River Thieves

Paperback | August 27, 2002

byMichael Crummey

not yet rated|write a review
In elegant, sensual prose, Michael Crummey crafts a haunting tale set in Newfoundland at the turn of the nineteenth century. A richly imagined story about love, loss and the heartbreaking compromises — both personal and political — that undermine lives, River Thieves is a masterful debut novel. To be published in Canada and the United States, it joins a wave of classic literature from eastern Canada, including the works of Alistair MacLeod, Wayne Johnston and David Adams Richards, while resonating at times with the spirit of Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain and Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy.

British naval officer David Buchan arrives on the Bay of Exploits in 1810 with orders to establish friendly contact with the elusive Beothuk, the aboriginal inhabitants known as “Red Indians” who have been driven almost to extinction. Aware that the success of his mission rests on the support of local white settlers, Buchan approaches the most influential among them, the Peytons, for assistance, and enters a shadowy world of allegiances and deep grudges. His closest ally, the young John Peyton Jr., maintains an uneasy balance between duty to his father — a powerful landowner with a reputation as a ruthless persecutor of the Beothuk - and his troubled conscience. Cassie Jure, the self-reliant, educated and secretive woman who keeps the family house, walks a precarious line of her own between the unspoken but obvious hopes of the younger Peyton, her loyalty to John Senior, and a determination to maintain her independence. When Buchan's peace expedition goes horribly awry, the rift between father and son deepens.

With a poetic eye and a gift for storytelling, Crummey vividly depicts the stark Newfoundland backcountry. He shows the agonies of the men toiling towards the caribou slaughtering yards of the Beothuk; of coming upon the terrible beauty of Red Indian Lake, its frozen valley lit up by the sunset like “a cathedral lit with candles”; then retreating through rotten ice that slices at clothing and skin as they flee the disaster. He breathes life into the rich vernacular of the time and place, and with colourful detail brings us intimately into a world of haying and spruce beer, of seal meat and beaver pelts: a world where the first governor of Newfoundland to die in office is sent back to England preserved in “a large puncheon of rum”.

Years later, when the Peytons’ second expedition to the Beothuks' winter camp leads to the kidnapping of an Indian woman and a murder, Buchan returns to investigate. As the officer attempts to uncover what really happened on Red Indian Lake, the delicate web of allegiance, obligation and debt that holds together the Peyton household and the community of settlers on the northeast shore slowly unravels. The interwoven histories of English and French, Mi’kmaq and Beothuk, are slowly unearthed, as the story culminates with a growing sense of loss — the characters’ private regrets echoed in the tragic loss of an entire people. An enthralling story of passion and suspense, River Thieves captures both the vast sweep of history and the intimate lives of a deeply emotional and complex cast of characters caught in its wake.

Many historical events which provided inspiration for the novel took place around where Crummey grew up. There was a family of Peytons in the Bay of Exploits who were intimately involved in the fate of the Beothuk, John the Elder known as a ‘great Indian killer’ and his son, John the Younger, attempting to establish friendly contact. “What set of circumstances would account for this difference?” asked Crummey. “How would the two men relate to one another? What would the motivations be for their particular actions? As soon as a writer begins answering these sorts of questions in any definitive way, the writing becomes fiction.” Though faithful to historical record in many details, he imagined ways in which the characters might participate more fully in each other’s story. “Of course a different writer, or even myself at a different time in my life, would have imagined a different world of characters and events, a radically different picture.”

Pricing and Purchase Info

$17.87 online
$21.00 list price (save 14%)
In stock online
Ships free on orders over $25
Prices may vary. why?
Please call ahead to confirm inventory.

From the Publisher

In elegant, sensual prose, Michael Crummey crafts a haunting tale set in Newfoundland at the turn of the nineteenth century. A richly imagined story about love, loss and the heartbreaking compromises — both personal and political — that undermine lives, River Thieves is a masterful debut novel. To be published in Canada and the Unite...

