Hamilton author Jamie Tennant publishes his second novel

Jamie Tennant has a thing for hideous folk goblins who sometimes eat children, but who nonetheless have a knack for insightful conversation. Once you get to know them, it’s hard not to like them.

The Hamilton writer’s debut novel, “Captain of Kinnoull Hill,” featured a mythical elven beast named Eddie, who haunted an old Scottish castle. Eddie possessed a wry sense of humor and an Ungoblin desire to atone for a thousand years of murderous sin.

In Tennant’s just-released second novel “River, diverted,” published by Palimpsest Press, readers learn about a legendary Japanese river monster known as a kappa. It has a turtle shell, a bird’s beak, and numerous razor-sharp talons. He is repulsively vile and has an appetite for young children crazy enough to get into the water.

This kappa, named Soba, only seems to make itself visible to a Canadian writer named River Black, who achieved worldwide cult status as the author of a series of slasher films – “Pinned”, “Pinned II” and Pinned III. .”

River is no stranger to kappas. Twenty years earlier, she had helped her friend Daniel write a story about her while working as a hostess at a bar in Nagano called JJ International. River had traveled to Japan in his early twenties, seeking adventure and hoping to start a new life as a science fiction writer.

The story she wrote with Daniel, however, was never published. Daniel died shortly after its completion, and River burned the manuscript before returning to Canada, disheartened by the death of her friend.

Now in her 40s, River’s life is turned upside down when a package postmarked from Nagano arrives at her Vancouver apartment. It contains a bound copy of “Kenichi and the Kappa”, the story she co-wrote so long ago with Daniel.

She returns to Nagano to seek the source of this mysterious book, reunite with long-lost friends, and face long-buried truths. “River, Diverted” is a light-hearted tale that also deals with powerful themes of grief and trauma.

The kappa first appears in River’s hotel bathroom after a night of lonely drinking. It has a message for River, unclear at first but gradually unfolding as the book’s narrative unfolds. Is the kappa real or a figment of his imagination?

Tennant, program director for community radio station CFMU in McMaster and host of the weekly writers’ series “Get Lit,” is no stranger to Nagano. Like River, he spent a few years in the 1990s working at JJ International.

It was a real place. Tennant was the bartender/cook and the only male employee. JJ International was made up of young women from places like Canada, the UK and New Zealand, paid to do small talk (only talk) with the Japanese men who stopped by to drink western whiskey with hostesses Western.

“I went there to visit friends and found myself having a great time,” Tennant, 53, said in an interview from his home in Hamilton. “The second time I went, my friends were going somewhere else on a trip, so the boss offered me a job. I’ve been there on and off for two years.

“I really enjoyed my time there,” he adds. “I studied the language and got a taste for Japanese music. It was an important part of my life and I wanted to share it. But until this book, I had never had a plot to wrap it up.

Tennant says the kappa is a familiar sight on the streets of Nagano, but it has evolved from its original creepy folk behavior to something much less demonic.

“The kappa were everywhere when I was there,” he says. “They’re supposed to be these really mean little buggers, but everywhere you look there’s going to be a cheap version of them, cute little toys and statues of them. There is even a sushi chain called Kappa Sushi.

Tennant says he’s tempted to write a third Goblin novel, tying his first two books into a trilogy. But don’t count on it. As Director of Programming at CFMU, he has gained vast knowledge of the Hamilton music scene that he would love to turn into the backdrop for a novel.

“I can finally write my Hamilton musical opus, a fictional history of a band,” says Tennant. “I’m actually two-fifths through my first draft.”

book launch

What: A book launch for “River, Diverted”

When: Wednesday, October 12, 7 p.m.

Where: Mills Hardware, 95 King St. E., with author Jamie Tennant and special guests David Ly, John Wall Barger and Kim Conklin.

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