Why do men lie? Linden MacIntyre may have the answer

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First aired on George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight (26/3/12)


Oscar Wilde once said "The difference between literature and journalism is that journalism is unreadable and literature is not read." Sorry, Oscar, but there's lots to counter that sentiment. Take, for example, the CBC journalist and award-winning novelist Linden MacIntyre.

He's won nine Gemini Awards for his journalism and took home the 2009 Scotiabank Giller Prize for The Bishop's Man, a novel about the fallout from sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. It's been three years, but MacIntyre is back in the world of fiction. His latest novel, Why Men Lie is a direct extension of The Bishop's Man. The protagonist, Effie MacAskill Gillis, is the sister of the priest from MacIntyre's debut novel, a middle-aged woman who has given up on the men in her life.

MacIntyre never planned for Effie to become a major player in his fiction. She forced her way in. As MacIntyre worked on The Bishop's Man, Effie, a relatively minor character early on, became increasingly central to the story, alongside another character named Stella. "I began to realize these women are smarter than all the guys in the book," MacIntyre told George Stroumboulopoulos. When MacIntyre sat down to write his next book, he became fascinated by the plight of the middle-aged man. He struggled with the story for a long time. "I'd been trying to write this book about what men get afraid of in middle age and it mostly has to do with potency in one kind or another," he said. After much contemplation, he realized who was the perfect voice through which to explore these questions: Effie. "Who better to talk about [middle-aged men] than a middle-aged woman?"

Another character was essential to Why Men Lie as well: a real-life death row inmate MacIntyre interviewed in 1998 for a story for The Fifth Estate. A Canadian man had served 20 years on death row in Texas and had mere months left. After years of avoiding the press, he finally agreed to speak with MacIntyre. The result left a lasting impression on MacIntyre. "I've never had a more intelligent, thoughtful, sane conversation with another human being in my many years of life," he said. "It was an amazing moment, and one of those things I could never completely capture in journalism." So he decided to put this story into his novel.

Whether this work will live up to the hype left by A Bishop's Man remains to be seen, but MacIntyre isn't going to let the pressure get to him. "There's two kinds of books. There are good books and successful books, and they don't necessarily add up to the same thing," he said. "All the author can do is write a good book."