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Ian McGillis Calls “No Safeguards” “a work that addresses social and political issues…while retaining a compelling human drama at its heart.”

H. Nigel ThomasWriting for the Montreal Gazette, Ian McGillis recently reviewed H. Nigel ThomasNo Safeguards and sat down with the author. Clips from the interview are available on the Montreal Gazette website.

McGillis begins by stating, “Thomas has created a work that addresses social and political issues with complete candour while retaining a compelling human drama at its heart”. He points out that the book is the first installment in a projected trilogy, but is structured so that it can stand alone. McGillis later points out that in comparison to Thomas’ earlier works, such as Return to Arcadia, Thomas’ “new novel is more intimate in its concerns, particularly with regard to sexuality”.

McGillis’ article draws on a conversation with Thomas where he discusses his development as a writer. Thomas explains that his literary interests began because of the influence of his maternal grandfather, “an avid reader who encouraged his grandson’s intellectual inclinations in a place where church and social norms often did the opposite”. Thomas eventually came to Montreal at the age of 21, where he began studying nursing at Douglas Hospital. Thomas eventually earned a Master’s in education and taught high school English at LaSalle High. McGillis states, “of his focus in those years, he said ‘I simply wanted to be an excellent teacher. But I was shocked at the attitudes of some of my colleagues. I could not believe that someone who had gone through university and had teacher training could be overtly racist. Then I saw it with my own eyes and had to say, “Yes, it’s possible.”’”

Thomas later began to focus on writing when he was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 1994. Thomas states, “it was not going to be cured; it could only be controlled. If I were lucky, according to the research, I might live up to 13 years. So I said to myself, ‘Well now, Nigel, what would you like to do?’ The answer was clear: ‘Write. Whatever you have left of your time, enjoy it’”.

McGillis also asks Thomas about the degree to which being a black writer has hindered his writing success. Thomas answers, “that’s a question I really don’t know how to answer…It’s very complex. Writing is such a nebulous thing – you write a book and it goes off into the ether. So how do you get any attention? Agents say that publishers tell them books by black authors don’t sell. And you can’t get your manuscripts to the major publishers without an agent. Hence we are fated to a sort of substratum in the literary world.”

No Safeguards is the first in a trilogy of novels focusing on Jay and his brother Paul from childhood to young adulthood. The book deals with the impact of fundamentalist Christianity on their family, their journey to join their mother in Montreal from their grandmother’s home in St. Vincent, and the oppression that the brothers encounter when it is revealed that they are gay.

Nigel Thomas was born in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and has been living in Montreal since 1986. He has written three other novels, Spirits in the Dark, Behind the Face of Winter, and Return to Arcadia, along with three collections of short stories, How Loud Can the Village Cock Crow, Lives: Whole and Otherwise (translated into French as Des vies cassées), and When the Bottom Falls Out and Other Stories. He has also written a collection of poems, Moving through Darkness, and two scholarly texts.

No Safeguards will have its Montreal launch (along with Farida by Naim Kattan, translated by Norman Cornett and Antonio D’Alfonso) on Thursday November 12th at 6PM. The launch will take place at Paragraphe Bookstore, 2220 McGill College Avenue.

Posted in Fiction, Interviews, News, Reviews.

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