Toronto author Jeffrey Round has crafted Lake on the Mountain, his latest personal, gritty mystery novel, which he hopes will resonate with readers who have suffered alienation.
Lake on the Mountain features Dan Sharp, a missing persons investigator and emotional train wreck. It’s a departure from Round’s cute literary books featuring hunky special agent Bradford Fairfax. Sharp is angry, can’t maintain a relationship and drinks too much.
“I find Dan totally worthy as a human being partly because he’s such a mess,” Round says. “He launches into life half-defenceless all the time. When he stumbles and falls, he gets up and says, ‘You know, I’m a fuck-up, but that’s who I am, and I’ll do better next time.’”
A gay single dad, Sharp has innate talent for finding missing people. His teenage son, Kedrick, demonstrates tough love. Sharp’s best friend, Donny, possesses an acerbic wit and supports him unconditionally. Without these redeeming qualities and foils, readers would find Sharp hard to sympathize with.
“Dan faces something far more common in the LGBT community than has previously been studied or understood,” Round says. “He clearly suffers alienation issues that cause him to act out in anti-social ways.”
And Round is an author who writes from what he knows.
“In my case, I was unofficially diagnosed with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) about a year and a half ago,” he says. “While I had many of the classic PTSD triggers, I can also say that losing a good number of my friends to AIDS throughout my 20s and 30s contributed highly to this state as well. I also lived with an HIV-positive partner for 10 years. You don't have to experience war firsthand to live in a war-torn state of mind.”
Such devotion to his work makes Round’s writing absorbing for readers. You sympathize with Sharp, even as he falls into a whiskey-drenched hell, and you wait for him to rise again.
In Lake on the Mountain, Round uses the tropes of the mystery genre, among them a wealthy family with many secrets, compelling insights into human nature, the perils of street hustling, and the fact that sometimes, un-loved people are never found.
There is certainly no mystery about whether Round has talent for writing across genres. His 2009 literary novel, The Honey Locust, was well-received critically. His first novel, the less widely distributed A Cage of Bones, from 1997, was an engrossing cautionary tale about being a male model. Round’s Bradford Fairfax mystery series includes two books already published, two more written, and four more sketched out.
He has also written a young adult adventure, Javier and the Temple of the Jaguar. He says he had to pull back and experience the story without the trouble-shooting know-how of an adult. The tale stars two young boys who work to solve a mystery in Chiapas, Mexico. It’s in the tradition of the Hardy Boys yarns Round used to love.
“It’s the kind of book I would like to have read at the age of 12,” he adds.