THE CONVICTIONS OF LEONARD McKINLEY by Brendan McLeod (Arsenal Pulp), 111 pages, $14.95 paper. Rating: NNNN
When I first heard about the winner of the 3-Day Novel Writing Contest, in which contestants write a novel over Labour Day weekend, I assumed the output would be rushed, disorganized and unsatisfying.
But the newest 3-Day winner is an emotionally powerful book and an intense read despite its mere 111 pages.
Vancouver-based Brendan McLeod is better known as a spoken word poet in Canada, and in The Convictions Of Leonard McKinley he allows his storytelling talent to shine.
The hero is Leonard, a 13-year-old living with his family in suburban Calgary whose curiosity about girls, school and religion results in mental knots he feels he must untangle.
Leonard tries to follow a strict moral code despite the many temptations surrounding him, including lustful girlfriends. Some of the funnier moments here relate to make-out sessions as do-or-die rites of passage.
At the heart of the novel is Leonard's belief in God. His obsession with looking good in His eyes borders on neurotic, which adds a compelling dimension to the plot: will Leonard give in to temptation, stiff-arm his obsessive thoughts for good or repress them until adulthood?
McLeod's knack for realistic dialogue and for shaping young male characters you might have met at summer camp 20 years ago bring this coming-of-age tale to life. And while the novella form doesn't give him room to venture too far past his protagonist's teenage years, the short time we spend in Leonard's mind is enjoyable.
The Convictions Of Leonard McKinley is just an appetizer for the meal McLeod has in store for the Canadian literary community. Can't wait to see what the entree will be.