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Book ReMarks:


It doesn’t really matter George Macaulay Trevelyn was a British historian who died early in the 20th century. What does matter for these scribbles is he left us a dandy quotation regarding the benefits of walking that I swiped off the Internet.

Before he departed Newfoundland for Upalong, author Nick Wilkshire practiced law for several years with Williams, Roebothan, McKay & Marshall.
You recognize that law firm I bet. Our premier worked there before he became 'Grand Dan'.
It isn't a surprise then Wilkshire has written a novel featuring lawyers. Shades of John Grisham.
'Sleeper' is a straightforward murder story that begins with the discovery of a body in Bannerman Park by a couple dodging home from George Street, where they had "guzzled their cab fare."
A suspect, complete with a bloody knife and the dead man's dollars, is immediately arrested and hove in the clink.
Enter the lawyers. After some inter-office skullduggery and back-stabbing at McGrath & Co., the law firm at which he works, David Hall, kinda the rookie, ends up defending Tom Fitzgerald. You might have known that.
Then, as you'd expect, the story continues with lots a legal work and courtroom drama. It's a murder story staring lawyers after all.
The setting of Sleeper is pretty much St. John's. If you enjoy reading a novel, in which you recognize the physical elements of the setting, you'll enjoy Sleeper.
You'll tread familiar streets, so to speak, and vicariously enter buildings you've actually entered in the flesh.
For instance, you'll sit in the law courts of Atlantic Place. You might even mug-up in the food court. While you're reading you can say, "I was there. I really was."
Just for a lunch I hope, not because you were hauled up before the judge.
Many of Wilkshire's descriptive details are of Newfoundland's lovable weather. Here's a bit of pure dirt we've all encountered: 'The previous night's snowfall had been pounded with a cold, heavy rain that had turned it into a sloppy mess of slush'.
Can't you feel that mixture soaking into your boots? Sure, if you were reading this book Upalong, lines like that would make your heart ache for The Rock. It would so.
Meanwhile, back at the preparation for Fitzgerald's defence, David discovers a little known medical (?) condition called 'automatism', a condition that's akin to sleep-walking. Not unlike a plea of temporary insanity, automatism as a defence 'is based on the idea that the accused had not been in control of his mind or body when the crime was being committed'.
No, I'm not giving away the story. I haven't said whether David uses this defence, or if he does, whether it works or not.
With automatism in mind, and needing an expert opinion, David locates a renowned psychiatrist who teaches at the University of Toronto. Ooh, he's gotta know his stuff if that's where he hangs his professorial hat, eh b'ys?
Anyway, the much-qualified Dr. Clark has this to say about the state of automatism: 'The subject enjoys the usual command over bodily functions, but they are essentially divorced from his consciousness'.
In other words, if one is suffering from automatism, one is liable to do anything but won't have a notion of what one is doing.
Scary, idden it?
Being lost in the fugue of an attack of automatism might - might! - explain how a person could bash someone over the head and not remember a thing about it. It might even explain how Tom Fitzgerald could have - and I'm not saying he did - knifed the murder victim in Bannerman Park.
Automatism might also explain the embarrassing repetitive behaviour of Uncle Mann.
Years ago, before the lights came to Random Island, Uncle Mann - named changed to protect me should word of what I'm saying get bandied about - often mortified his family with a late night ritual.
Uncle Mann tended to turn in early and he often left family and friends playing Auction, when he toddled off to bed. If the game dragged on, Uncle Mann sometimes returned to the kitchen, apparently walking in his sleep with the trapdoor of his long johns flapping.
He'd kneel at an empty chair and commence to pray, "Dear Lord…"
Dear Lord, the mortal shame of it all!
What do you think? Was Uncle Mann wrapt in a fit of automatism? Was his behaviour 'divorced from his consciousness?'
Maybe so.
Harold Walters is a retired teacher living in Dunfield, Placentia Bay.
ghwalters@persona.ca
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