FALL RIVER: The old adage when one door closes, another opens rings true for Phonse Jessome.
The Fall River resident, better known for his tenure as a TV journalist with CBC Nova Scotia, released his debut work of fiction in novel format, Disposable Souls, last month. It’s available at local bookstores, online through Amazon and as an e-book.
Disposable Souls follows a detective—Cam Neville—as he investigates after the body of Pastor Sandy Gardner, a TV preacher with a global following, turns up near a Halifax container pier. The mysterious case lands with Neville, a city cop with a dead wife, PTSD, and a haunting past.
In search of the truth, Neville, a former biker and war hero, and his partner, a Mi’kmaw Mountie named Blair Christmas, enter a perilous world of strippers, kiddie porn, and corruption that threatens to destroy them. Meanwhile, Neville is torn between loyalties to his two brothers, one still with the Satan’s Stallion bike club founded by their father, and another, a priest who wants to save everyone, including Neville.
The book—printed by Nimbus Publishing—began as a project in 1998.
“I was writing scenes and I had created this character, Cam Neville,” said Jessome inside his writing studio at his Fall River home. “He had PTSD. At the time it was very early in my own journey through PTSD. I was exploring how a person could still function in the world despite having that disorder.
“I would throw problems on top of this character and just see how he would react. Essentially it was a creative form of journaling, but at the same time I wanted desperately to write my first novel.”
The 54-year-old had written a pair of non-fiction books, but being a young man he wanted to write crime-fiction.
“At the same time, I was exploring PTSD,” he said.
Jessome shifted his focus from working as a daily news reporter to Disposable Souls.
“I figured I was going to have to take the book seriously, get an agent, and try to develop a second career,” said Jessome. “I really focused on that writing after that, got an agent in New York, and began working towards getting this book out in my next journey.”
In reading the book, it was easy to picture Jessome in the shoes of Neville as the crime fighting detective.
“The catharsis that I experienced early on writing this character when it was only a game between me and my computer made me put a lot of myself into him,” he said. “I’m most comfortable inside his head so there’s a lot of me in there. There’s no question because of the way I started this book, the character developed into an alter-ego.”
He said a lot of the book is based of his past experiences from his job as a journalism. Whether it was police ride-alongs, covering more murder scenes than likely any cop in the city, or outlaw biker gangs, he had knowledge on them.
Just like every hero character there is, they always have a chink. For Cam Neville, that chink is having PTSD, said Jessome.
“Cam’s refusing to accept that he has it and it’s pulling him down pretty hard, until he comes to grips with it,” said Jessome.
The support from his family has been astounding.
“They want me to do anything but journalism, so if I can make it writing fiction that let’s them exhale,” he said. “I can do all that in this room. I can play my guitar. I can be safe here until my wife gets home and I’m not out being threatened by criminals or all the things that used to be part of my day-to-day life. That’s all gone away.
“They’re hoping that this is the answer for me.”
For the past two years, Jessome has only stepped outside his Capilano Estates home to go see doctors.
“I’ve got to test myself as I’ve been hiding in here,” he said. “It’s time for me to get myself back out in the world and see if I can function.”
The early reviews have been nothing but positive, leading to hope that Cam Neville has not seen his last taste of crime-fighting action. After you read Disposable Souls, like me you will be left like Jessome’s agent and publisher—hoping that there will be more.
“I’m pretty excited that I’ve created a pretty solid piece of noir fiction here,” he said. “There could be more, if in my current state I can write another one.
“I want to continue Cam’s story. I want to make it into a series. That’s my plan going forward.”