We love our curmudgeons. From James Fenimore Cooper’s Natty Bumppo to television’s Archie Bunker and Oscar Madison to Dr. Seuss’s Grinch, these crusty characters have an odd but universal appeal. One of the newest additions to their ranks is Canterbury Edmund Garfield, the grumpy, politically incorrect and quintessentially Floridian creation of Venice writer Jim Clinch. Garfield is the title character in Clinch’s debut novel, “Canterbury’s Tale,” a book the author describes as “a novel of whiskey, cigars and murder,” and a story that will have you laughing (albeit guiltily) as you turn each page.
Clinch, a New Jersey native, moved to Venice, Florida when he was ten. He recalls Venice as being “a wonderful small town to grow up in.” He graduated from Flagler College with a bachelor’s degree in English and went on to earn a master’s in business from Nazareth College in Michigan. After spending some time as a newspaper reporter and a sheriff’s deputy, he began his career as “a corporate guy,” travelling extensively as a sales VP. He also married his high school sweetheart and started a family.
According to Clinch, “I always wanted to be a writer. It just took me 40 years.” Clinch wrote his first novel at the age of 16 and, over the years, started many others including “two or three really bad ones.” Although he had the desire to write, the demands of family life as well as his job and his volunteer work with Sertoma, the Chamber of Commerce and other non-profit boards left him with little time. It wasn’t until his three children were grown that he was able to work writing into his busy schedule. “That,” Clinch says, “was when Canterbury Garfield just stumbled into my life, smelling of whiskey and urinal cakes, and said hi. He was so weird that I had to introduce him to the rest of the world.” Thus began the five-month odyssey that culminated in Canterbury’s Tale, a book Clinch categorizes as part of “the Lovable Losers genre.”
For five years prior to writing Canterbury’s Tale, Clinch stopped reading books by other mystery writers. “I felt it would be terrible to be too derivative of someone else,” he explains. “Every story has been told, so it’s more a matter of re-imagining it with a new spin and interesting, fun characters the reader will want to know more about.” Canterbury Garfield certainly fits the bill. A burnt-out former journalist and reluctant insurance agent, Garfield is what Clinch calls “a recreational malcontent, a universal offender who gets through his day by shocking and annoying people.” For Clinch, writing in Garfield’s voice was great fun. “It was cathartic to have this irascible person venting,” he says. “He was able to say many of the things that I can’t.” In Canterbury’s Tale, Garfield becomes unwittingly implicated in the crossbow murder of his town’s unsavory mayor and finds himself facing Latin American gangsters, an Asian hit man, international organ smugglers, federal agents, and an elderly disgruntled client who runs him down with her Prius, all against the backdrop of the sleepy town of Puntayelo, Florida.
Clinch has big plans for Canterbury Garfield, including a series of novels based on his misadventures. He has completed the second book in the series, Pink Gin Rickey. It has Cantebury dealing with a crazy British aristocrat, a hip-hop mogul, snipers, Nazis, religious fanatics and a mystery involving a missing B-17 from WWII. “I'm only sorry this book took me four years to write," Clinch says. I’m looking forward to writing as many books as I have time for."One thing Clinch can tell readers for certain: They’ll be weird.”
For more about Jim Clinch, visit his website at www.jimclinch.com or visit Canterbury Garfield's Facebook page (if you're in the mood for a good laugh!)