I know this site has been quiet, but it’s been for a reason: a flat-out effort to research, write and edit out my upcoming book: Duffy: Stardom to Senate to Scandal, being published in early March by Nimbus Publishing of Halifax. Now I can tell some of the story of how the book came about.
It started out as a column in The Chronicle Herald in May, 2013 about how I had known Duffy in simpler times and how he had fallen into the celebrity trap of believing his own bull(shit). It led him to pursue the Senate seat and eventually, to get in too deeply into politics for his own good.
The column got me thinking about Duffy and the perils of stardom. Thinking, apparently, is a big part of the whole book-writing caper.
I was part of a panel at the Editors Association of Canada and Patrick Murphy from Nimbus approached me. They had talked things over at Nimbus and wanted to sound me out on a book on Duffy. Would I tackle it? Being an extremely cool George Clooney type of person, I of course said politely that I would think it over. We agreed to go for a coffee.
By the next day, I had an outline of what the book would look like. Patrick and I met for coffee and talked it through. We agreed and scheduled a meeting to sign a contract. And by the way, that’s meaningful for me. I have been writing for money since I was 16 and I like to have something on paper.
Now all I had to do was to teach myself how to write a book. Big deal, right? Not exactly. I found it imposed a very different kind of work discipline from I was used to during 35 years of journalism. I was no longer working in a team environment within the familiar confines of a newsroom. This time, I was on my own.
But that was only part of the challenge. From the first days of web searches, phone calls and notes in early June, 2013, to the mad run to the deadline, new twists kept appearing and more information became public.
Over time, the links to the prime minister’s office became much more clear and the RCMP’s case against Duffy and the other senators came to light. Prime Minister Stephen Harper himself came into the critical spotlight. It also became obvious that Duffy and the others were being well and truly thrown under the bus by their former Conservative friends.
That’s why this is not just a story about misbehaving senators. The Duffy-Senate affair spilled across the weeks and months and into the central machinery of government. Nigel Wright’s involvement put the PMO at the centre of the scandal. Harper himself was reduced to talking points.
Even at that, I had to run flat out to keep up with the story, which was still evolving through the editing process in December with Patrick Murphy from Nimbus and editor Barry Norris. I found out that Christmas Day was a good quiet, day to work. Still, the book was coming together.
For me, what started out as a fairly straightforward biography of Mike Duffy, P.E.I.’s famously wayward celebrity-senator, turned into a story that was supercharging headlines right across Canada. I was running, and writing flat out, just to keep up.
Along the way, I worked one stretch of 110 days straight before I allowed myself a day off to go sailing and goof off. It was a lovely day. I travelled to P.E.I. in August, where I doorstepped Duffy at his lair in Cavendish. I flew to Ottawa in September, where many political and journalistic folks helped me with interviews, facts and perspective. I worked the phones and pounded away on the iMac.
To be sure, the work of other journalists on this story has been superb. I hope I reflect that in the book and I have tried to cite exact references to stories that appeared in the media on the Senate scandal. For me, starting late and working from Halifax were built-in disadvantages, but the excellent work by the Parliamentary Press Gallery and a lot of other fine journalists helped unlock the story.
The book is being launched here in Halifax on Thursday, March 13 at Armdale Yacht Club. There’s plenty of parking and the bar will be open. Come join me to get this book started. For details, go to visit the Nimbus site.
A second launch will take place on March 14 at the Charlottetown Curling Club, 6:30 p.m., and in Ottawa at the Parliament Pub on March 24. All are welcome.
Here’s a link to the Facebook site with details on readings, media and launches: Duffy: Stardom to Senate to Scandal