burn it all a novel by Pierre Turgeon 2

About the Book

Burn it All Cogito, 2020

On April 25, 1849, a serious threat hangs over Montreal, the capital of United Canada. As the government prepares to compensate French-Canadian victims of the 1837 Rebellion, Orangemen set fire to the Parliament Buildings and the 25,000 books of the National Library. Governor-General Elgin hesitated to launch the imperial army against his compatriots. With their murderous ambitions camouflaged behind this smokescreen, influential men attempt to seize the immense fortune of Henry Blake, the gas magnate, who is found murdered in his castle. The life of Marie-Violaine Blake, his young widow, and that of his father, the chief engineer Gustave Hamelin, are threatened. Stéphane Talbot, the heir to the Grand-Remous seigneury, will stop at nothing to save Marie-Violaine, his beloved. At the end of this day of fire, the story of the characters will have changed so unexpectedly that one must admit that one rarely receives one’s gift from Divine Providence, but rather, as the author writes, according to the tortuous ways of poetic justice.

Burn it All

A Novel
by Pierre Turgeon

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Michael Parker landed impeccably in the creek, which protected him from the damaging currents of the Niagara River. Then he dragged his mistress out of the passenger seat and went upstairs to make love with her in the south tower of his castle. Under his window surged the six thousand cubic meters of water which, every second, falling from a height of fifty meters, powered the turbines of its Niagara power station. He had just taken control of this factory through this all-or-nothing stock market maneuver that allowed him to take over the property of those he had driven into bankruptcy.

He owned Anticosti Island, the streetcars of Rio de Janeiro, the forests of Mauricie, entire governments in Barbados, Equatorial Africa, and the Baltic States. He had chosen Montreal as the capital of this financial empire.

More powerful than the prime minister of the day, he has yet passed through history without leaving a mark. This disappearance, he had wanted and even carefully organized it. He personally saw the systematic destruction of the archives which mentioned him from far or near. He refused to give any interview, on the pretext that his words, faithfully reported or not, would serve his enemies. Only one photo of him circulated, that of a thirty-year-old dandy, with black hair slicked back and flattened over his head, thin lips and a scar under his left eye, so that as he grew older – he died at the age of eighty-eight – this portrait looked less and less like his model.

This discretion can be explained in part by the multiple attacks against him, but also because he believed he could triumph over his adversaries by hiding everything about him and his real intentions from them. He was so successful in concealing himself during his lifetime that today, more than fifty years after his death, one would think that he never existed.

I live very close to my great-uncle’s tower which becomes for me, when I sit atop it, a huge time travel vessel. By imagination, I turn off the lights of Montreal one by one. When there is nothing left but a little trickle of light, diffuse and dying, I know I have reached where I must resume my story, in the middle of the nineteenth century.


Born in Quebec, October 9, 1947 – The novelist and essayist Pierre Turgeon obtained a Bachelor of Arts in 1967. In 1969, at the age of twenty-two, already a journalist at Perspectives and literary critic at Radio-Canada, Pierre Turgeon creates the literary review L’Illettré with Victor-Lévy Beaulieu. The same year, he published his first novel, Sweet Poison. Several works followed 22 titles in total: novels, essays, plays, film scripts, and historical works. These include The First Person and The Radissonia, both of which win the Governor General’s Award for novel and essay respectively.

In 1975, he founded the Quinze publishing house, which he chaired until 1978. There he published numerous authors, including Marie-Claire Blais, Gérard Bessette, Jacques Godbout, Yves Thériault, Jacques Hébert, and Hubert Aquin, before becoming deputy director of the Presses of the University of Montreal (PUM) in 1978. Then, from 1979 to 1982, he directed the editions of the Sogides group, the most important French-language publisher in America. (Les Éditions de l’Homme, Le Jour, Les Quinze). He also publishes software, launching one of the first French text editors (Ultratexte) and the first French spell-checking program (Hugo). Editor-in-chief of the literary review Liberté from 1987 to 1998, he edited controversial issues on the October Crisis and the Oka Crisis, as well as on various political and cultural subjects.

In 1999, he created Trait d’union, a publishing house devoted to poetry, essays, and celebrity biographies, works signed among others by René Lévesque, Pierre Godin, Micheline Lachance, Margaret Atwood. He is the only Canadian publisher to have seen one of his books, a biography of Michael Jackson : Unmasked, reach number one on the New York Times bestseller list. In the meantime, the author continues to be prolific, and in 2000, he published a history of Canada, in collaboration with Don Gilmor, that won the Ex-Libris prize, awarded by the Association of Canadian Booksellers with the mention of Best History of Canada to date.

Today, he is working on the creation of a publishing site entirely devoted to the distribution of English and French eBooks: Cogito, which will go live in early 2021.

At the end of this day of fire, the story of the characters will have changed so unexpectedly that one will have to admit that one rarely receives one’s gift from Divine Providence, but rather, as the author writes, according to the tortuous ways of poetic justice. – Jean Chartier, le Devoir