Timothy Findley, Canadian actor, playwright, novelist, died in June of this year. Findley had a knack for plumbing the depths of humanity and his last novel, Spadework, digs deep in searching for the answer to “How far would you go?” Set in the summer of 1998, events such as the Clinton-Lewinsky White House scandal, a hostage-taking in Peru and a severed phone line are woven into a tapestry of lust, power, adultery and ambition in the small town of Stratford, Ontario. Findley is no stranger to emotional hotspots; he’ll expose a nerve and continue to test it until he is satisfied. Pushing characters to their breaking point and seeing who loses control is part of Findley’s
irresistible voyeuristic style.
Beautiful Jane, an heiress from Louisiana who likes wine with breakfast, is married to Griffin Kincaid, an ambitious, handsome Shakespearean actor. Jane is a modern day Blanche DuBois who seeks comfort in her bottle of wine and her therapist. Unbeknownst to Jane, Griffin has a time-sensitive decision to make. Jonathan Crawford, a
Svengali-like theatre director, propositions Griffin, to wit: sleep with me or your career is over– call me when you decide. On the morning of Jonathan’s deadline, Luke, the gardener, accidently cuts the phone line.
Several homes are without phone service that fateful morning. Important calls are neither made nor received. It is this event that sets in motion a summer of love, infidelity and murder. An encounter with Milos, the Bell Canada repairman, sends Jane into a sensual tailspin and deeper into wine-soaked sexual fantasies. Griffin sets out to save his career at all costs. Each character is faced with a life-altering decision; each one must fine-tune their own moral compass. Findley provides delicious insights into why his characters behave as they do. He keeps the story crisp and clean
-- he knows when to tug at each thread to keep the tension just right, looping one storyline into the next and weaving a poignant subtext of loves lost and found. There’s also an interesting theme of dying before one’s time resting quietly in the backstory. All this takes place within the novel’s time frame of two months. Fast and brilliant, Spadework is similar to his first novel The Last of the Crazy People.
Last year I raced through Spadework in one night so I would be prepared to meet the author and hear him read at a local function. I thought it was a good book
-- not great, good. I listened to him read selected passages, mostly about Jane, and I realized I had missed so much in my haste. It was with joy and sadness that I reread Spadework:
joy at reading such a gifted author, and sadness at his recent passing. My advice is to treat
Spadework like a rare vintage wine. Findley’s words are meant to be taken in slowly and allowed to envelop the heart with their warmth. Indulge, read and enjoy.