George Mercer released the latest addition to his fictional national park series late June, the third novel completed since his retirement only five years ago. Fitting to its title, Jasper Wild, and to Mercer’s own history working a decade in Jasper National Park with his wife, the book features park wardens Ben Matthews and Kate Jones as the pair attempt to solve the mystery surrounding a proposed back country lodge which would dominate one of the park’s prime wilderness locations. Previously, Mercer and his wife worked for over 30 years in national parks, including Jasper, Terra Nova, Cape Breton Island, Fundy, Wood Buffalo and the Gulf Islands.
“My stories are based on my experiences but they’re fiction,” Mercer said, adding that he has written nonfiction and short stories in the past. “Back in Terra Nova, there are some log books there that have some of my stories embedded in them. I always thought when you’re out on patrol and you went to a cabin, a log book warranted more than a name and a date.”
It was only when Mercer retired in 2012 that he began putting pen to paper for longer fictional works. Mercer attended several writing courses at Camosun College and the University of Victoria before taking the leap into novel-writing incorporating his own unique knowledge of Canada’s wilderness.
“The idea is to take a fictional approach to get readers into stories about the challenges facing our national parks,” Mercer said. “It’s the first series ever written about national parks.”
During his time working in some of the smallest and largest national parks in the world, Mercer has developed a sense for how important wilderness conservation is. “I’ve worked on everything from reintroducing American marten to Terra Nova park, to peregrine falcons in Fundy, to woodland caribou in Jasper,” said Mercer. “I look at small places like the Gulf Islands as a beachhead for conservation. It provides a land base and marine area where you can get the message out about the importance of conservation and living on the planet with a gentler hand.”
Mercer aims to publish one book each year. Dyed in the Green was released in 2014, Wood Buffalo in 2016 and Jasper Wild this year. He plans to publish his next three books over the next few years. Jasper Wild is available at Tanner’s Books in Sidney, Munro’s Books, Ivy’s Book Shop and 70 Chapters locations across Canada.