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Launchpad: The Union of Smokers, by Paddy Scott

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, great insight, and short and snappy readings 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 featuring Paddy Scott, whose debut novel is The Union of Smokers, described as "an entirely new kind of story told by a gutter-mouthed, chain-smoking twelve year old, who announces in the opening paragraph that he’s going to die today."


Book Cover The Union of Smokers

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

The Union of Smokers is a day in the life and a life in the final day of narrator Kaspar Pine, a young man who takes it upon himself to use his last hours on earth to educate an entire town on all the steps necessary to finally being at peace with yourself.

Describe your ideal reader.

The ideal reader should be flawed but willing to forgive.

What authors/books is your work in conversation with?

The book is How Green Was My Valley meets Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog. It’s a conversation with any writer who can see value in the small things, give worth to what others might dismiss as insignificant.

What is something interesting you learned about your book/yourself/your subject during the process of creating and publishing your book?

The most important thing I learned was how necessary a second and third set of eyes are to the work. Isolation is fine for the first draft but that only gets me as far as I can see. Other people bring other worlds, other perspectives that can provide new textures and nuances I might be unaware of.

Your ideal interviewer might ask you “What the hell took you so long?”

My answer would be, “You’ll have to ask them.”

An important part of any book launch are the thank you’s. Go ahead, and acknowledge someone whose support has been integral to this project.

Two names, the sets of eyes mentioned above. Ruth Zuchter, who was the first person to ever read anything I’d written, having always relied on my own judgment prior to that (which is also probably a better answer for my ideal interviewer’s question,) and Leigh Nash for deciding to wring a novel out of this.

What are you reading right now or next?

I am rereading Tanis MacDonald’s Out of Line, only this time for the irony.


About The Union of Smokers:

Kaspar Pine begins his day with a simple task: replace a pet canary. By day’s end, as Kaspar is being loaded into an ambulance, he delivers one hell of a "theme essay," covering such subjects as his ability to source and catalogue the cigarette butts he harvests; information on maintaining the social order of chickens, along with general and historic farming details that run from Saskatchewan to Ontario; insinuating himself between other kids and people who wish to do them harm; fire marshalling; and his inability to maintain an essayist’s cool detachment in the face of unrequited first love. The Union of Smokers details the heartfelt and heroic last day in the life of a reluctant, irreverent, and oddly wise hero.

April 8, 2020

Books mentioned in this post


The Union of Smokers

by Paddy Scott
edition: Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged: coming of age, family life, literary

Longlisted for the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour

Huckleberry Finn meets The Catcher in the Rye meets Ferris Bueller's Day Off in this outlandish debut novel.

Kaspar Pine begins his day with a simple task: replace a pet canary. By day's end, as Kaspar is being loaded into an ambulance, he delivers one hell of a "theme essay," covering such …

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