Michael Crummey was born in Buchans, a mining town in the interior of Newfoundland ("as far from the salt water as you can get and still be in Newfoundland"), second of four boys; he grew up there and in Wabush, another mining town near the Quebec border of Labrador. After completing a BA in English at Memorial University in St. John'...

interview with the author

Can you tell us how you became a writer?

I don’t know if it’s appropriate to phrase that question in the past tense. It implies I’ve arrived somewhere, when my sense of it is that I’m still working away in the dark. Hoping to be a writer every time I sit down to write.

I started seriously writing poems in my first year of university, which was a surprise to me at the time. Don’t remember having any desire to be a writer in high school. For some inscrutable reason, studying poetry in English 1000 triggered a compulsion to write poems myself. I wanted to write something that would make a reader respond in the way I was responding to writers like Sylvia Plath, Leonard Cohen, Ted Hughes, ee cummings, Al Purdy. Everything I wrote in those first few years was monumentally bad. Sometimes I think all that’s different now is that the law of averages is working in my favour. Write enough poetry and eventually some of it won’t suck.

After I dropped out of university, I worked at a number of part-time jobs and wrote in my free time. Began publishing in little magazines and journals across the country. I didn’t start writing fiction until my mid-twenties, years after I took up poetry. I wrote short stories for eight or nine years before I finally decided to make an attempt at a novel. Thought I was ready for it, after a long apprenticeship — something close to a real writer finally. That turned out to be a complete misunderstanding of where things stood. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as over-matched as I did when I was working on River Thieves. It seems a bit of a fluke to have finished it. From talking to other writers, I don’t expect to feel differently the next time out either.

What inspired you to write this particular book? Is there a story about the writing of this novel that begs to be told?

I grew up in Buchans, a small mining town near Red Indian Lake in central Newfoundland. Many of the pivotal events that shaped relations between the Beothuk Indians and European settlers (including the kidnapping of Mary March and the murder of her husband in 1819) took place on that lake. Some sense of those stories has been a part of my life as long as I can remember, and I expect that the same is true to a greater or lesser degree for most Newfoundlanders.

Originally I was interested in writing about Shanawdithit, the last known Beothuk, who died in St. John’s in 1829. But as I began doing research, I was drawn more and more to the story of the Peytons, who played a central role in most of the interactions with the Beothuk in the decades leading up to their extinction. I was surprised by the starkly different attitudes father and son displayed towards the Beothuk. And I began writing a story that might account for some of those differences.

What is it that you’re exploring in this book?

Well, a number of things I guess. First of all, I’m dealing with the historical reality of the extinction of an entire race of people, the Beothuk, who were the indigenous inhabitants of Newfoundland. I was hoping the novel would give some sense of the enormity of that loss, and of the surprising (and somehow appalling) intimacy of the interactions between the Beothuk and the Europeans in those last decades. But I felt it would be wrong to write a novel about the Beothuk — to write as if we know more about them than we do, or to try to give them a voice that is absent from the historical record. Their absence, to my mind, is the point. The Beothuk are a shadowy presence in River Thieves, just as they are in what we know of the past.

The real challenge of the book for me was to explore the “emotional geography” of those
historical events side-on. Slantways. The European characters in the novel, the settlers, are completely unable to communicate with one another, even when they have the best of intentions. Their interactions are based on false assumptions and bias and half-truths and misunderstandings. And the consequences of this — sometimes unforeseen, sometimes not — are usually heart-breaking. I wanted the part of the novel that is basically a little “soap opera” between the European characters to throw some light on the historical drama that is the spine of the book. I tried to avoid any kind of simplistic one-to-one correlation, but I hope the different narrative strands mirror one another back and forth.

In the end, River Thieves is a book about regret. For the individual characters, it’s usually regret of a personal nature. For me, and hopefully for a reader, it goes somewhere beyond that, encompasses something larger.

Who is your favourite character in this book, and why?

I’ve heard writers talk about loving their characters as if they were real people. Before I started working on the novel I thought of that as being a bit precious, if not downright loony. Now, I’m afraid it would be unfair to pick a favourite. That I might hurt someone’s feelings. Jesus.

