McCormack's first book, 1996's Dark Rides, was published by Gutter Press, a small Canadian press founded by Sam Hiyate as part of a mid-1990s boomlet in alternative publishing in Toronto. That first book was edited by Ken Sparling, who left his aggressively minimalist imprint on it and McCormack's emerging style. The author/editor relationship was reversed in 2005, when McCormack edited Sparling's For Those Whom God Has Blessed With Fingers.
The subject of positive reviews and other media coverage, McCormack was frequently described at the beginning of his career as being part of a new generation of Canadian writers, most notably in a 1996 Globe and Mail feature about him, Evan Solomon, Russell Smith and Andrew Pyper.
But unlike Solomon, Smith and Pyper, McCormack never evinced any particular desire for commercial success, and his books stayed short and dark, and were published by a succession of small presses. Though they continued to get positive attention, including a nomination of Wild Mouse for the 1999 City of Toronto Book Award, and the inclusion of The Haunted Hillbilly on the Globe and Mail and Village Voice lists of the best books of the year for 2004, McCormack is now firmly a niche or cult writer rather than part of mainstream Canadian literary culture.
In 2009, he served on the jury for the Dayne Ogilvie Prize, a literary award for emerging LGBT writers in Canada, selecting Debra Anderson as that year's prize winner.
In the fall of 2011, McCormack was diagnosed with a cancer in his digestive system, for which he underwent extensive surgery in March 2012. Numerous figures in Toronto's arts scene, including musicians Jason Collett, Matthew Barber and Joe Pernice, writers Sheila Heti and Claudia Dey and artists Seth, David Altmejd and Shary Boyle, participated in a series of charity events to fundraise for his medical and living expenses during his surgery and recuperation.
The Haunted Hillbilly: A Novel (Soft Skull ShortLit) by Derek McCormack
Paperback: 112 pages
Publisher: Soft Skull Press (September 13, 2004)
Amazon: The Haunted Hillbilly: A Novel
A new title in Soft Skull’s ShortLit series, The Haunted Hillbilly reads like both a vintage 1950s issue of Tales from the Crypt and a 21st-century re-imagining of Michael Ondaatje's The Collected Works of Billy the Kid. This historical first-person narrative is told by Nudie, "The Rodeo Tailor" (perhaps most famous for dressing Elvis Presley), a gay couturier who, in Derek McCormack's world, also happens to be a vampire. As the story evolves with its magical poetic cadence and minimalist style, Nudie makes and then breaks the career of Hank, a country-and-western singer at the Grand Ole Opry. Inspired by the real-life observations of country music promoter Oscar Davis, who saw it all and told it all in a series of tapes suppressed by the Country Music Foundation, The Haunted Hillbilly conjures the seamy queer underbelly beneath country music's sparkling, sequined surface.
More Spotlights at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Lists/Gay Novels
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