By Abbey Cannan
A well-known Noosa psychiatrist turned author has released his debut tragic-comedy novel inspired by his fascinating career in psychiatric care.
Entering his sixties, Chris Cantor developed a yearning for a new life direction and decided to retire, throwing himself into writing his first novel ’Fisher of Souls’.
Chris said his career greatly influenced the story, which has twin plots in alternating chapters.
“One is set in a medieval abbey in Devon, England near where I actually worked in the early 1980s,“ Chris said.
“The other is in a psychiatric hospital using the former abbey’s now decrepit structure, the real hospital in which I had worked, in Victorian times was The Devon County Lunatic Asylum.
“Although the clinical care in my time was quite reasonable I found the environment traumatic, and I got to go home at the end of the day. It was a factor in my migrating to Australia where most psychiatric care was/is delivered from more appropriate facilities, such as general hospitals.“
Chris said the abbey story addresses the perils of demonising others who differ from ourselves.
“From my work I was familiar with the psychology of this. The hospital tale is a comedy that offsets the seriousness of the abbey story, provides balance and light relief. The atmosphere of the fictional hospital reflects many feelings I had working in the real former asylum,“ he said.
Chris said he had to learn to let go of his previous endeavours in “boring“ medical science writing to enable the fiction to shine.
“I had to learn how to write mystery, tragedy, horror and comedy and that entailed letting go of the boring medical science style of writing,“ he said.
“The writing itself involved days of euphoria interspersed with days of dejection, but fortunately the former prevailed.“
Readers should expect something different, mysterious and quirky.
Although Chris said he hasn’t seen Covid-19 pandemic coming, readers will journey between medieval times, including the great plague and the 1980s.
“The dark abbey tale is deliberately unsettling, at times even confronting, but the hospital story involves loveable characters who provide lots of laughs. The two plots merge for the finale, but for the how? you’ll have to read it,“ Chris said.
For more information on the book, which is stocked locally at Annie’s Books on Peregian, visit chriscantor.com.