If I had to pick one character though, it would be Cassie. For the first time in my life, I had the sense I was writing a character who was obviously and unquestionably smarter than me. Not just smarter though. Someone with a wit and an incandescent intelligence, with personal resources and strengths I don’t have at my disposal. I was happy to find her in there (wherever “there” might be), and I hope I did right by her.

Are there any tips you would give a book club to better navigate their discussion of your book?

Would it be too glib to suggest having a few drinks first?

Do you have a favourite story to tell about being interviewed about your book?

Haven’t actually been interviewed about River Thieves yet.

What question are you never asked in interviews but wish you were?

Mmmmm, how about: “Has a review or profile ever changed your perspective on your work?”

Has a review or profile ever changed your perspective on your work?

No, not really. But I have been surprised by the range of response to my writing. And it seems more and more true to me that what we see in a book has as much to say about us as it does about what we’re reading. One reviewer of my book of stories, Flesh & Blood, called it the most genuinely erotic book he’d read in a long time, which I found puzzling. A friend of mine concluded this particular reviewer obviously didn’t read much erotica. But since then other people have commented on the sex as one of the things that “stands out” in the stories. Obviously it’s there. But to a large extent it’s where the reader is coming from that determines how big a part it plays in their sense of the book. So I think I feel less ownership of the writing once it’s “out there” than I used to.

Which authors have been most influential to your own writing?

I’m not sure how to answer this without it being misleading. I haven’t been as conscious of being “influenced” by fiction writers as I have been by poets, partly because I came to fiction so much later and had gone a ways toward establishing a voice of some kind by then. So I’ll just list some writers whose books I’ve loved and leave it at that.
Timothy Findley (Famous Last Words, Not Wanted on the Voyage), Alice Munro (just about anything), Michael Ondaatje (Collected Works of Billy the Kid, Coming Through Slaughter), Jeanette Winterson (The Passion), Norman Levine (I Don’t Want to Know Anyone Too Well), Raymond Carver (Cathedral), Mary Gaitskill (Because They Wanted To), Cormac McCarthy (now a major motion picture), Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities), David Adams Richards (Nights Below Station Street), Alistair MacLeod (The Lost Salt Gift of Blood), Dostoevsky (The Brothers Karamazov), Virginia Woolf (Mrs. Dalloway, Between the Acts), Joyce (Dubliners), David Malouf (An Imaginary Life, Remembering Babylon), Don DeLillo (Libra), Kenzaburo Oe (An Echo of Heaven). A trio of non-fiction books about Newfoundland: Cassie Brown’s Death on the Ice, David MacFarlane’s The Danger Tree, Wayne Johnston’s Baltimore’s Mansion.

Of course this list is ridiculous. It could (and should) be 30 or 40 times longer. 50 times longer. I have a mind like a sieve.

If you weren’t writing, what would you want to be doing for a living? What are some of your other passions in life?

Here’s the sad truth, which causes my mother no end of worry. I am completely unsuited for anything other than what I’m doing. If this writing thing doesn’t work out I’m in big trouble.

If you could have written one book in history, what book would that be?

This sounds like one of those “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” questions, which I’ve always been lousy at. Just not very imaginative I guess (how’s that for an admission?). Let’s say I would want to have written one of The Song of Songs or The Book of Job. Depending on the kind of day I’m having.

other books by Michael Crummey

Sweetland
Sweetland

Paperback|Jun 30 2015

$14.50 online$21.00list price(save 30%)
Black Ice: David Blackwood: Prints of Newfoundland
Black Ice: David Blackwood: Prints of Newfoundland

Paperback|Oct 7 2014

$40.89 online$45.00list price(save 9%)
Galore
Galore

Paperback|Jan 14 2014

$17.24 online$21.00list price(save 17%)
see all books by Michael Crummey
Format:PaperbackDimensions:432 pages, 7.99 × 5.19 × 1.18 inPublished:August 27, 2002Publisher:Doubleday CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0385658176

