#589 Trevor Clark (1955-2019)
Trevor Clark (1955-2019)
An obituary by Alan Twigg
Born in Toronto in 1955, ex-Vancouverite Trevor Clark died in Montreal on April 4, 2019. Clark, who moved to Vancouver in 2008, specialized in ne’er-do-well characters with vagabond tendencies and volatile relationships. He is survived by his daughter, Jade.
A coincidentally novel, Damaged at Daybreak (Now or Never 2019), mines familiar Clark territory, focussing on another less-than-lawful male roustabout, Evan Marshall, who, at his best, can be described as “a freelance hack and fly-by-night adventurer.” This anti-hero is led even further astray by a crazed but alluring alcoholic and drag addict who checks in and out of a psychiatric ward. They hatch a plan to rob a crack house with a shotgun and a cleaver for weapons. The book jacket cover image of a garish strip club makes it clear that Clark’s work is not courting sanction from the politically-correct orthodoxy of The Writers Union of Canada
A former “oil rig roughneck,” Trevor Clark also worked as a photographer, a bookstore manager and, according to his publisher, as “a home entertainment coordinator for a TV movie production company in London, where he lived for a number of years.”
His photographs have appeared in “Ross Macdonald: A Biography” by Tom Nolan, Scribner, New York, 1999; “Meanwhile There Are Letters: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and Ross Macdonald”, edited with introduction by Tom Nolan and Suzanne Marrs, Arcade Publishing, 2015; “Interviews With Contemporary Novelists” by Diana Cooper-Clark, Macmillan, London/ St. Martin’s, New York, 1986; “Designs Of Darkness: Interviews With Detective Novelists, Popular Press by Diana Cooper-Clark, Bowling Green, Ohio, 1983, as well as in “The Globe And Mail”, “NOW”, and “The Kingston Whig-Standard”.
His works of fiction include a novella and stories in Born to Lose (ECW Press 1989) and a 2009 novel Dragging the River (Now or Never $15.95), the story of a down-and-almost-out warehouse worker named Lane Courtney. After an affair with a volatile stripper who becomes pregnant, Courtney cultivates raising the profile of the family name by assassinating President Ronald Reagan. “I am a universal vagabond,” he says. He ultimately contemplates putting a .22 in his mouth and blowing all his thoughts against a filthy wall, “but I look at those sparkling lights and I don’t.”
Clark’s next novel, Love on the Killing Floor (Now or Never Publishing, 2010), is about a down-and-out photographer in Toronto in 1992 who has an unexpected love affair with a black woman who is none-too-keen on white folks.
It has been suggested by BCBW reviewer Monica Rolinski that Trevor Clark creates such complex and diverse characters in Escape and Other Stories (Now or Never Publishing, 2012) that it’s like reading ten different stories from ten different authors. In the title story, Escape, a father picks up his ten-year-old daughter for their weekend visit. He has no intention of bringing her back to her mother. From the outset of the story, the narrator makes himself look exactly like the bad dad his estranged wife makes him out to be. His hope for becoming his daughter’s primary parent rests solely on a forged document that will get them across the border. He has not considered the most important element in his dreamed future wherein he will raise his daughter solo: Is this something his daughter wants? When he shares his plan with her, we are stuck somewhere between sympathy and revulsion. “Later, there was a scene in the room when I wouldn’t let her call her mother. During the night I tossed and turned, wondering how other fathers who took their children away managed it. Did they just lie? Say the mother was dead, that she didn’t love them-what? It had to be traumatic any way you cut it.” He feels the need to redeem himself in his daughter’s eyes, but at what cost? Life is painfully awkward much of the time, and we disappoint ourselves as much as we disappoint others. [Clark reads from Escape in New Westminster: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXlNitc3dPM ]
Real life bank robber and author Stephen Reid endorsed Trevor Clark’s novel containing an armed bank robbery and a drive-by shooting, Hair-Trigger (Now or Never $17.95). It’s about a struggling bookstore manager and bank robber in his forties, Derrick Rowe, who bails out a friend, Jack Lofton, from jail. After Lofton’s bedding of a stripper proves highly problematic, Rowe enlists Lofton and a fellow bookstore employee for a bank heist that generates heat from both police and gangsters. Meanwhile Clark has had his latest story collection, Escape and Other Stories, from Vancouver-based Now or Never Publishing, recognized with a ReLit Prize nomination. The ReLit Prizes are for literary works from presses outside the (mostly Toronto-based) literary establishment.
