Transcript / LoLT: Amy Tector's Poetry Habit and Two New Books — 19 April 2024

Transcript / LoLT: Amy Tector's Poetry Habit and Two New Books — 19 April 2024

Friday, 19 April, 2024

This is a transcription of ‘LoLT: Amy Tector’s Poetry Habit and Two New Books — 19 April 2024’

[cheerful music]

Melissa: Coming up, a new mystery starring a messy lady detective I love.

David: A autobiography from a therapist with emotional issues.

Melissa: Plus, our distraction of the week. I’m Mel.

David: I’m Dave. This is the library of lost time.

Melissa: We have an exciting double feature today! I’m talking about the new mystery novel ‘Honor the Dead’ by Amy Tector, and later, she’ll be our guest to share a Distraction of the Week.

Melissa: Amy is the author of ‘The Honeybee Emeralds’ and the Dominion Archives mysteries. That’s a series of books set that features murdery hijinks in Canada’s national archive. Last year, she joined us for a session we did at the Newburyport Literary Festival about archives and libraries, and she straightened me out on something essential to avoiding embarrassment. Amy works in an archive — Canada’s National Archives, to be precise — but she is an archivist. Archive - archivist.

Melissa: So let’s talk about her new book. In Amy’s previous novel ‘Speak for the Dead,’ we meet her heroine Cate Spencer. She’s back in the new book ‘Honor the Dead.’

Melissa: So, Cate! This character! I love her. She’s a coroner in Ottawa, and she’s a bit of a mess. When we first meet her, she’s drinking too much, she’s chain-smoking cigarettes, she’s not quite ready to let go of her relationship with her ex-husband, her dad is a nightmare. And in this book, she’s all of that, AND her beloved brother has died under mysterious circumstances. She’s the female version of the detective who’s rumpled, disgruntled, broken, and yet, you love them anyway. Here’s why: Yes, her life is a cluster, but every once in a while, she softens and shows flashes of vulnerability or kindness. And she’s really good at her job. She is driven by the core concept that as a coroner, it’s her job to speak for and honor the dead.

Melissa: Amy Tector, the author, does a bang-up job of putting Cate into compelling mysteries in very vivid settings. Honor the Dead is set in a fascinating part of Canada. Most of Canada speaks English, but in Quebec, they speak French. Except for a part of the Eastern Townships — Amy calls it a ‘weird little enclave of English-speakers’ — and the mystery she’s set there is very compelling.

Melissa: When the story opens, Cate the coroner is working as the in-house physician at a clinic in the Eastern Townships. It’s sort of a temporary banishment from Ottawa. She’s meant to put her life back together so she can make a triumphant return to the city. But trouble follows her wherever she goes. A man at a nearby farm is shot and killed. And not just shot! The bullet has gone directly through his left eye with the precision of a sniper. And because Cate can’t mind her own business, she noses her way into the investigation. And then all sorts of unsavory stuff is uncovered: lies, secrets, drugs, and another murder. Cate is her messy, lovable self throughout.

Melissa: I was transported to the idyllic Canadian countryside, and I loved the contrast of the beautiful setting and the sinister vibes of this small town. There’s tension between the townies and the posh school nearby, and a long-standing feud between two families, and maybe, just maybe, a cache of hidden gold. This is a cracker of a mystery with a heroine you can’t help but root for. 100% recommend it. It’s ‘Honor the Dead’ by Amy Tector, and it’s out now.

David: I’m going dark this week. My book is ‘Sociopath: A Memoir’ by Patric Gagne. Patric Gagne describes herself as a passionate mother, wife, and dedicated professional. She says she’s charming and well-liked. She also describes herself as a liar, thief, and emotionally shallow. She’s ‘mostly immune to remorse and guilt and fear,’ and she doesn’t care about morals or what other people think.

David: She’s a sociopath. And she’s one of the estimated fifteen million sociopaths in the United States alone. And maybe up to 30 million on the spectrum.

David: Gagne also has a PhD in clinical psychology. ‘You don’t need to be Freud to figure that one out,’ a friend of mine used to say. She’s also a good writer. Her stories are engaging — particularly for someone who has to work on her empathy quite a bit.

David: In this book, she talks about growing up as a sociopath and what that was like. How do you navigate relationships and societal norms and morality if you don’t have the tools for it? Gagne explains what ‘sociopathy’ is, and explains that, contrary to what movies might tell you, not all sociopaths are monsters.

David: The book came out about a month ago, and the reviews have been good. People are surprised at how funny she is. There’s some question about how reliable she is as a narrator, because some of the scenes seem a little too perfect, and, you know, sociopath.

David: The author also narrated an audiobook. I listened to a bit of it, and it felt a little chilling, but I might have been projecting. This book is clearly not for everyone, but I’m curious about it—maybe you are, too. It’s ‘Sociopath: A Memoir’ by Patric Gagne.

