Books·Reading List

3 genre-bending books to read if you loved The Sisters Brothers

If you loved Patrick deWitt's acclaimed country-noir novel, we think these three books might be right up your alley.
Patrick deWitt's The Sisters Brothers was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2011. (Danny Palmerlee, HarperCollins)

Patrick deWitt's 2011 novel The Sisters Brothers was a runaway hit. The bestselling western noir fable won the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction, the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and the Stephen Leacock Medal for humour writing, to name just a few of its many honours.

If you loved The Sisters Brothers and have been itching to read another dark, genre-bending tale that blends violence and black humour with great storytelling, here are three recent Canadian novels we think will be just your slug of moonshine.

By Gaslight by Steven Price

Steven Price's novel By Gaslight was longlisted for the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize. (Centric Photography/McClelland & Stewart)

What it's about: A famous detective and a mysterious gentleman trickster turn up in London, both hunting for information about a missing woman and the elusive conman who seems connected to her disappearance. The search draws them first into the London underworld, then to the diamond mines of South Africa and the battlefields of the American Civil War.

If your favourite thing about The Sisters Brothers was: Gorgeous writing that draws you into the nitty-gritty of 19th-century life.

It's a little bit country, a little bit: Epic Victorian police procedural.

Prestige points: By Gaslight was on the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize longlist. The novel was also among the final novels to be edited by legendary CanLit publisher Ellen Seligman. Seligman is known for editing 23 winners of the Governor General's Literary Award. Price and Seligman worked closely on the manuscript for over a year before her death in March 2016.

From the book: Why are there no wounds on her arms and hands? If she was attacked she would have tried to fight the assailant off.

Maybe she was asleep, sir.

Wonderful. Where. In her bed?

The constable nodded.

You think she leapt from the bridge, swam to shore, went home to cut her hair, then went to bed and was assaulted and that her killer cut her up and spent the night going from Edgware Road to the river?

Two-Gun & Sun by June Hutton

June Hutton is the author of Two-Gun & Sun. (Pink Monkey Studios/Caitlin Press)

What it's about: British Columbia, 1922. Lila Sinclair inherits her uncle's printing press in a small mining town. It's not easy being a independent woman in a town full of coal dust, blackflies and men who don't respect you, but Lila isn't going down without a fight.

If your favourite thing about The Sisters Brothers was: Realizing just how good we have it in our newfangled world, what with the hygiene and the computers and the basic safety precautions.

It's a little bit country, a little bit: Feminist fantasy.

Prestige points: The CanLit experts at All Lit Up chose Two-Gun & Sun to be the inaugural read for their summer book club.

From the book: It was still dark when I woke. I had slept fitfully. A swig from the bottle was of some help. I fell into dreams of home, clumps of mist rolling like tumbleweeds up the hill from the lake. White and filmy, not grey like here.

Pillow by Andrew Battershill

Andrew Battershill's novel Pillow was longlisted for the 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize. (twitter.com/Coach House Books)

What it's about: Pillow is a former boxer who becomes a casual enforcer for a crime syndicate after a head injury ends his fighting career. When a routine deal goes horribly wrong, Pillow sees an opportunity to pull one last job and escape to a better life. But his headaches have been getting worse, and it's getting harder and harder for him to think clearly enough to do the job... 

If your favourite thing about The Sisters Brothers was: Really getting into the head of a guy who seems like he'd be quite nice if he got a job that didn't involve hurting people.

It's a little bit country, a little bit: Heartbreaking-yet-blackly-humorous portrayal of the long-term effects of concussions.

Prestige points: Pillow was shortlisted for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize and the Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. Most recently, it's been longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

From the book: Most of what Pillow did was watch people exchange money. He'd make collections and stand behind Breton at deals, watching the cash and making sure nobody got out of line. It wasn't usually to muscle anybody. He was just supposed to be a former boxer, violence just an impression he made.

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