Great news on May 25th, the announcement of the winners of CWC’s Awards of Excellence: my friend, Antony Budelka’s book, Going to Beautiful won for Best Novel! A human story about love, grief and community, it’s also Tony’s love letter to his hometown of Saskatoon and to his Ukranian heritage. I was captivated by the first page!
Tony is the author of the eight book Russell Quant series, the prairie cop turned PI who travels the world solving mysteries. He’s also written two Adam Saint, disaster recovery agent novels; and two standalones, including Going to Beautiful. He’s a winner of the Lambda Literary Award and finalist for the CWC Awards of Excellence, the Saskatchewan Book and Re-Lit awards.
Queer Noir at the Bar on June 1st was our first opportunity to meet up with Tony in the real world since COVID. Tony read from his new book, Livingsky, the first in a new mystery series with PI, Merry Bell, a transwoman down on her luck and forced to rent a cabin near/in the town dump.
At the start of Going to Beautiful, Chef Jake Hardy has it all: a wonderful family and friends; a thriving business; money and fame. His life is torn apart when his husband, Eddie, dies in a mysterious fall from their penthouse terrace. The police rule Eddie’s death an accident, but Jake is lost in grief. Nasty trolls suggest that the cause of Eddie’s fall was more sinister and that Jake had something to do with it.
Many years before Jake and Eddie had written down their wishes in case one of them died before the other. Re-reading Eddie’s letter, Jake discovers that his husband wanted part of his ashes to be scattered in “Beautiful”.
Eddie had always been closed about his early life on the Prairies. Jake does some digging and discovers that Beautiful is a real place, a tiny town just south of Saskatoon. Despite the fact that it’s January, Jake decides he must go to Beautiful and tell his in-laws about Eddie.
Accompanied by his best friend, Baz, a delightful and classy 78-year old transwoman, Jake makes the frigid journey to Beautiful. Though virtually a ghost-town, its inhabitants are nonetheless a vibrant community from the 90 year old nun who’s the sole surviving member of her convent, to Chung, the owner of Ming’s, the social hub of Beautiful, to Bohan, the helpful farmer, who has eyes for Baz.
I especially loved Tony’s sense of place: I could taste the delicious Ukranian food, explore the deserted buildings and feel the icy bite of Saskatchewan cold. The solution to Jake’s husband’s death is a profoundly human one- and the upbeat ending was perfect as Jake recovers his hope and love of life.
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 Five Stars: Highly Recommended