David: And now our Distraction of the Week. [magical sound effect]

David: And now our Distraction of the Week. We’re with Amy Tector. Amy Tector is the author of Mel’s pick of the week, Honor The dead. Amy, how are you?

Amy: I’m great. Thank you so much for having me.

David: Oh, thanks for being here. I understand you have a Distraction of the Week for us.

Amy: I guess it’s less of a Distraction of the Week, and it’s just a distraction of the year which is partly inspired, actually, by your podcast and your discussions of poems. I have started reading a poem a day. I have a poem a day book, and I love it and cannot recommend this enough for people like me who maybe feel like they should and do want to read more poetry, but kind of struggle to get into it and are intimidated by their Mary Oliver book that they never, ever open.


Amy: So I got just a, just a I don’t even know what it’s called, but it’s a poem of the day. And so you read so you have your, you know, your March 8th or your April 9th, I guess, today, and you read your April 9th poem and you have a little think about it. So that’s my Distraction of the Week.

Melissa: I love this idea. Now, do you have a particular time of day when you read it? Do you have you made a whole ritual around it?

Amy: I’ve tried to. So in the morning I may have my cup of tea, and I read my poem and then I, yes, have a little think about it. And some of them I think aren’t good. But again, I’m no expert. [laughter] But I’m enjoying it. And it’s sort of a, you know, whatever it is, a five minute moment to think about it and it makes me feel really good.

Melissa: I love this idea.

David: Yeah, that’s really nice.

Melissa: I feel like, okay, I have a lot of questions about this book because I like a very particular kind of poem that I’m not sure I could articulate off the cuff. It’s one of those annoying like, I know it when I see it kind of things. So does your book have all different kinds of poems in it?

Amy: Yes, and I would say most of the poems are older, um, because they’re out of copy, I assume because they’re out of copyright. There’s a ton of these out there. And so I just kind of randomly picked one and ordered it to my bookstore. So I don’t know if I got a particularly good one, but there’s lots there’s lots and lots. There’s mostly there’s very little modern. There’s very little that’s still in copyright. So it’s my suspicion. So the sort of gamut of traditional English literature, poetry, I would say, is in there, which I’m enjoying — it reminds me of way back in my university days, uh, when I studied more poetry. But I would love to have more contemporary stuff, so that was something I hadn’t realized when I ordered the book. So maybe next year when I buy myself a new… I will look for something that has a little more contemporary, because I think that would be I’m interested in that as well. But I’m getting my foundation covering some Shakespeare and some Elizabeth Barrett Browning, uh, right now with this one.

Melissa: And are you keeping track of things that you really like?

Amy: No, that’s a great idea, actually.

Melissa: One of the things I started doing a few years ago for one of my birthdays, I asked for a very particular journal and a very particular pen, and started collecting poems and making my own book of poetry by writing them into this journal. So now I have a folder on my computer filled with digital snippets of paper, and a journal that is waiting for me to transcribe all of these digital snippets into the journal. [laughter] The intention is still there, but I liked the idea of kind of making my own book of poetry.

__Amy:__Yeah, that’s very cool.

Melissa: Are you a dog ear person? Like, would you fold down a corner of the ones you like?

Amy: Yes, to my husband’s horror, I like to, I like to physically abuse my books. I like to write in them.

Melissa: [whispers] I do, too. Yes.

__Amy:__Yeah, I like it to sort of. I like to drop it in the bath. [laughter]

Melissa: Oh my gosh, that is one of my favorite things. Because then when it dries, the pages are nice and crinkly.

Amy: Yes. It’s sort of puffy.

Melissa: Yes, yes. Oh this is such a good bonding moment for me.

David: So what’s the title of this book you’re reading?

Amy: It’s A Poem to Read Aloud Every Day of the Year.

Melissa: Oh. Read aloud. So do you read them out loud?

__Amy:__I do, yeah, yeah, I feel a little self-conscious, but I do think you get even a different experience that way. So I quietly read them to my dog.

Melissa: Oh. So nice, I love that.

David: That’s so great.

Amy: She’s getting educated, too.

Melissa: I don’t think I’m making this up. I think I read that someone recommended you read a poem three times. Once, to just get what’s going on there. And then the second time, first time to yourself to get what’s going on, second time to yourself to understand more of it, and then third time out loud. I don’t know, I just made your morning ritual longer, but —

Amy: You’ve tripled the length. But that might be worth it.

David: Yeah. And are all three of these readings to the dog, or are you gonna find new a new audience?

Melissa: And I’m really excited for the day your dog reads a poem back. What’s your dog’s name?

Melissa: Visit for more on the books we talked about today and links to more about our guest Amy Tector.

David: Thanks for joining us on the library of last time. Remember to visit your local library and your independent bookstore to lose some time yourself.

Melissa: Stay curious. We’ll talk to you soon.

[cheerful music]


Top image courtesy of Suzy Hazelwood/Pexels.

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