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The thrilling conclusion to STARFest 2021

There are still four great events to catch before this readers' festival calls it a day.


Festival runs until Nov. 2

Tickets for all author events are $5 each.

All author events are to be held online. Existing ticket holders will receive emails outlining changes to any in-person events they were registered for, including information about their options regarding the difference in ticket prices for online events. For more information, please email [email protected].

Full details are available at

You've seen some of your favourite authors come through on the screen for this year's STARFest, but there are still big names to come for the denouement.

Natalie Zina Walschots — Wednesday, Oct. 27 at 7 p.m.

Are you all in for a pre-Halloween treat? Read Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots as fast as you can and then sign up for her appearance on the last Wednesday of the month. The novel sounds like it has hints of being a fable for these times, too.

The plot finds our protagonist Anna working for a subterranean monster. No, really. Unfortunately, she is badly injured in an encounter with a caped superhero. When she gets laid off, she discovers that such encounters and results are not unique. Ever the accountant, she balances the books on the assets and liabilities of such heroes and discovers that the line between good and evil is mostly in the marketing.

"I loved this book," exclaimed festival producer Michelle Steinhusen. "It is kind of a superhero/supervillain novel, but it's not. I wouldn't necessarily call it a speculative fiction or comic book novel because it's got so much more to it. I really loved this book. It was my favourite book of 2020."

This was also the first novel by the author, which adds to how awesome it must be considering it made it to CBC's Canada Reads earlier this year.

Walschots will be hosted by Celine Caruso Dixon, who defended Hench during the library's version of Canada Reads. She reportedly also loved this book so much she has since reread it ... twice.

Will Ferguson — Friday, Oct. 29 at 7 p.m.

One of this country's greatest and most versatile storytellers is back with his new novel. Will Ferguson has been a travel writer, a noted humorist, and an award-winning international thriller writer. Is there anything he can't write?

"He's got such a huge body of work. He has so many books," Steinhusen confirmed.

Ferguson's STARFest return focuses on his new title. The Finder is about an Interpol agent on the hunt for a mysterious person who finds and collects lost objects. Crossing paths with these two are a burnt-out travel writer and a war photographer.

True to Ferguson form, the novel earned the author this year's Crime Writers of Canada Award for Best Novel.

This won't be his first time at STARFest, but it will be his first virtual appearance for St. Albert audiences.

"That's the one we were like, 'It's a shame we couldn't do that one in person,' but it's also nice to know that we can keep convincing Will Ferguson to come back."

Monsters at the Movies! with Susie Moloney and Eva Colmers — Saturday, Oct. 30 at 7 p.m.

Boo! Boo who? Don't be scared, it's only horror on the agenda. Former writer in residence Susie Moloney brings along filmmaker Eva Colmers for a frightfully good time. First, they'll put their short film The Suburbanight on the DVD player and then they'll follow that up with a grand and enthusiastic discussion about the merits of the horror genre, what makes them tick, and what happens when there's a full moon and there are wild dogs howling off in the distance.

Moloney offered an anecdote about Stephen King upon his acceptance of the National Book Award in 2003.

"He made a speech that essentially said that horror was something that actually was universal," she paraphrased.

"Everybody knows what being scared is. 'Boo' is 'boo' in every language," she continued, driving home the point like a nail in a coffin. "We've all been scared. We don't all laugh at the same things. We don't all cry at the same things. But we all get scared by the same things: the dark, ghosts, the dead, blood, guts, violence ... it's a universal feeling."

Speaking of things that go bump in the night, The Suburbanight brings a single mother and her son into a clash with a gnarly neighbour who doesn't like that they play movies so loud. This one might make you think twice about your own neighbours. Screenwriter Moloney and director Colmers will discuss the process from page to scream, err ... screen, and everything else horrorful during this Halloween Eve event.

Moloney made sure to note that getting in a good scare can be good for you, too. She proffered how there have been studies done that show the benefits.

"People who watch horror were better able to handle the isolation and uncertainty and fear of the pandemic because we're used to it. We have desensitized ourselves somewhat to those things. We understand that fear is rarely sustained. There's usually a moment when the fear breaks. People who enjoy horror movies, books, it doesn't matter ... audio books, are better able to cope with trauma."

Andrew Pyper — Tuesday, Nov. 2 at 7 p.m.

Even though STARFest concludes after Halloween, its last event caps off with another note of the supernatural and the spooky. What's more — it's based on a true story.

International best-selling novelist Andrew Pyper brings us the tale of The Residence. This terrifying ghost story relates the tale of U.S. President Franklin Pierce, who is on his way to take office in 1853. The train he is riding violently derails, and his son his unfortunately killed. The tragedy puts a pall on his presidency, especially as ghostly voices and spectral visions haunt the White House afterward. First Lady Jane Pierce organizes a séance, which further opens up the passage between the realms.

This marks Piper's return to STARFest after his appearance in 2014, although that event was marred by the meddling of politics and supernatural forces. It was election time, plus there was a big snowstorm, Steinhusen said.

"We wanted to have him back. The Residence is a freaky, creepy ghost story in the White House that's actually based on true events, which I didn't realize when I first read it. And then when I got to the back and got to read the background behind it, it made it even scarier," she added, confirming that it promises to be a great and engaging wrap-up for the festival, especially as Pyper is so popular and prodigious.

"We have so many of his books. It's a nice follow-up for Halloween, but he's also hilarious. For someone who writes scary novels, he's very, very funny."

Scott Hayes

About the Author: Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns, and profiles on people.
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