The Next Chapter

Don Gillmor on the dirty, dangerous job that inspired his decades-spanning novel

Don Gillmor talks about his latest novel, which traces the rise of an oilman in Alberta.
Don Gillmor's novel Long Change is set over several decades in the life of a man working in the oil industry.

Don Gillmor is a novelist, a journalist and a children's book author. His most recent novel, Long Change, explores the fortunes of an oilman who makes his way in Canada's oil fields. The book follows the main character, Ritt Devlin, from the ages of 15 into his 80s as he works his way through the industry's ups and downs.

I had always wanted to write about the oil business, partly because I worked in the oil business. When I was a student at the University of Calgary, I worked as a roughneck in the summers on the oil rigs, because I was told this was where you could make all the money. It's a terrible job — it's seven days a week and it's dirty and dangerous, but it did pay a lot and it's a really interesting subculture out there, among the people who work on those rigs. When I graduated I thought I would write something about it, and I just never got around to it. I did make notes over the years, and this is the result of that long gestation period.

Don Gillmor's comments have been edited and condensed.