Ian Hamilton, the popular author of the best-selling Ava Lee novels and the more recent Uncle series, will be offering a virtual reading and discussion at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Library.
It was planned for January, says program coordinator Debbie Krause, but had to be cancelled due to the lockdown, with a new date, March 31, arranged for the Burlington author as soon as the library was able to open again.
While there are no in-person Wine and Words events, she suggests fans of his books can still have a glass of wine and listen to Hamilton from the comfort of their homes.
Although it’s a virtual session, Hamilton specifically wanted to hold it at the library. He’s very comfortable with organizing online meetings from home, and has his “techie” wife nearby if there are any problems, he says, but he loves to come to Niagara-on-the-Lake. He has friends in town and hopes to be able to fit in a visit of some sort.
He’s also looking forward to getting out and about, he says, after a year with a full lineup of events cancelled.
His reading will be from Fortune, the newest in what was supposed to be an Uncle Chow Tung trilogy — he knows there will be at least one more spin-off from the Ava Lee books, of which there are now 14.
Ava Lee is a young Chinese-Canadian forensic accountant who specializes in collecting massive debts that aren’t likely to be recovered through traditional methods, and Uncle is her Hong Kong partner, helping her deal with the organized corruption that seems to inevitably factor into her work.
Hamilton, now 74, has had an extremely varied and unconventional career himself. He’s been a journalist, a civil servant with several different departments of the federal government, and a businessman running seafood companies. He’s worked in more than 30 countries, and has travelled to China at least 50 times since he first visited the country in 1989.
In 2009, while still working, he suffered an aneurism and underwent major surgery. When he recovered, he decided to change his life and spend his remaining time doing exactly what he wanted to do.
So he began taking himself downstairs in his Burlington home every morning, cup of coffee in hand, to write about the exploits of his favourite heroine, drawing on his familiarity with Chinese culture, history, people and food as the backdrop, as well as the many strong women in his family who have surrounded him all his life.
Since then, he’s become a prolific and popular author, and will be making his fourth appearance at the NOTL library, where he is always well received, says Krause.
His most recent novel is a stand-alone story that not surprisingly has been kicking around in his head for several years, based on his own father’s life.
His father, says Hamilton, was six years old when his mother took him and his sister to a Glasgow movie theatre, and left him there.
“He was raised by his father and was treated abysmally,” says Hamilton. “He was bright as hell and evidently a good student, but was forced to leave school when he was 14, and was apprenticed as a bricklayer. The book is dedicated to him, and it reads in part, ‘he was a man who struggled to escape his demons, and never quite could.’ And that basically sums up his life.”
Hamilton’s mother didn’t know the story of her husband being abandoned and having a sister — he had told her he was an only child. After revealing the story about his childhood one night over dinner, years into their marriage, they decided to travel to England to meet his sister. There they discovered his mother had been pregnant when she left him, and he had another sister, as well as a half-sister.
They were able to meet all three women, but only one of those meetings went well, says Hamilton.
In Bonnie Jack, it was Jack Anderson who was abandoned by his mother in a Glasgow movie theatre. Now living in the U.S. and facing his impending retirement, Jack and his wife Anne travel to Scotland to track down his long-lost sister, where he becomes entangled in local affairs and confronts uncomfortable truths about family.
But true to form, it’s Jack’s wife whose strength becomes evident at the end of the book, leaving the possibility open that she could feature in future novels.
Hamilton says he might consider doing a reading of this yet-to-be-released novel, although that wasn’t originally his plan.
His appearance at the library is a free event presented over Zoom. Attendance is limited, and registration is required. Visit https://notlpubliclibrary.libnet.info/event/4927503 to register.
Zoom log-in information will be emailed to all participants at least 24 hours before each event.