For one Corner Brook resident, what started out as an image of somebody taking a bottle of pickled beets and dropping it onto a linoleum floor has led to the publication of his debut novel.
Tom Halford said the image appeared in his mind about seven years ago.
“I built the scene (for the book) out of that one image," he said. "It’s a violent scene with the blue-reddish colour of the pickled beets which could easily be confused with blood,” Halford said of his dark comedy crime novel “Deli Meat.”
Crooked Cat Books will release the dark comedy crime novel, "Deli Meat," on Sept. 17
Halford grew up in Saint John, N.B. He has a Bachelor of Education from the University of New Brunswick, and a Master of Arts and Ph.D. (English Literature) from Memorial University.
During his studies at Memorial he met his wife Melissa, who was born in Corner Brook, where the couple now lives with their children, Violet, 5, and Douglas, 2.
Both Halfords work at Memorial’s Grenfell Campus.
A promotional release about Halford’s book describes “Deli Meat” as a controversial take on the crime fiction genre. The novel follows an unlikely protagonist, Effie Pitts, who travels to the Upstate New York from Canada in search of her missing husband. Pitts stumbles into a mystery involving a peculiar cult and a serial killer.
Halford said part of the novel is influenced by his time living in New York where he and his wife worked for about three years.
“I love going to diners and eating at them and I developed this story about these two brothers who run a diner," he said. "A lot of the novel takes place at this diner.”
Halford said he always dreamed of owning his own sandwich shop. That never came to fruition. However, he did set much of his novel in such a small business.
“I was living out a dream… through fiction,” he said.
Halford’s short stories have been short-listed and long-listed for national literary awards. He has also published essays in academic journals including Memorial University’s Newfoundland and Labrador Studies Journal.
After reading “Deli Meat,” well known Newfoundland author Ed Riche (“Rare Birds” and “Today I Learned It Was You”) referred to Halford’s novel as a "carefully cured, antic debut.”
Joan Livingston, author of the Isabel Long mystery series, said the novel is a quirky mystery with a side of humour.
“Effie, a forty-something Canadian, searches for her husband who disappears on a beer run over the U.S. border. But as she finds, there's a whole lot more going on than a MIA husband such as serial killers, a cult, and a curious sandwich shop in this entertaining read,” Livingston wrote.
Newfoundland author, Larry Mathews (“The Artificial Newfoundlander” and “An Exile’s Perfect Letter”) described Halford’s novel as a fast-paced, high-spirited romp, brimming with plot twists and engagingly eccentric characters.”
Mathews wrote that the novel is crisply and efficiently written and is a "witty, insightful entertaining riff on the tradition of hardboiled pulp fiction for a wised-up contemporary audience.”
Halford plans on having a launch of the book in Corner Brook at a later date.
Hot on the heels of this debut novel, he will soon be ready to publish his second novel.
Tentatively titled “Culture Police” the book will be released in February 2019, he said.
“Deli Meat” is available on Amazon.com in both e-book and paperback.