Books·First Look

Read an excerpt and see the trailer for Pure Life by Eugene Marten

Pure Life will be available on April 19, 2022.

Pure Life will be available on April 19, 2022

Pure Life is a novel by Eugene Marten. (Strange Light, submitted by Eugene Marten)

American Canadian author Eugene Marten's latest work of fiction is coming in April. 

Pure Life is a novel about a protagonist known only as Nineteen, a retired football player who lived the American Dream as a star quarterback and celebrity. His life is now crumbling around him as his family grows apart, his wealth diminishes and he is now suffering with health issues and possible brain damage from his days as a pro athlete.

When Nineteen learns of an experimental stem cell treatment forbidden in the U.S., he travels to the Mosquito Coast of Honduras on a dangerous and violence-filled quest to restore himself to the man he was. 

Pure Life will be published on April 19, 2022.

You can watch the trailer for Pure Life below.

Eugene Marten is a Winnipeg-born, Cleveland-based writer who has lived in New York City, Oregon, Texas and Costa Rica, where the idea of Pure Life first originated. Marten's work includes the novella Waste and novels In the Blind, Firework and Layman's Report.

You can read an excerpt from Pure Life below.


He is not the same. His shoulder is not the same. It is held together with a dead man's ligament and it won't listen to his brain. The team is not the same. They are not young, and Thirty- Four, their best blocking back, is traded for the future. The future weighs a 180 pounds, brings his personal chef to the locker room. The right tackle, a left-handed quarterback's best friend, retires to get a Ph.D. in astronomy. So here they come, smelling blood. T-bone him, wrap him up and topple him, pull him down by his shirt, leg, face mask, shoelaces. Celebrate like children at Christmas (just a three-man rush but for the sixth time this afternoon). He hears his ribs crack, eats grass, coughs blood. Number Ninety-Nine in black and blue piledrives him like fake wrestling, but this is not fake and he bites off the tip of his tongue. Looks for his shoe. 

There are hits he doesn't remember. A swarm of black stars, then a circle of blurred faces above him, trainers and doctors, asking him what one plus one is. ("Why don't you ask me something easy?") And always two fingers so you always get it right. The head team physician is an orthopaedist, silver-haired, his hands steady but his eyes cold — they see what the owner wants them to. 

There are hits he doesn't remember. A swarm of black stars, then a circle of blurred faces above him, trainers and doctors, asking him what one plus one is.

"Let's get you inside and take some pictures. It'll look better if you can walk." 

Sprains, ligaments, torn quad, torn groin, bruised bone, bruised lung, broken fingers, broken jaw. All the Latin words for pain. 

He takes to carrying smelling salts in his hand warmer. 

"Let's shoot it up and get you back out on the grass. You know Billy Kilmer played a Super Bowl with one leg shorter than the other." A shot of Toradol in the ass. Vitamin T. Numbs you enough to let you play, but Tuesday it takes an hour to get out of bed. Sometimes the needle has to dig for the pain, makes a grown man cry, so he refuses it and plays through. Plays through sickness, vomit and diarrhea, two dislocated shoulders (in one game), wears a SWAT team vest to protect his cracked ribs. 

He appears at a postgame press conference in a suit with his neck sandbagged like some litigant on court TV. 

A former teammate, born again in Bronco blue-and-orange by free agency, plants him in AstroTurf and he swallows a tooth. 

"If God can forgive me, brother, so can you." Helps him up, then does it again.

The head team physician writes for Vicodin, Indocin, Oxy, and there is a candy jar in the training room full of pills in the team colours. He also writes for anabolic steroids and Nineteen is tempted — he could use some of the speed, the muscle mass that nature has withheld, but the side effects scare him; the starting OL is a juicer and is taking a hormone derived from the urine of pregnant women to offset the shrinking of his testicles. 

Novocaine. Xylocaine. Cortisone. Hike. 

He can't run and he can't hide. Pisses blood from a lacerated kidney. Surgeries, rehabs, missed games, limbo of Injured Reserve. Bone taken from one part of his body and put in another. 

The head team physician writes for Vicodin, Indocin, Oxy, and there is a candy jar in the training room full of pills in the team colours.

Every time he comes back the game has changed: dummy formations, false coverages. Chaos theory. His sidearm throws batted down, his magician's play-fake debunked. Sack-fumbles, the dreaded pick-six, altercations with fans and receivers: Try throwin with the other arm motherfucker. Rich kids with season tickets leaving at halftime. (His wife who hates football stays for every snap.) As he goes, so goes The Only Team That Matters; they sneak back into the playoffs just once, get shut out in the first round and there it is, the ominous hum of an angry hive, so deep you can feel it, but the seats are empty. There is pain and there is pain. 

The camaraderie, the transcendent brotherhood gone to family dysfunction. Silence on the team plane. Maybe it wasn't love after all. 

Regime change. His contract renegotiated, no guaranteed nothing. The next new coach wears The Ring and is also the de facto GM. His first order of business is to put up a sign outside his office that says TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK. His next order of business is to call Nineteen's agent, who calls his client, lone wolf of the locker room, white in his beard at 32.


Excerpted from Pure Life by Eugene Marten. Copyright © 2022 Eugene Marten. Published by Strange Light, an imprint of McClelland & Stewart. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

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