Meet Malcolm Bidwell, smart, young and ambitious man hired by a newly elected premier as a “go-to guy” for every political mess.
And there are many messes in author Ron Norman’s new book Slouching Towards Innocence.
Set in the quirky, combative, and darkly comic world of British Columbia politics – where your friends can be more dangerous than your enemies – Slouching Towards Innocence traces Bidwell’s rise through the ranks.
Negotiating his way through the treacherous and wickedly funny corridors of power, Bidwell is forced to make difficult choices between what’s right and what’s expedient, and between his old friends and his new career
It is a world Norman knows well, having begun his journalistic career at the Salmon Arm Observer and working his way to becoming deputy minister and head of communications for the provincial government – one of the highest positions attainable in the public service.
He fondly remembers his years at the Observer, working with then-owners Ian and Lynn Wickett and Gene Leduc from 1976 to 1979.
“I loved it; it was my first job,” he says. “Gord Priestman (former editor) was a real mentor for me and I learned a lot from him. I didn’t know at the time how lucky I was.”
While working at this newspaper, Norman met his wife, Joan Young, a Salmon Arm Secondary grad, who was a nurse at Shuswap Lake General Hospital.
Norman continued to work as a reporter when his wife returned to school to get her bachelor of nursing, later moving to Castlegar where he was editor of the Castlegar News.
The couple lived in the Kootenays for 10 years.
“I tried to write a novel, but it didn’t go very far,” he laughs, pointing out he joined communications at the BC Government in 2000 and began his journey to the top. “I liked the job; a lot of the people in government are former reporters and I was dealing with reporters as well, so it didn’t really feel that much different.”
Norman says he dealt with people in an authentic and forthright manner, advising the press gallery on exactly what the communications branch could or could not do.
“They understood – we both had a job to do and I had to figure out how best to do it.”
Norman continued in the ministry until 2011 when newly elected premier Christy Clark set up her own communications team.
“I wanted to write fiction again and this time around I found a publisher,” he says. “It is the first book I know of that’s a fictional account of B.C. politics.”
Slouching Towards Innocence is available at Bookingham Palace in the Mall at Piccadilly.