By Caroline Steman
If you are looking for a creative and humorous look at our modern day life, then look no further than Dirk Danger Loves Life, the debut novel by Calgary author, Chris Rothe. This is the tale of a lost young man who seems to be struggling to function in any self-sufficient capacity.
We find the hero at the beginning of the story coming to life from his alcohol-induced coma on the couch of his unkempt apartment. After an evening out, celebrating the accomplishment of losing his third job in as many weeks he finds himself groggy, and horizontally face to face with an ashtray overflowing with butts and his pet fish dead in its bowl.
Rothe says the idea for the book came to him early one Saturday morning, when he was himself on his way to buy a coffee and cigarettes and came across a “lose weight now” poster. He let his imagination write the possible outcome when our slightly depressed hero, with nothing left to lose, takes a chance and calls the number on one of the tear away tabs.
And it worked out well.
What results, is a serendipitous journey with his new friend, Dirk Danger, an amusing if not all together strange character attached to the voice on the other end of the call. The twisted and ridiculous adventure includes some unorthodox people and unusual situations and is a humorous journey to a more positive way to view the world.
“The real crux of the story is that life is kind of bad sometimes; deal with it,” Rothe says. And there may be some autobiographical connection. Rothe quips that like the main character in his book, “I am a loner and I am not good at remembering to remain positive every day.”
However, the similarities don’t go much further than that, to the relief of his parents who Rothe says were pleased to know he didn’t think of them as a fox and a walrus. You will have to read this engaging story for more details.
Rothe met his publisher through his ex-wife and her co-worker who introduced their husbands. “I took the manuscript to his house with a bottle of wine to butter him up and we hit it off right away. We sat and talked for three hours about all manner of things. He read and enjoyed the book and our partnership was born.”
Until this point, the publishing company Atomic Fiz had published more horror and fantasy stories and was looking to change their image.
“It worked out for both of us,” Rothe says.
Except for a few short stints, Calgary has been Rothe’s home for his entire life and even though he doesn’t mentioned the city in the book, Calgarians will recognize the description of Chinook Mall and the train platforms. He also mentions his main character’s boyhood dream to dig up dinosaur bones for the Drumheller Museum.
Rothe says there were two real decisions he made before starting to write Dirk Danger Loves Life. The first was that every chapter would start with dialogue and the second was the main character would be as faceless as he could make him.
“Just a guy…any guy,” he says.
Rothe started writing when he was 14 years old. “I wrote awful high school poetry and because no one else in school was doing it, when I shared it with them they liked it.”
From that point forward, he knew it would be his pursuit.
“I’ve always wanted to write and I’ve always done little things to fit writing into whatever job I was doing.”
He was always the go-to guy for company newsletters and he is currently enjoying his position writing training materials for Shaw Communications. Rothe did his formal writing training in classic literature at Grand Prairie College where he studied until moving to Calgary before he graduated. A lot of his early natural writing skill though, is courtesy of his college drama teacher who gave him the opportunity to write two plays that the school’s drama department performed.
“I haven’t written a play since college, because I haven’t had the right idea yet,” he says, adding there is another play waiting to be written in his future.
This is 28-year-old Rothe’s first book and is only the start of his journey. He is working on two more novels, including one he plans to call Conversations with Inanimate Objects, which coincidently, is a talent held by the main character in this book.
While Dirk Danger Loves Life will be released in paperback on November 15, it is available now in e-book format on Kobo through Chapters, Chapters On-Line, Indigo and Amazon.
“It will be a real test of which way works better,” Rothe says, about the online release first. Once the hard copy comes out, readers will get the chance to meet this quirky author, as he will be touring and doing readings and signings.