ISBN - 13:9780385658171

Look for similar items by category:

Customer Reviews of River Thieves

Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Glimpse of History An incredible glimpse into an underreported aspect of Canadian history. Crummey is a remarkably gifted writer who will break your heart and lift your spirits almost simultaneously.
Date published: 2016-11-14
Rated 3 out of 5 by from River thieves I didn't love it but I enjoyed it. His story line is scattered and I sometimes had to reread to be sure who his main character was at that time. Interesting style.
Date published: 2014-09-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Crummey is a Literary Genius. A well crafted balance of rich characters and story-telling, set in the context of NFLD history makes for a great read. I am in love with the author`s style, his precise yet beautiful language lets my imagination run- I felt like I was in the story, watching all of these moments, memories, and scenes happen. Vivid; exciting; dark; real. Simply, amazing!
Date published: 2012-08-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I've read better, but this is still good It's not the best, but certainly not the worst. My bookclub read this and it was one of the few that everyone managed to get through. I thought it was good but found myself bored by some parts. The history and parts with the father were exciting and interesting to read. Not something I would read again, but certainly something I was glad to read.
Date published: 2006-11-28
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Crummey is Crummy! What a disappointment this book was! After all the great reviews it's gotten, I was really excited to read it. What a waste of time! The plot is dark and confusing, and it is often hard to tell what is really happening and what is a flashback. The characters are not particularly interesting, and sometimes it is even hard to tell who is speaking. Poorly put together is a nice way of describing it. That said, Crummey does write some beautiful descriptions and there is the occasional paragraph with a delicious metaphor or comparison. If the author sticks to short stories and poetry, he'll do fine. He really does need to leave the writing of novels to people who know what they're doing. I would NOT recommend this book.
Date published: 2005-11-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent read It usually takes me a few weeks to go through 400 pages but I devoured this wonderful book in just two days. A story about history, family, love and Canada that is beautifully written. A fabulous book.
Date published: 2005-06-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Caused me to travel to NFLD to see it for myself. I read this book for OAC Canadian Literature, and I loved it. I was thinking about moving to Newfoundland for university, so I thought that reading a NFLD historical book would perhaps give me some background information on this, which it certainly did. After reading this book, I travelled to Newfoundland to see it for myself, and I adored it. Thank you to Michael Crummey for a wonderful prelude.
Date published: 2003-04-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Bloody Great This novel is great! Simple as that. I definitely suggest you read this book if you love stories mixed in with history, like Michael Ondaatje's In the Skin Of A Lion. Read River Thieves!
Date published: 2003-01-17

