Arthur G(regory) Slade Biography (1967-)
Arthur G. Slade began writing at quite a young age and finished his first novel when he was eighteen. He has averaged a novel every year since then, though not all have been published. As a child, he was a voracious reader of comic books and science fiction and fantasy novels. He also read every book on Norse mythology that he could get his hands on. Later, he studied Icelandic literature and Norse mythology at university. This laid the groundwork for his series of young adult novels "Northern Frights," which are based on Norse myths. "I love putting a new twist on all the old stories that the Vikings used to tell by the firelight," Slade once told SATA.
Slade took the title for his first book Draugr, pronounced "draw-ger," from Norse mythology and the old Icelandic name for those whose hate prevents them from resting after death. Three young Americans, visiting their grandfather in Manitoba, are caught in a frightening series of events that involve empty graves, strange disappearances, supernatural connections, and a touch of romance. John Wilson, writing in Quill and Quire, declared: "Draugr sits solidly in the preteen horror genre yet stands above much of its competition in writing and plot development."
The Haunting of Drang Island, the sequel to Draugr, is based on the Icelandic legend of the Jormungand, a water-dwelling world-snake. Like Draugr, it features undead creatures, both human and animal, and a heavy dose of suspense. Canadian teen Michael and his father travel to a remote island off the coast of British Columbia, where Michael's father hopes to finish his book of Norse stories. However, the near-capsizing of the ferry they took to the island, a horrendous storm, and an ominous message written in blood on the outside of their tent—all in their first night on the island—soon interrupt his plans. For the reader unfamiliar with the relevant Norse myths, Michael's father helpfully explains them to Michael and his friend Fiona throughout the book. "Michael's father is perhaps a touch pedantic in his exposition of the relevant chunks of mythology . . . given the hair-raising situations" in which the characters keep finding themselves, Mary Thomas commented in a review for Canadian Materials, but she did not see any other way for Slade to convey this necessary background information. Thomas also did not find this pedantry to be a fatal flaw in the book; "Slade succeeded admirably in keeping this reader on the edge of her chair," she said.
The Loki Wolf is the third book in the "Northern Frights" series. Angela Laxness starts to have nightmares about being devoured by a larger-than-life wolf. Her parents tell her that they are nothing but dreams, perhaps inspired by the Icelandic tales with which her grandfather has often regaled her. Indeed, there is a shape-shifting Loki Wolf, called an ulfmadr, in Norse mythology . . . and Angela and her grandfather will soon meet it on a family trip to his ancestral homeland. "Slade is certainly at his best in The Loki Wolf, creating a thoroughly gripping story that will entice readers" into the world of Norse mythology, noted Quill and Quire reviewer Jeffrey Canton.
Slade's next book, Dust, is something of a departure from his previous works, drawing on Canadian folklore and the Bible rather than on Norse mythology. Set in the Dust Bowl of the Canadian prairie during the 1930s, this Governor General's Award-winning book is the story of a small, drought-plagued farming town and the mysterious man called Abram who appears there, promising to bring rain. The town's children start disappearing as soon as he appears, but most of the townspeople are so distracted by the building of the rainmaking machine and the arrival of the promised rain that they do not wonder too much about these disappearances. In fact, it seems as if the only suspicious one is Robert, the older brother of the first child to disappear. Robert perseveres until he discovers Abram's secret: the rain-making machine is powered by the ground-up souls of the vanished children. Some souls are also sold by Abrams to intergalactic customers. In the climax of the book, which "almost takes one's breath away," wrote Globe and Mail critic Susan Perren, Robert finds the bodies of the missing children, their butterfly-shaped souls stored separately in preparation for a sale. Aliens and natural forces feature in the battle between Robert and Abram, which Robert wins, restoring the children and returning life in this Saskatchewan town to normal. A Publishers Weekly critic predicted that "readers who like their science fiction on the dark, literary side will be hooked," while School Library Journal's Bruce Anne Shook remarked that "this unusual, well-written story will definitely exercise readers' imaginations."
