David Adams Richards on his new novel: 'Betrayal can be overcome'

There is no black and white truth in the novels of David Adams Richards. But there is a whole lot of grey - grey in the sense of moral uncertainty. CBC Radio's The Sunday Edition interviewed the award-winning novelist about his latest book, Crimes Against My Brother.

New Brunswick novelist is a member of the Order of Canada

Award-winning author David Adams Richards has been appointed to the Senate to represent New Brunswick. (Doubleday Canada)

There is no black and white truth in the novels of David Adams Richards. But there is a whole lot of grey. Grey in the sense of moral uncertainty.

His latest book, Crimes Against My Brother, is chockablock with gossip, betrayal, murder, adultery, corporate malfeasance and government corruption.

Still, according to Richards, the book is a tribute to the strength of the human spirit. The central characters in the book "struggle for the better angels of their nature, not against them."

Many of Richards’ novels, including The Friends of Meager Fortune, Incidents in the Life of Markus Paul and Mercy Among the Children, explore themes of human darkness, but Richards always looks for light.

He once said that, in spite of their dark content, his books are filled with joy.

“If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be writing. Joy comes from tragedy, not in spite of it," said Richards, who is Laura Lynch’s guest this weekend on The Sunday Edition.

A costly pact

In Crimes Against My Brother, three cousins — all teenagers, all best childhood buddies — get trapped in a snowstorm on the side of Good Friday Mountain. When not one of the adults in their lives notices they’ve gone missing, they make a pact, sealed in blood, to trust only each other. But it is a pact that will haunt them.

David Adams Richards' latest novel deals with three cousins who betray each other. (Doubleday Canada)

“I started out writing about three people who decide never to betray each other, and end up betraying each other desperately,” said Richards.

Richards has situated most of his work in fictional communities along the Miramichi River in northeast New Brunswick. The Miramichi is where he was born in 1950, one of six children, and it’s the source of his literary sustenance. He has written about life there since his first book, The Keeping of Gusties, was published when he was 20.

Now a member of the Order of Canada, Richards has been nominated for, and won, many awards, including the Governor General’s Award for Fiction, the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize and the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

One of his literary signatures is that his characters often don’t disappear as of the last page of a book.

“I introduce and re-introduce characters from one book to the other and explore how they’ve changed over the course of those books,” he said. For example, John Delano, a policeman who has appeared in several of Richards’ books, will star in his next novel, Principles to Live By.

For all the darkness, Richards is an optimist. Even in a novel that is rife with betrayal, he said this about Crimes Against My Brother: “I think that time does heal all and, as they say, this too will pass. So I think, take heart that betrayal can be overcome. I think it can be. I certainly hope it can.”


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