Extra Content

Read from the Book

The Face of a Robber’s Horse1810have the face of a robber’s horse: to be brazen, without shame or pity. — Dictionary of Newfoundland EnglishO N E It was the sound of his father’s voice that woke John Peyton, a half-strangled shouting across the narrow hall that separated the upstairs bedrooms in the winter house. They had moved over from the summer house near the cod fishing grounds on Burnt Island only two weeks before and it took him a moment to register where he was lying, the bed and the room made strange by the dark and the disorientation of broken sleep. He lay listening to the silence that always followed his father’s nightmares, neither of the men shifting in their beds or making any other sound, both pretending they weren’t awake.Peyton turned his head to the window where moonlight made the frost on the pane glow a pale, frigid white. In the morning he was leaving for the backcountry to spend the season on a trapline west of the River Exploits, for the first time running traps without his father. He’d been up half the night with the thought of going out on his own and there was no chance of getting back to sleep now. He was already planning his lines, counting sets in his head, projecting the season’s take and its worth on the market. And underneath all of these calculations he was considering how he might approach Cassie when he came back to the house in the spring, borne down with furs like a branch ripe with fruit. A man in his own right finally.When he heard Cassie up and about downstairs in the kitchen, he pushed himself out of bed and broke the thin layer of ice that had formed over his bathing water and poured the basin full. His head ached from lack of sleep and from his mind having run in circles for hours. When he splashed his face and neck the cold seemed to narrow the blurry pulse of it and he bent at the waist to dip his head directly into the water, keeping it there as long as he could hold his breath.The kettle was already steaming when he made his way down to the kitchen. Cassie was scorching a panful of breakfast fish, the air dense with the sweet smoky drift of fried capelin. He sat at the table and stared across at her where she leaned over the fire, her face moving in and out of shadow like a leaf turning under sunlight. She didn’t look up when he said good morning.“Get a good breakfast into you today,” she said. “You’ll need it.”He nodded, but didn’t answer her.She said, “Any sign of John Senior?”“I heard him moving about,” he said, which was a lie, but he didn’t want her calling him down just yet. It was the last morning he would see her for months and he wanted a few moments more alone in her company. “Father was on the run again last night,” he said. “What do you think makes him so heatable in his sleep like that?”“O unseen shame, invisible disgrace!” Cassie said. She was still staring into the pan of capelin. “O unfelt sore, crest-wounding, private scar!”Some nonsense from her books. “Don’t be speaking high-learned to me this time of the day,” he said.She smiled across at him.He said, “You don’t know no more than me, do you.”“It’s just the Old Hag, John Peyton. Some things don’t bear investigating.” She turned from the fire with the pan of capelin, carrying it across to the table. She shouted up at the ceiling for John Senior to come down to his breakfast.By the second hour of daylight, Peyton was packing the last of his provisions on the sledge outside the winter house while John Senior set about harnessing the dog. He was going to travel with Peyton as far as Ship Cove, a full day’s walk into the mouth of the river, but both men were already uncomfortable with the thought of parting company. They were careful not to be caught looking at one another, kept their attention on the details of the job at hand. Peyton stole quick glimpses of his father as he worked over the dog. He was past sixty and grey-haired but there was an air of lumbering vitality to the man, a deliberate granite stubbornness. Lines across the forehead like runnels in a dry riverbed. The closely shaven face looked hard enough to stop an axe. Peyton had heard stories enough from other men on the shore to think his father had earned that look. It made him afraid for himself to dwell on what it was that shook John Senior out of sleep, set him screaming into the dark.His father said, “Mind you keep your powder dry."“All right,” Peyton said.“Joseph Reilly’s tilt is three or four miles south of your lines.”“I know where Joseph Reilly is.”“You run into trouble, you look in on him.”“All right,” he said again. There was still a sharp ache in his head, but it was spare and focused, like a single strand of heated wire running from one temple to the other. It added to the sense of urgency and purpose he felt. He’d come across to Newfoundland ten years before to learn the trades and to run the family enterprise when John Senior was ready to relinquish it. His father electing not to work the trapline this year was the first dim indication of an impending retirement. Peyton said, “I won’t be coming out over Christmas.”John Senior had set the dog on her side in the snow and was carefully examining her paws. “January then,” he said, without raising his head.Peyton nodded.His father took a silver pocket watch from the folds of his greatcoat. He was working in the open air with bare hands and his fingers were bright with blood in the morning chill. “Half eight,” he said. “You’d best say your goodbyes to Cassie. And don’t tarry.”

