Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Featured Fiction: Smuggling Donkeys by David Helwig

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Featured Fiction: Smuggling Donkeys by David Helwig

The Porcupine's Quill, 2007

About the book:
Warren Thouless, recently retired teacher, long-retired actor, aspiring thinker, stuffed up in a small basement room that fell into disorder: that's how the narrator of Smuggling Donkeys sees himself. His wife has left him, gone off to someplace in India on a spiritual quest; now and then she sends a postcard. Impelled by some mixture of desolation and high spirits, Warren has let Tessa Niles, a talented and beautiful former student, talk him into buying a deconsecrated church to turn it into a theatre, and he struggles to survive a winter of solitude in the empty building, delivering a comic monologue to an audience of one.

Gradually his life takes a new course. With Tessa's assistance he begins to revive his career as an actor. His life becomes its own kind of spiritual quest. Shakespeare and Chekhov and Thornton Wilder provide words for him to speak. The gods (in all their strange variety) hover. He ends his story on the brink of astonishing possibilities.

About the author:
David Helwig was born in Toronto in 1938 and lived there for most of his first ten years, then moved with his parents to Niagara- on-the-Lake, Ontario where his father ran a small business repairing and refinishing furniture and buying and selling antiques. He attended the University of Toronto and the University of Liverpool. His first daughter was born in England and the second in Kingston where he taught at Queen's University. He published his first stories, in Canadian Forum and The Montrealer, while still an undergraduate. For two summers he worked in summer stock with the Straw Hat Players, mostly as a business manager and technician, working with such actors as Gordon Pinsent, Jackie Burroughs, William B. Davis and Timothy Findley.

While he taught at Queen's University, he did some informal teaching in Collins Bay Penitentiary and he wrote A Book about Billie with a former inmate. In 1974, John Hirsch hired him as literary manager of CBC television drama, and he spent two years in this position, supervising the work of story editors and the department's relations with writers. From 1976 to 1980, he taught part time at Queen's while doing a great deal of freelance work, and in 1980, he gave up teaching and became a full-time freelance writer.

He has from the beginning written both fiction and poetry as well as a wide range of radio, television and journalism.

His avocation is vocal music. After abandoning this for some years, he returned to it in his forties and has sung with a number of choirs in Kingston, Montreal and Charlottetown. He has appeared as bass soloist in Handel's Messiah, Bach's St Matthew Passion, and Mozart's Requiem.

His autobiography, The Names of Things, was published in 2006. He currently lives in an old house in the village of Eldon in Prince Edward Island.

Read more about Smuggling Donkeys at The Porcupine's Quill website.