Brunch with the Jackals

bc booklook, september 29, 2015

Don McLellan’s second story collection, Brunch with the Jackals (Thistledown $18.95), echoes the “hard-boiled” style of Raymond Chandler and Mickey Spillane. Urban life is fraught with danger. Four junkies anxiously await a drug dealer. A gang leader copes with racism, greed and mutiny. A terminally ill man plots his own demise.

Independent reviewer and Vancouver historian Sheryl Salloum has responded, “Brunch with the Jackals takes readers to uncomfortable places in foreign locales and the east side of Vancouver. These include the ‘troubles’ in Ireland, a war-ravaged Asian country, and migrants’ experiences with human smugglers and an impassive Canadian bureaucratic system; as well as the unforgiving realms of gangs, junkies, murderers, and terminal illness.

“Themes and images of abandonment, betrayal, brutality, greed, hopelessness, mistrust, misogyny, racism, vengeance, and violence fill the pages. McLellan skilfully uses black humour, intriguing juxtapositions, irony, plot twists, stories within stories, unusual similes, and sometimes shockingly frank descriptions and language to highlight life’s starker aspects.

“His stories are profoundly dark, spare, unforgettable, and finely honed. As with a good mystery or psychological thriller, after the last page the reader wishes for more of this bold author’s neo-noir stories. Brunch with the Jackals is an arresting second book from an intriguing literary voice that highlights emotional, physical, and psychological shadows.”

Don McLellan edits a trade magazine in Vancouver and he has worked in Canada, South Korea and Hong Kong; his short stories have been published in Descant, Joyland, and the Dalhousie Review. His work has been nominated or short-listed for a Western Canada Magazine award, a Tabbies International Editorial and Design award and a Kenneth R. Wilson Memorial (business writing) Award.

The Globe & Mail, May 29, 2015

Once, at a billionaire’s party, Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut were chatting about their host. “I’ve got something he can never have,” Heller joked. “Enough.” In his introduction to this collection, Don McLellan asserts his characters “are linked by the same concern: None of them feel they have enough.” You can interpret the stories here to make that statement true, but it’s more true of some, about addicts or gangsters, for example, than others. Most of McLellan’s characters do exist near the bottom of some ladder, are grasping for more and will do anything to get it. That dark, neo-noir element is evident in the concluding title story, which runs to near-novella length. But there’s a twist: What menace lurks once you think you have it all? McLellan is a master of the ironic turn and the story-within-a-story that unfolds to reveal the unexpected. That’s what really unites this collection.

— Jade Colbert, The Globe & Mail