Bookclub Guide

Can you tell us how you became a writer?I don’t know if it’s appropriate to phrase that question in the past tense. It implies I’ve arrived somewhere, when my sense of it is that I’m still working away in the dark. Hoping to be a writer every time I sit down to write.I started seriously writing poems in my first year of university, which was a surprise to me at the time. Don’t remember having any desire to be a writer in high school. For some inscrutable reason, studying poetry in English 1000 triggered a compulsion to write poems myself. I wanted to write something that would make a reader respond in the way I was responding to writers like Sylvia Plath, Leonard Cohen, Ted Hughes, ee cummings, Al Purdy. Everything I wrote in those first few years was monumentally bad. Sometimes I think all that’s different now is that the law of averages is working in my favour. Write enough poetry and eventually some of it won’t suck.After I dropped out of university, I worked at a number of part-time jobs and wrote in my free time. Began publishing in little magazines and journals across the country. I didn’t start writing fiction until my mid-twenties, years after I took up poetry. I wrote short stories for eight or nine years before I finally decided to make an attempt at a novel. Thought I was ready for it, after a long apprenticeship — something close to a real writer finally. That turned out to be a complete misunderstanding of where things stood. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as over-matched as I did when I was working on River Thieves. It seems a bit of a fluke to have finished it. From talking to other writers, I don’t expect to feel differently the next time out either.What inspired you to write this particular book? Is there a story about the writing of this novel that begs to be told?I grew up in Buchans, a small mining town near Red Indian Lake in central Newfoundland. Many of the pivotal events that shaped relations between the Beothuk Indians and European settlers (including the kidnapping of Mary March and the murder of her husband in 1819) took place on that lake. Some sense of those stories has been a part of my life as long as I can remember, and I expect that the same is true to a greater or lesser degree for most Newfoundlanders.Originally I was interested in writing about Shanawdithit, the last known Beothuk, who died in St. John’s in 1829. But as I began doing research, I was drawn more and more to the story of the Peytons, who played a central role in most of the interactions with the Beothuk in the decades leading up to their extinction. I was surprised by the starkly different attitudes father and son displayed towards the Beothuk. And I began writing a story that might account for some of those differences. What is it that you’re exploring in this book?Well, a number of things I guess. First of all, I’m dealing with the historical reality of the extinction of an entire race of people, the Beothuk, who were the indigenous inhabitants of Newfoundland. I was hoping the novel would give some sense of the enormity of that loss, and of the surprising (and somehow appalling) intimacy of the interactions between the Beothuk and the Europeans in those last decades. But I felt it would be wrong to write a novel about the Beothuk — to write as if we know more about them than we do, or to try to give them a voice that is absent from the historical record. Their absence, to my mind, is the point. The Beothuk are a shadowy presence in River Thieves, just as they are in what we know of the past.The real challenge of the book for me was to explore the “emotional geography” of those historical events side-on. Slantways. The European characters in the novel, the settlers, are completely unable to communicate with one another, even when they have the best of intentions. Their interactions are based on false assumptions and bias and half-truths and misunderstandings. And the consequences of this — sometimes unforeseen, sometimes not — are usually heart-breaking. I wanted the part of the novel that is basically a little “soap opera” between the European characters to throw some light on the historical drama that is the spine of the book. I tried to avoid any kind of simplistic one-to-one correlation, but I hope the different narrative strands mirror one another back and forth.In the end, River