prologue and an epilogue, there arises a 'story cycle' rather than a linear novel.

Enchanting Mexico reveals its sinister side in two subsequent novels. In the second-published title in Szanto's trilogy, The Condesa of M. (Cormorant Books, 2001), the criminologist brings his new bride and stepdaughter on a honeymoon but soon feels obliged to investigate the imprisonment of a priest who has helped to open an abortion centre. Set in 1990, Szanto's newly published Second Sight (XYZ Publishing, 2004) revisits his beloved Michoácuaro during a period of rampant corruption and upheaval. This time his friend Pepe, the newly elected local mayor, has disappeared, possibly kidnapped or dead, requiring him to marshal new strengths and abilities. Instead of being surprised by Mexico, the country is the catalyst for Jorge to discover new things about himself.

Szanto's other works include a novel about a big-city cop turned rural house husband, Not Working (Macmillan, 1983), shortlisted for Books in Canada's First Novel Award, and Friends and Marriages (1995), winner of the Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction, in which several interconnected characters are described over two decades. Other titles are A Modest Proposition to the People of Canada (Véhicule, 1991) with Per Brask; Duets (Coteau, 1989) with Per Brask; Narrative Taste and Social Perspective (The Matter of Quality) (New York: St. Martin's, 1986); Theatre and Propaganda (University of Texas Press, 1978), Sixteen Ways to Skin a Cat (Intermedia, 1978); After the Ceremony (Playwrights Canada, 1978); and Narrative Consciousness (University of Texas Press, 1972. His plays include The New Black Crook (1971), Chinchilla (1972), Mixed Marriage (1980-1981) and The Stock Revue (1981).

George Szanto and Sandy Frances Duncan are co-writing a series of mystery novels, the Islands Investigations International series, starting with Never Sleep with a Suspect on Gabriola Island. Their follow-up is Always Kiss the Corpse on Whidbey Island. These novels feature West Coast sleuths Kyra Rachel and Noel Franklin of Islands Investigations International. In the second novel, a grieving mother bends over to kiss her son's corpse at a funeral home viewing, only to shriek: "That's not Sandro!"; Having supposedly died of a heroin overdose, the body of Whidbey Island General Hospital nurse Sandro Vasiliadis is suddenly missing, and his mother is convinced he is still alive. The detectives' inquiries lead them deep into Sandro's life and to a medical clinic that specializes in transgendering. [Whidbey 978-926741-05-5].

Never Hug a Mugger (TouchWood Editions 2011) was followed by Always Love A Villain on San Juan Island (Touchwood 2013). Promotional materials state: "A case of high-level plagiarism at a local university brings Noel Franklin and Kyra Rachel to San Juan Island to investigate. As they look into the theft, the investigative team get to know the small island's community. They soon become involved in another, more menacing, crime: The daughter of a professor engaged in highly sensitive research has been kidnapped. And her ransom is a piece of intellectual property that in the wrong hands could lead to catastrophe. While Noel and Kyra navigate the murky waters of university politics and come closer to discovering the origins of the crime and its perpetrators, their lives are first threatened and then terrorized."

In Szanto's The Tartarus House on Crab (Brindle & Glass, 2011), photographer Jack Tartarus returns to his family's old home to tear it down. But the people of Crab Island, including his sister, and Turtle-the island's self-proclaimed guardian-and a beautiful woman he knew long ago, are angrily opposed to his plan. 9781897142530

Perched on a cloud high above Mount Washington, Ted tells Lola stories. Lola, once a famous Hollywood bombshell is still a goddess in the afterlife. Together, Ted and Lola listen to the memories of the mortals, people like Milton and Theresa, conservationists, parents and fighters; "Handy"; Johnnie Cochan, self-styled as an ecological leader, but haunted by sadness and fear; and Carney, a specialist in disaster recovery who can't hold onto love. Whatever Lola Wants (Brindle & Glass $19.95) is a tale of the immortals; Ted watching and telling tales as Lola listens and dreams, slowly changing with his words. Below the immortals, generations of three mortal families cycle through joy, tragedy, hope, and loss, their futures bound together by mingled battles and attractions.


Narrative Consciousness (University of Texas Press, 1972)

Theatre and Propaganda (University of Texas Press, 1978)

After the Ceremony (Playwrights Canada, 1978)

Sixteen Ways to Skin a Cat (Intermedia, 1978)

Not Working. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1982; Toronto: Macmillan, 1983; Toronto: Avon, 1984. Novel

Narrative Taste and Social Perspective (The Matter of Quality) (New York: St. Martin's, 1986)

Duets (Coteau, 1989) with Per Brask

The Underside of Stones. Montreal: XYZ éditeur, 2004; Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1990; New York: Harper and Row, 1990.

A Modest Proposition to the People of Canada (Véhicule, 1991) with Per Brask

Friends & Marriages. Montreal: Véhicule, 1994. Novel

The Condesa of M. Montreal: XYZ éditeur, 2005; Toronto: Comorant/Stoddart, 2001. Novel

Second Sight. Montreal: XYZ éditeur, 2004. Novel

Never Sleep with a Suspect on Gabriola Island (Brindle & Glass) Novel

The Tartarus House on Crab (Brindle & Glass, 2011) Novel

Never Hug a Mugger on Quadra Island (TouchWood, 2012) With Sandy Francis Duncan. $14.95 978-1-926971-49-0 Novel

Bog Tender (Brindle & Glass 2012). Memoir

Always Love A Villain on San Juan Island (Touchwood 2013) $14.95 978-1-77151-024-0

Whatever Lola Wants (Brindle & Glass 2014) $19.95 9781927366356

[BCBW 2014]