In 2002, Slade published Tribes, a book notable for its lack of supernatural elements. Instead, the tension arises from twelfth-grader Percy Montmount's conflicts with high school culture and, the reader learns as the book progresses, with his own feelings. Percy is the son of an anthropologist, and to distance himself emotionally from the high school cliques which ostracize him, Percy studies them as if he were an anthropologist himself. Percy and his friend Elissa, another misfit, form the "Observer" tribe, commenting on and recording the antics of the Jock Tribe, the Lipstick/Hairspray Tribe, and other common high school groupings. He even records his own actions in a similarly detached tone. Yet slowly the reader begins to learn of the issues from which Percy is trying to run away, including the death of a friend and abandonment by his father. "Slade manages a wide range of weighty topics—Darwin, evolution, the Big Bang, death, suicide, and first love—with a light, humorous touch," thought a Kirkus Reviews contributor. The author also "does an excellent job of drawing readers into Percy's vision of the world, only to have this vision unravel as we, like him, come to a truer understanding," Darren Crovitz wrote in Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Booklist, April 1, 1999, John Peters, review of The Haunting of Drang Island, p. 1415; October 15, 2002, Ilene Cooper, review of Tribes, p. 402.
Books in Canada, September-October, 2001, review of Dust, pp. 33-34; September, 2002, Gillian Chan, review of Tribes, pp. 44-45; October, 2002, interview with Slade, pp. 41-42.
Canadian Children's Literature, annual, 2000, review of Haunting of Drang Island, p. 119; fall, 2001, review of Dust, pp. 80-81.
Canadian Literature, summer-autumn, 1999, Gernot R. Wieland, review of Draugr, pp. 173-175.
Canadian Materials, November 14, 1997, Mary Thomas, review of Draugr.
Globe and Mail, August 25, 2001, Susan Perren, "Forward into Our Past," review of Dust.
Horn Book, March-April, 2003, Barbara Scotto, review of Dust, pp. 217-219.
Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, April, 2003, Darren Crovitz, review of Tribes, pp. 602-605.
Kidsworld, September, 2001, review of Dust, p. 36.
Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2002, review of Tribes, p. 963; April 1, 2003, review of Dust, p. 540.
Kliatt, September, 2002, Paula Rohrlick, review of Tribes, pp. 13-14.
National Post, September 1, 2001, Elizabeth MacCullum, "To Dust Kidnapped Children's Souls Shall Be Ground."
Prairie Fire, autumn, 1998, review of Draugr, p. 155.
Publishers Weekly, September 23, 2002, review of Tribes, p. 74; March 31, 2003, review of Dust, p. 68.
Quill and Quire, January, 1998, John Wilson, review of Draugr, p. 38; June, 2000, Jeffrey Canton, review of The Loki Wolf, pp. 53-54; August, 2001, Sarah Ellis, review of Dust, p. 30.
Resource Links, February, 1998, review of Draugr, p. 119; February, 1999, review of Haunting of Drang Island, pp. 27-28; June, 2001, Victoria Pennell, review of John Diefenbaker: An Appointment with Destiny, p. 30; April, 2002, K. V. Johansen, review of Dust, pp. 41-42; February, 2003, Linda Irvine, review of Return of the Grudstone Ghosts: A Moose Jaw Mystery, pp. 18-19, and Nadine d'Entremont, review of Tribes, pp. 44-45.
School Library Journal, October, 1998, Jinder Johal, review of Draugr, pp. 146-147; August, 1999, Linda Greengrass, review of The Haunting of Drang Island, p. 164; October, 2002, Todd Morning, review of Tribes, pp. 170-171; March, 2003, Bruce Anne Shook, review of Dust, p. 240.
Star Phoenix (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada), July 28, 2001, Beverly Brenna, "Depression-Era Story Attracts Older Readers."
Today's Parent, March, 2003, review of Tribes, p. 26.
Arthur Slade Home Page, http://www.arthurslade.com/ (February 21, 2004).
Brief BiographiesBiographies: Paul Anthony Samuelson (1915– ) Biography to Bessie Smith (1895–1937) BiographyArthur G(regory) Slade (1967-) Biography - Personal, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Sidelights