And it was a fun one. The Mayor and his amazing wife came, media luminaries like Stephen Maher were in attendance, and political stars – like former MP Paul Zed and York Region’s Loralea Carruthers – partied it up.
Lots of copies of Recipe For Hate and SFH Kinda Suck were sold, and Lisa even came onstage to provide backing vocals. Wish I had a photo of that.
Dundurn’s Kendra Martin told me the book had been written up in Postmedia, and it had been, below.
A fun night until BJORN’s arm checked out during Vomit. Wish you’d been there!
“The names have been changed to protect the guilty.”
Warren Kinsella mentions this more than once when discussing his first novel, Recipe for Hate, revealing its existence in a strange literary zone between fact and fiction.
Based in Portland, Maine, during the late 1970s, the YA murder-mystery tells the story of a group of young punk rockers who find themselves at risk after two friends are brutally murdered. It exposes a ring of neo-Nazis and the early rumblings of a hate movement that began to appear in fledging punk scenes across North America during that period.
So, yes, it’s fiction. But there’s plenty of truth running throughout. Kinsella, a Toronto-based lawyer, musician and political commentator once known as the “Prince of Darkness” for his days as an aggressive strategist in Liberal war rooms, has also carved out a reputation in the past few decades as one of Canada’s foremost experts on Canada’s far-right hate groups.
He was also a punk rocker in the late 1970s, having played in the pioneering Calgary punk band The Hot Nasties in a music scene that was very reminiscent of the Portland backdrop he has created for Recipe of Hate.
And finally, he was a summer student at the Calgary Herald in the mid-1980s, which is where he came across the inspiration for a shadowy figure who becomes central to Recipe of Hate.
Kinsella doesn’t reveal much more about this real-life character, only to say that he was not able to write about him for various reasons while a summer student. To reveal much more would be a spoiler for his novel.
“It stuck in my craw for the succeeding 30 years and it became the centre of Recipe of Hate,” says Kinsella, in an interview from his office in Toronto. “Recipe of Hate really got it start in the Herald newsroom.”
The author is a little more specific when it comes to other real-life events or characters that inspired the novel. Kinsella’s 1994 national bestseller, Web of Hate: Inside Canada’s Far Right Network, was a wake-up call for Canadians that charted a growing and highly organized hate movement in this country. It was based, at least partially, on work that Kinsella began as a young reporter at the Herald and, later, the Ottawa Citizen.
In Recipe for Hate, there are acts of violence based on real events Kinsella researched for his non-fiction work. The killing of a talk-show host is based on the 1984 murder of Alan Berg, who was assassinated by members of the white nationalist group The Order in Denver. Another passage in Recipe of Hate was based on a 1990 incident in Edmonton involving members of the Aryan Nation attacking broadcaster Keith Rutherford on his front lawn.
“There’s a whole series of events within the book that was based upon things that really happened,” he says.
That includes details about Calgary’s punk scene, even if they are transported to Portland. He even uses the names of actual bands from Cowtown’s early punk scene, including The Social Blemishes and Hot Nasties, two bands that Kinsella played in back in the 1970s.
A passage where protagonist Kurt Blank meets the Clash’s Joe Strummer also came from a real-life meeting between the legendary punk-rocker and Kinsella in Vancouver. Gary’s, an old biker bar that is central to the book’s plot, is based on the early punk-rock bar The Calgarian; while the high school in the novel is based on Calgary’s Bishop Carroll.
Also key to Recipe of Hate is a period in the history of punk when some of the racist attitudes being embraced in Britain began to infiltrate scenes in smaller cities. Before that, the punk scene, at least in Calgary, “really was the United Nations,” Kinsella says.
“We had Rasta guys, we had skinheads who were into reggae culture, we had gay kids, overweight kids, socialist kids, art students from (Alberta College of Art,)” he says. “Everybody got along. There were no fights. It was wonderful. It was around ’78 and ’79, just after they went to the dark side in Britain with the British movement and the National Front that the skinheads we knew in Calgary, who had previously been these great guys and had black friends, the vast majority of them became neo-Nazis. That’s why the Hot Nasties packed it in. We just got sick of the fights. It was ridiculous.”
Still, Kinsella said he wanted to move the action to Portland for the same reason he wanted to try fiction writing in the first place: to write something unlike anything he had written before.
“I had done Web of Hate on racism on the right; I had done Unholy Alliances about extremism on the left. I had written books about politics. I did a book on punk rock,” Kinsella says. “I had these filaments, these threads that I wanted to stitch together in a single book. I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to see if I could do this.”
Recipe of Hate is now in stores.