A lot of people talk about writing a novel. Few people put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard to write one. Even fewer get the finished work published.
Third-year Thompson Rivers University arts student Cory Hope has done all three. And the final bound and printed version of his first novel, the black comedy Betting Zoo, gets its official launch Friday at 5 p.m. at The Art We Are at 246 Victoria St.
“I happen to think it’s pretty funny,” said Hope. “No one else might think so, but it’s written in my own sense of humour, so I think it’s hilarious.”
The nugget of an idea that became Betting Zoo first formed in his mind 10 years ago. During the ensuing years, Hope jotted down notes, thoughts and ideas so, by the time he started writing the book in January 2011, he almost had entire chapters down on paper.
“There were a whole lot of notes in there, 10 years worth,” he said.
As fate and the writing gods would have it, only about a paragraph or so of that material ended up in the final version of the book. Hope said he was surprised at how the story and characters took on a life of their own.
“I had to get them from point A to point B and however they get there, was totally fine by me,” said Hope. “You come up with something and you end up writing an entire other scene that you haven’t thought of to move things along.”
But the core idea of Betting Zoo remained the same: when corporate president Frank Heatley decides to leave his apartment and go for a walk one day he discovers a conspiracy against him. In order to escape the apartment, he must team up with a man he’s never met, a sister he doesn’t like, and an assistant he doesn’t trust.
Hope wrote the book for a directed-studies class under the guidance of TRU professor Ashok Mathur. The novel is published by Mathur’s own CiCAC (Centre for Innovation in Culture and the Arts in Canada) Press.
Betting Zoo is included in the press’s inaugural launch along with books by TRU professors Karen Hofmann and Lauchlan Fraser.
Hope has previously published a handmade book The Crystal Dragon, a short horror story told as a children’s story. He made 100 copies and sold them privately.
Betting Zoo retails for $10 a copy and can be purchased at amazon.ca and coryhope.ca.
REVIEW: Local writer spins a darkly yarn
Watch a movie, turn on the TV, tune into the radio or pickup a book and there’s a good chance you’re going to experience the same old thing.
That’s because the mainstream media isn’t keen on taking chances. Trying something new doesn’t tend to pay off and, when you’re in the business of entertaining people, the powers that be like to stick with what works.
Which is why it was refreshing to pick up Cory Hope’s first novel Betting Zoo. In a world where John Grisham recycles the same story over and over again and urban fantasy series glut the market, his darkly comic thriller is a literary breath of fresh air.
Playing with the concept of the all-powerful, always watching Big Brother that George Orwell set up in 1984, Betting Zoo tells the story of Frank Heatley, a corporate president who tires of dealing with people and locks himself in his apartment.
With Heatley out of the way, David Meyers moves in and takes over the company. He even goes so far as to move Heatley into an apartment where the corporation can keep tabs on him.
The only problem is Heatley is completely unaware any of this has happened until he decides to go for a walk. This throws the corporation into a panic and makes up the main thrust of Hope’s plot.
I won’t spoil how Betting Zoo plays out, but suffice to say the 198-page ride unravels at a fast clip. It’s a short, relatively breezy read that’s never boring and ends well.
Hope fills his story with interesting characters. There’s Joan, Heatley’s personal assistant who provides him with false reports on the business and answers to his every whim, all in an effort to keep him in the apartment. Suffice to say her world starts to fall apart the day he decides to leave.
I also liked Heatley’s sister Edna, a mean-old bat who is very dangerous with her cane. She ends up playing a bigger role in the story than I thought she would.
There’s a few things Hope needs to work on for his next book. He switches point of view frequently and without warning. This might not bother some readers, but I like to stick with one character as often as possible throughout a story.
Another stylistic point that didn’t work for me is some of Hope’s sentences and paragraphs run long, which slows the action down at times.
Minor gripes aside, it’s nice to read something original and fun from a new writer. If Hope can keep the good ideas coming and tighten his prose he will have career on his hands.