George and Rue
It was, by all accounts,, a "slug-ugly" crime. Brothers George and Rufus Hamilton, in a robbery gone wrong, drunkenly bludgeoned a taxi driver to death with a hammer. It was 1949, and the two siblings, part Mi'kmaq and part African, were both hanged for the killing.
Those facts are also skeletons in George Elliott Clarke's family closet. Both repelled and intrigued by his ancestral cousins' deeds, which he only learned about from his mother shortly before her death, Clarke set out to discover just what kind of forces would reduce men to crime, violence and, ultimately, murder. His findings took shape in the 2001 Governor General's Award-winning Execution Poems and culminates brilliantly in "George and Rue." The novel shifts seamlessly back into the killers' pasts, recounting a bleak and sometimes comic tale of victims of violence who became killers, a black community too poor and too shamed to assist its downtrodden members, and a white community bent on condemning all blacks as dangerous outsiders.
"George and Rue" is a book about a death that brims with fierce vitality and dark humour. Infused with the sensual, rhythmic beauty that defines Clarke's writing, it is a remarkable literary debut.