Thieves is a book about regret. For the individual characters, it’s usually regret of a personal nature. For me, and hopefully for a reader, it goes somewhere beyond that, encompasses something larger.Who is your favourite character in this book, and why? I’ve heard writers talk about loving their characters as if they were real people. Before I started working on the novel I thought of that as being a bit precious, if not downright loony. Now, I’m afraid it would be unfair to pick a favourite. That I might hurt someone’s feelings. Jesus.If I had to pick one character though, it would be Cassie. For the first time in my life, I had the sense I was writing a character who was obviously and unquestionably smarter than me. Not just smarter though. Someone with a wit and an incandescent intelligence, with personal resources and strengths I don’t have at my disposal. I was happy to find her in there (wherever “there” might be), and I hope I did right by her.Are there any tips you would give a book club to better navigate their discussion of your book? Would it be too glib to suggest having a few drinks first? Do you have a favourite story to tell about being interviewed about your book?Haven’t actually been interviewed about River Thieves yet.What question are you never asked in interviews but wish you were?Mmmmm, how about: “Has a review or profile ever changed your perspective on your work?”Has a review or profile ever changed your perspective on your work?No, not really. But I have been surprised by the range of response to my writing. And it seems more and more true to me that what we see in a book has as much to say about us as it does about what we’re reading. One reviewer of my book of stories, Flesh & Blood, called it the most genuinely erotic book he’d read in a long time, which I found puzzling. A friend of mine concluded this particular reviewer obviously didn’t read much erotica. But since then other people have commented on the sex as one of the things that “stands out” in the stories. Obviously it’s there. But to a large extent it’s where the reader is coming from that determines how big a part it plays in their sense of the book. So I think I feel less ownership of the writing once it’s “out there” than I used to.Which authors have been most influential to your own writing? I’m not sure how to answer this without it being misleading. I haven’t been as conscious of being “influenced” by fiction writers as I have been by poets, partly because I came to fiction so much later and had gone a ways toward establishing a voice of some kind by then. So I’ll just list some writers whose books I’ve loved and leave it at that. Timothy Findley (Famous Last Words, Not Wanted on the Voyage), Alice Munro (just about anything), Michael Ondaatje (Collected Works of Billy the Kid, Coming Through Slaughter), Jeanette Winterson (The Passion), Norman Levine (I Don’t Want to Know Anyone Too Well), Raymond Carver (Cathedral), Mary Gaitskill (Because They Wanted To), Cormac McCarthy (now a major motion picture), Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities), David Adams Richards (Nights Below Station Street), Alistair MacLeod (The Lost Salt Gift of Blood), Dostoevsky (The Brothers Karamazov), Virginia Woolf (Mrs. Dalloway, Between the Acts), Joyce (Dubliners), David Malouf (An Imaginary Life, Remembering Babylon), Don DeLillo (Libra), Kenzaburo Oe (An Echo of Heaven). A trio of non-fiction books about Newfoundland: Cassie Brown’s Death on the Ice, David MacFarlane’s The Danger Tree, Wayne Johnston’s Baltimore’s Mansion.Of course this list is ridiculous. It could (and should) be 30 or 40 times longer. 50 times longer. I have a mind like a sieve.If you weren’t writing, what would you want to be doing for a living? What are some of your other passions in life?Here’s the sad truth, which causes my mother no end of worry. I am completely unsuited for anything other than what I’m doing. If this writing thing doesn’t work out I’m in big trouble.If you could have written one book in history, what book would that be?This sounds like one of those “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” questions, which I’ve always been lousy at. Just not very imaginative I guess (how’s that for an admission?). Let’s say I would want to have written one of The Song of Songs or The Book of Job. Depending on the kind of day I’m having.

