James Russell was born in Toronto, but asks that people not hold that against him. He was very young at the time. After having studied at Carleton, York, Queen’s and the Université de Rennes in France, he ended up teaching French in Sydenham, Ontario for more than twenty years. Finding there were no more verbs left to conjugate, he moved on to another career as a writer. He has explored several media including washroom graffitti, notes to his children’s teachers, the occasional naughty limerick and stern letters to the editor of the Kingston Whig-Standard. Granite and Chalk is his first novel.

He currently lives in Sydenham with his wife, their three sons and three cats.

Set in present day rural Ontario, Granite and Chalk tells the story of a high school overwhelmed by innovation. Its staff, from the naive newbies to the jaded veterans just want to be left alone to teach like they know how. But education has become a political ping-pong ball to be used to further the careers of bureaucrats and politicians. So the students of Lord Byron Secondary School are marked according to how smart they look. If that causes a problem, they can talk to the dog in Guidance.

The cast of characters is broad, from a Principal determined to bring back God to a history teacher who burns books. In between is a football team who prays to Allah…just in case, a group of good girls who demand the right to fail and a superintendent who talks to the little round Buddha sitting on his desk and who hears the Buddha answer.

In the face of this insanity Jason Ryan, a young and still innocent teacher believes he can fix everything if only he can talk to the Minister of Education. To do that he is prepared to use everything in his power from singing telegrams to kidnapping and murder.

But don’t fear. There’s also an expert from the United States who knows how to fix everything that’s wrong with the modern school: he blows the buildings up.

New chapters will appear at a rate of about once every other week.


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