Caroline native Morgan Murray has written his first novel, Dirty Birds — and it’s picking up positive reviews across the country.
Murray’s book about a hapless poet, Milton Ontario, (not to be confused with the Ontario town with the same name) was picked by The Globe and Mail as one of it’s Hot Summer Reads for 2020.
Calgary author Will Ferguson, (winner of the Scotia Bank Giller Prize for his novel 419, and two-time winner of the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour) has also called Murray’s novel, “a great, brawling, sprawling, muscular glory of a story.”
Murray, who grew up on a farm outside of Caroline, graduated from St. Matthew’s School in Rocky Mountain House, and attended the University of Calgary.
Growing up in rural central Alberta informed a lot of satirical Dirty Birds, he admits.
“The novel is pretty autobiographical. I took a lot of my own experiences and used them as points of departure for all these absurd hijinks Milton gets up to. This includes growing up in Caroline,” says Murray.
The protagonist, Milton, grows up in a fictional town called Bellybutton, Sask. “because Saskatchewan makes for better jokes about flatness and squareness, but Milton’s early years and a lot of his sensibilities… are based upon my own, in a lot of ways,” explains Murray.
Dirty Birds, published by Breakwater Books, is about Milton Ontario’s pursuit of fame, fortune and the meaning of life as he moves from his parents’ basement to vibrant Montreal in the hopes of becoming a famous poet.
“Things don’t always go Milton’s way,” says Murray. “He’s not particularly talented, nor clever, nor motivated, so he sort of stumbles from one mishap and misadventure to the next, getting himself into all kinds of trouble.”
Murray now lives in Cape Breton with his wife, cartoonist Kate Beaton, and their young daughter.
“After I graduated from the University of Calgary, I moved to Montreal in 2007 to try and become a famous writer.” When it didn’t happen, he ended up living in Newfoundland for nearly a decade. “I did get a lot of material for this book,” Murray says with a laugh.
“It just took another 10 years to figure out what to do with that material and another three years to write and publish it.”
Early reviews of Dirty Birds have been strong. Lisa Moore, winner of Canada Reads in 2013 for her novel February, has called, it “a brilliant, antic, absurd and cut-to-the-quick satire of millennial life.”
“It’s very flattering to have people you look up to and admire just read something you’ve written, let alone say all these incredibly kind things,” says Murray.
Dirty Birds is at various booksellers or online. More information is available at morganmurray.ca.