Journalist Linden MacIntyre's new novel explores life in middle age
Linden MacIntyre developed theories about intergenerational violence while working as a reporter in the Middle East and other strife-torn areas of the world. - Photo by The Canadian Press
Linden MacIntyre has some good news and some bad news for the young ladies of the world.
The good news: you know all those things you worry about when it comes to men? In your early 50s, he says, you'll stop worrying about them.
"You'll start to think, 'I really don't need the aggravation.' Your biological imperatives have changed," he explains. "You no longer care about the things that mattered when you were in your 20s and you're a lot more emotionally independent. You've learned by hard knocks what you need and what's what."
The bad news? The men you're worrying about now won't change.
"They become very insecure, and that's why they start chasing 20-year-olds and buying stupid cars and getting hair transplants. Everything that defines manhood starts to diminish at that point, whereas what defines womanhood is much deeper," says MacIntyre, 68. "Men don't change. A man at age 80 is much the same as he is at age 19, in terms of the things that matter a lot - and that's the problem."
It's just one of the themes MacIntyre, an award-winning author and journalist, explores in his new novel, "Why Men Lie."
The novel continues where his previous ones - 1999's "The Long Stretch" and the Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning "The Bishop's Man" - left off.
The series is centred around a group of people from Cape Breton, bound by a vague experience of their fathers in the Second World War.
The first novel brought out some ugly secrets that help the characters learn why they were experiencing the life challenges they were; the second sees one of the characters, Duncan, looking for structure and respectability, become a priest. The institution leads him to corruption and his struggle with it.
MacIntyre's protagonist in "Why Men Lie" is Duncan's sister, Effie MacAskill Gillis.
In Toronto in 1997, she bumps into JC Campbell, a TV news producer she once knew and hadn't seen for decades.
He's sophisticated, charming and handsome, and Effie, having endured a failed marriage and other doomed relationships with men, starts to wonder if she's finally met a man who has outgrown the need to lie.
Their romance blossoms, but gets complicated when Effie starts seeing a darker side to JC, who is also caught up with the case of a man on death row in Texas. She learns things about him that make him vulnerable and volatile.
Writing from a woman's perspective wasn't as challenging as you might think, MacIntyre says, although it may be a rather brazen thing to do. It was also brazen to write from the point of view of a priest in his previous book, he admits.
"I had to find a place where I had a lot in common with a woman. Like, I need to eat, I need to sleep," he explains, adding he grew up surrounded by his mother, grandmother, sisters, aunts and female teachers, and today has a wife, three daughters, a female agent and female publisher. "Then you try to figure out what are the differences, and they're biological and they're cultural and they're historical. I've been surrounded by women my whole life, and there were strong women and tough women, so it wasn't that huge of a leap. These were the people that read the manuscript first and gave me the feedback, and they were satisfied that the voice was right."
Besides, MacIntyre says, he tried exploring the fears of middle-aged men from a man's point of view, but just wasn't as effective.
In the book, Effie starts realizing that an awful lot of her relationship issues and personal problems were caused by something involving her father, and MacIntyre continues his exploration of the idea that an act of violence is a phenomenon, not an event. The violence doesn't end when the act ends, he says, but travels through generations.
"Something violent that might have happened to a parent or grandparent will have an effect down the line on people who will not know why things are the way they are," he says. "For example, you may not get along with your dad. He may be weird, he may drink too much, he may be violent. That's all you know, and you don't realize that that was caused in him by something that happened in him before you were born. I'm saying the consequences of simple acts of violence migrate from one generation to the next."
How he came to that conclusion, he says, is a complicated story.
"It's something I arrived at after seeing a lot of violence in the Middle East and Latin America and places like that when I was travelling a lot as a reporter."
MacIntyre, a native of St. Lawrence, is the author of a number of books, most recently "Who Killed Ty Conn?" an account of the life of an Ontario man sentenced to 47 years in prison, mostly for bank robbery, and how people and the correctional system failed him.
MacIntyre had developed a friendship with Conn after meeting him while working on an investigative piece on the effects of child abuse for CBC's "The Fifth Estate," which lasted until Conn shot himself in the chest - whether accidentally or not is unclear - during a standoff with police in 1999.
MacIntyre will launch "Why Men Lie" in St. John's Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. with a reading at MUN's Bruneau Centre, Innovation Hall. A question-and-answer session and book signing will follow. Admission is free and parking will be available in Lot 15B.
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