Editorial Reviews

“Michael Crummey’s River Thieves is a novel of exquisite craftsmanship and masterful artistry that should gain the broad attention it so richly deserves: a novel of intricately balanced storytelling and intriguing location but one also where the keen eye of a poet resides within the language. The writing is simple and beautiful, fully textured and gracefully rendered. Crummey has the rare ability to breathe his characters right off the page and into the reader’s mind, where they then lodge, living on well past the final page. River Thieves marks the emergence of a powerful, mature talent.” —Jeffrey Lent, author of In the Fall“This multi-faceted jewel of a book is probably the finest Canadian novel of the year. . . . River Thieves is the sort of novel that raises gooseflesh on the reader’s arms in its opening pages and doesn’t surrender them until well after the covers are closed.” —National Post“It is a novel full of poetic metaphor and memorable images. The language and phrases of the time are richly used, and through meticulous detail it manages to breathe life into past ways. Most of all, it creates a vivid portrait of Newfoundland of another era.” —The Globe and Mail“A stunningly polished and powerful book….Crummey’s craftsmanship is masterful.” —Maclean’s“River Thieves is a wonderful novel and Michael Crummey is a writer of enormous talent….Michael Crummey writers like an old pro and, not so incidently, also like an old soul, who has borne witness to tragic tendencies of humans for generations, and views them with awe and sadness and a clear-eyed compassion.” —Ottawa Citizen“A rip-roaring adventure tale if ever there was one … An exceptionally accomplished work of historical fiction that revels in the art of storytelling….River Thieves is an auspicious debut for Crummey. His next novel can’t come soon enough.” —Calgary Herald“A haunting novel … An engrossing and complex story that feels as authentic as a contemporary eyewitness account.” —Elle Canada“Early into Michael Crummey’s first novel, a rip-roaring adventure tale if there ever was one, a character declares `A good story will never disappoint you.’ Now isn’t that the truth. Certainly there is nothing disappointing about Crummey’s first novel, an exceptionally accomplished work of historical fiction that revels in the art of story-telling.” —The Calgary Herald“This is a splendid novel reflective of a particular place and time. Michael Crummey is a tremendously gifted writer.” —Alistair MacLeod“Like David Adams Richards…Crummey favours the minimalist stroke, the revealing detail relied upon to spill its magic gracefully, with tremendous emotional and psychological impact.” —Toronto Star“In the tradition of such contemporary classics as Cold Mountain and In The Fall, this beautifully-written novel is both a stunning adventure story and a profound saga of courage and idealism in an imperfect world…. The last of the Beothuks died 175 years ago. But thanks to Michael Crummey, they live on in River Thieves, a novel of great wisdom, great power, and great heart.” —Howard Frank Mosher, author of A Stranger in the Kingdom and North Country“A little-known historical atrocity -- the extinction of the Beothuk (“Red”) Indians of central Newfoundland -- becomes an authentic tragedy in this brilliantly constructed, immensely moving debut novel by an award-winning Canadian poet and short-story writer....There’s a literary renaissance underway just north of us, and Crummey’s quite literally astonishing debut novel is one of the brightest jewels in its crown.” -- Kirkus, April 15, 2002Praise for Michael Crummey’s short fiction:In the story ‘Serendipity’, which appeared in the 1998 Journey Prize Anthology, “Crummey brings ephemerally delicate details into chillingly stark relief.” —The Globe and Mail “Like David Adams Richards… Crummey favours the minimalist stroke, the revealing detail relied upon to spill its magic, gracefully, with tremendous emotional and psychological impact. Writing from the marrow of the matter, the craftsman intimates we're all card-carrying members of the club of second guesses, that universal sodality allowing each of us to reflect on ways we might have worked harder, played better, loved stronger or stood taller. … Crummey engages readers from the get-go.” —The Toronto Star “The stories in Flesh and Blood [are] profoundly moving and convincing.” —The National Post “Like the pauses in a piece of music without which the notes would make no sense, the silences between the parents, children, spouses and lovers in Crummey's stories shape the meaning of their actions, desires and connection to each other… Crummey's stories, while honouring hard lives lived with patience, also have a quality of compacted richness.” —The Kingston Whig-StandardPraise for Michael Crummey’s poetry:“This is one of the finest first books I've come across... If Alistair MacLeod wrote poetry instead of stories, he might have written these poems.” —Quill & Quire “Michael Crummey's Hard Light will catch and hold you in a place where the ocean is something you recognize, and the lives of those he writes about have something to say directly to you about laughter, survival, suffering, redemption… When you've found an author with the kind of power Crummey has, one of the first things to do is to head back to the bookstore looking for more.” —Atlantic Books Today “It's a rare writer who can fashion a vivid memorial to an all-but-vanished way of life; it's a rarer one who can excavate the vernacular and raise it to planes so poignantly and viscerally true, the exquisite beauty of the apparently ordinary shimmers with a matter-of-fact clarity guaranteed to curl your toes.” —The Toronto Star “The pieces [in Hard Light] reflect artistic intelligence in their shape and rhythm and in their structural relation to the book as a whole… Each piece is resonant… Rich in specific detail, uttered in the voices of those who've lived the stories, these miniatures reveal a world. …Crummey transforms documentary into art…. With Hard Light, Michael Crummey has made a significant contribution to our literature…creating a book that honors the past yet is thoroughly contemporary in its strategies and vision.” —The Sunday Telegram “Solid, satisfying, scrupulous about the salty details of working lives… Hard Light is solidly anchored on The Rock.” —The Globe and Mail “The eloquent simplicity goes straight to the heart.” —Patrick Lane