The Convict Lover
A True Story
A new edition of the beloved and bestselling classic work of creative nonfiction
It is 1919. Joseph Cleroux, a handsome young man who escaped the Great War and the flu epidemic, is incarcerated in Kingston Penitentiary, determined that jail will not break him. Phyllis Halliday is a 17-year-old schoolgirl who finds his letter in the quarry where he is doing hard time. As “Peggy” and “Dady-Long-Legs,” they exchange a clandestine correspondence that frees them both from the confines of their lives, although the risk entailed increases as Joseph asks more and more of Phyllis and conditions inside Canada’s most notorious prison deteriorate.
Based on letters the author found in the attic of her home, The Convict Lover is a blend of historical detective work and imaginative recreation — a haunting, unforgettable journey through the world of Canada’s first and oldest penitentiary and portrait of the people who lived in its shadow, both inside and outside its walls. Played out against the backdrop of a war-scarred society, a vicious battle for penitentiary reform, and the first riot in Canada’s prison history, The Convict Lover is a story of human resilience and desire.
This edition includes a new introduction and epilogue.
Merilyn Simonds is the author of 20 books, including the nonfiction classic The Convict Lover, Gutenberg’s Fingerprint, and most recently, the novel Refuge. The founding artistic director of Kingston WritersFest, Simonds is an influential champion of writers and writing. She lives with writer and translator Wayne Grady and divides her time between Kingston, Ontario, and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.