A plot synopsis for Hair-Trigger: “Derrick Rowe finds himself at forty-four chasing stray women and stealing from the store he manages. Having decided that it is time to stop spinning his wheels, he has robbed two banks and is now working on a bigger heist. After Rowe bails his friend Jack Lofton from jail, they go to a bar where Lofton has been infatuated with a stripper. She agrees to join them for a drink after her shift, and later finds herself in bed with the burly Lofton. She doesn’t know that he was charged but not convicted of attempted murder in the U.S., and has been in an alcoholic free-fall since his wife left him. Although he is a guy who can handle himself, his new girlfriend proves less than stable, and involves him in a dispute with her ex-lover and his posse. Rowe manages to enlist both Lofton and a tough young clerk at the store in another bank robbery. Robert O’Hara is a part-time dealer with troubles of his own, however, and has been dodging two men who have beaten him with a lead pipe over a coke sale, and want two thousand dollars back. This sets the stage for an armed bank robbery, a drive-by shooting, and further complications for O’Hara.”
A seventh fiction work, Lonely As a Cloud Plus Two Stories, has been scheduled for release by Now Or Never Publishing in 2020.
Born to Lose (ECW Press 1989) 978-1550220810
Dragging the River (Now or Never, 2009) $15.95 978-0-9739558-5-9
Love on the Killing Floor (Now or Never, 2010) $19.95 978-0-9739558-8-0
Escape and Other Stories (Now Or Never, 2012) $19.95 978-1-926942-04-9.
Hair-Trigger (Now or Never 2014) $17.95 978-1-926942-62-9
Damaged at Daybreak (Now or Never, 2019) $19.95 9781988098753
Remembering Trevor Clark
By Tina Novotny
Canadian writer and photographer Trevor Clark passed away unexpectedly in April in Montreal, just before the release of his sixth book, Damaged at Daybreak, from Now or Never Publishing.
As his many friends mourned Trevor’s loss on Facebook, his publisher paid homage on their website: Trevor was not only a capable and courageous writer, but a fascinating person. As a writer, he was seemingly from another, more classical time, and didn’t really fit into the strict definitions of what is supposed to define one today? His characters were always very real and very raw, and one didn’t have to ponder very long the question of how much of himself Trevor injected into them? We loved him for that; he was unabashedly exactly who he presented himself as, and that will always have value in this world, no matter the direction the political or cultural winds are blowing at the time.
Trevor’s photographs appeared in books and periodicals, including NOW magazine and the Globe and Mail. His words were also starkly visual, his scenes and characters visceral, his subject matter boundary-pushing in its graphic content. A lot of us don’t want to talk about what people do behind closed doors, or in alleyways or cars for that matter. Trevor did all that and more: if he made us uncomfortable sometimes, that’s what truth and reality can do.
When I was editor of Write magazine, I asked him to submit an article about the raciness his writing. With his trademark humour he discussed Joyce, Lawrence, Miller and Burroughs? own forays into literary sex and censorship, then queried, ?If an author is supposed to write about what he/she knows, is there a risk that the reader will assume that the protagonist’s style in bed is that of the author’s, and if so, is it permissible to exaggerate??
Trevor’s personal history was larger than most lives: he travelled extensively, lived in different cities here and abroad, and worked a variety of jobs from oil rig roughneck to portrait photographer.
He was also dad to his daughter Jade [see photo] who he loved more than anything or anyone. He had many girlfriends who turned into friends, and numerous Canadian cultural luminaries counted him in their circles.
Although he had been Vancouver-based for the last number of years, Trevor’s main literary geography was Toronto, where Damaged at Daybreak is also set. His writing has been a revealing snapshot of various decades in the city.
The most recent novel follows the antics of Evan and Lawson who adventure through various neighbourhoods, drinking, telling stories, chasing women and sliding in and out of criminality. Trevor gamely tackled racism, gay and feminist activism, multiculturalism, gangs and guns and anti-immigration views. Substance use and abuse were favourite topics, as were the constant couplings. His characters came from both the underclass and the elite, and everyone in between.
Trevor Clark had keen insight into our shared human condition. His Damaged at Daybreak is dedicated To The Troubled.
As a writer Trevor was his own best creation, the real thing, the lived experience, a hard-fought survivor of an artist who wrote pretty much every day once he started. You could see yourself on the streets and in the scenes of his pages. It brings some comfort that it’s where we will always be able to see him, too.
[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2019] “Fiction”