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The Stories that Shaped Me

Book Cover Beneath the Stairs

"Are you always on the lookout for a rich, mystery-riddled haunted house novel for grown-ups? Me too. Jennifer Fawcett's Beneath the Stairs is that book. A thrilling, thoughtful, character-driven crucible that reveals the ways childhood fear clings to us, shapes us, but can also show the one way out of our adult darkness." —Andrew Pyper, author of The Residence and The Demonologist


As I was preparing this list, I went back to my parent’s house in Eastern Ontario and found myself digging through the old books in my childhood bedroom. The more I thought about what should be on it, the more I found myself returning to old favourites. I’ve always read widely, a habit I understand the value of now that I am also a writer. This list contains short and long fiction, poetry, a play, and several works that defy category. Each of these writers left an imprint on me because they helped expand my understanding of what stories could do.


Growing Up Ivy, by Peggy Dymond Leavey

Let me start with Peggy Dymond Leavey, or, as I refer to her, Aunt Peggy. I come …

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Mystery Minute: Perfect Families, Giant Eels, and More

The Transaction, by Guglielmo D'Izzia

"Under the brutal brightness of D’Izzia’s Sicilian sun, we’re forced to confront the most uncomfortable and grotesque taboos. What’s more, we, like De Angelis, are forced to confront our complicity in their continued existence."—Hollay Ghadery

A property harbouring a gruesome secret goes up for sale. Two men—perhaps, the wrong men—are shot in plain daylight. Nothing is what it seems. And matters do not turn out as anticipated. De Angelis, an inscrutable northerner, is travelling to a small town perched somewhere in Sicily's hinterland to negotiate a real estate transaction, only to find himself embroiled in a criminal conspiracy. While en route, the train he's on mysteriously breaks down, forcing him to spend the night in a squalid whistle stop. What follows is a web of unsettling events, involving child prostitution and brazen killings, that lead to the abrupt demise of his business deal. But De Angelis is undeterred and intent on discovering what went wrong with his transaction. As he embarks on a reckless sleuthing, an unexpected turn of events sends him into a tailspin. At the heart of it is an alluring blue-eyed girl, Marinella. The chance encounter with the eleven-year-old traps him in a psychological and mo …

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Launchpad: Tales from the Fringes of Fear, by Jeff Szpirglas

Launchpad Logo

This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter and great insight to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.

Today we're launches Tales from the Fringes of Fear, by Jeff Szpirglas, which Kirkus Reviews calls “A spine-tingling collection that's dead on for young horror buffs.”


The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.

Tales from Beyond the Brain (2019) and Tales from the Fringes of Fear (2020) are two anthologies of pure pulse-pounding, side-splitting tales of terror, aimed at (and starring) junior-aged school children. Within its pages lurk stories about malevolent art supplies, deadly fie …

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The Chat with Jessica Westhead


Jessica Westhead’s work is well known to fans across Canada. She returns to The Chat this month to talk about latest novel, the psychological thriller Worry.

Taking place over 48 hours in remote cottage country, it explores the complex relationship between best friends Ruth and Stef.

Quill & Quire says “Westhead is a concise wordsmith; Worry is a quick and engrossing read."
Jessica Westhead’s fiction has been shortlisted for the CBC Literary Awards, selected for the Journey Prize anthology, and nominated for a National Magazine Award. Her short stories have appeared in major literary journals in Canada, the US and the UK, including Hazlitt, Maisonneuve, Indiana Review and Hamish Hamilton’s Five Dials. She is the author of the novel Pulpy & Midge and the critically acclaimed short story collections Things Not to Do and And Also Sharks, which was a Globe and Mail Top 100 Book, a Kobo’s Best eBook of the Year and a finalist for the Danuta Gleed Literary Award. Westhead is a creative writing instructor at the Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University.


Trevor Corkum: Worry is such a fraught novel, tense in so many ways. What made you want to write this kind of psychological thriller? In what ways would you say this is a

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The Books Behind WORRY

Worry is Jessica Westhead's new novel, a compelling and unsettling story about threats real and imagined—and where one draws the line. Kim Fu calls it "an irresistible novel from its first pages to its devastating end." 

In this recommended reading list, Westhead names titles that informed her work as she conceived and developed her novel. 


In Lands and Forests, a superbly stark and brooding short-story collection by Andrew Forbes, the wilderness is a constant presence. It offers hope to the disillusioned, broken men and women who populate Forbes’ bleak and beautiful stories, and fills them with reverence, peace and awe. But it can just as easily fill them with unease and dread. In Worry, the lake and forest (ha, see what I did there?) is a constant presence as well, offering my characters the promise of a fun, carefree vacation and a welcome break from rules and responsibilities, but also awakening long-dormant grief and fear in Ruth, my main character. Lands and Forests is also adorned with some of the most ravishing cover art (designed by M …

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Moon of the Crusted Snow: A Recommended Reading List by Waubgeshig Rice

Waubgeshig Rice's new novel is Moon of the Crusted Snow, which Eden Robinson has called "Chilling in the best way possible." In this post, Rice tells us about the book and shares some of the titles that influenced him as he wrote it. 


Moon of the Crusted Snow is about a northern Anishinaabe community faced with a crisis in the wake of ongoing healing from the impacts of colonialism. It’s a post-apocalyptic story about a people that have already endured the end of their world. A widespread blackout shakes the community to its core, but its residents eventually learn it’s a much more catastrophic and violent event in cities and towns to the south. Soon, foreign visitors from those places come into the community to seek refuge, and eventually, attempt to impose their own control.

While the story explores post-apocalyptic and dystopian themes by modern North American standards, it’s also looks at upheaval as a chance for rebirth and renewal for the Indigenous people at the centre. As modern infrastructure disintegrates, the Anishinaabeg in Moon of the Crusted Snow turn to the land, culture, and traditional knowledge for survival. Family and community are at the heart of their existence and their ability to persevere in the midst of this chaos. It’s also an …

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