First Fiction Friday: Pull Focus

Helen Walsh’s debut novel Pull Focus (ECW Press) follows the clever and determined Jane, who after being appointed interim director of the Worldwide Toronto Film Festival must learn to navigate the sometimes glamorous, sometimes treacherous world of international cinema.


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 There’s nothing quite like the rush of seeing a movie at a festival. You’re gripping your ticket, trying not to tear it at the perforation under your thumb. Maybe you’re snaking up the stairs of a historic theatre in your city — it’s usually reserved for live plays but today you’ll be seeing a movie in its plush red seats. And (!) seeing it months before everyone else. There is no IMDB rating for you to Google and use to temper your expectations. You’re thrown into the film with little knowledge of what you’re in for, hoping for the best, secretly wondering if you should be bracing for the worst. As a filmgoer, you’re not too far apart from our protagonist, Jane…Pull Focus is a thrilling novel about Jane, a woman who has been appointed interim director of the Worldwide Toronto Film Festival after her boss is removed following sexual harassment allegations. The book takes you into the thrilling, glamorous world of international cinema as Jane fights to get through the festival season while factions in the community wait with bated breath hoping she’ll fail. She must contend with Hollywood power brokers and a board chair who seemingly has it out for her. At the same time, her partner, a fund manager, has disappeared and in his place are people uttering threats about misused funds and implying that he’s in deep trouble. Yet the show must go on! We watch Jane juggle all the balls she’s been thrown and try to survive in one piece. You’ll love her for her cleverness and determination, and you’ll be rooting for her to succeed against the odds.Pull Focus has all the thrill and suspense of your favourite movies, the gossipy, alluring atmosphere of a prestigious festival, and a crescendo of tension as Jane flies through the most stressful week of her life. If you love all the Timothée Chalamet photos that come out every year at Cannes, if you try to predict the Oscar winners, and if you’ve always wanted a peek behind the curtain, this book is perfect for you. X + Y comparison:“Part Real Housewives, part grown-up Nancy DrewPull Focus gleefully skewers all players in the international film scene while deftly unspooling a good old-fashioned thriller. Walsh creates a world of glamourous parties, dirty money, and weaponized sex.” — Missy Marston, author of Bad Ideas

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Helen Walsh is the founder and president of Diaspora Dialogues, Canada’s premier literary mentoring organization. Formerly the publisher of the Literary Review of Canada and a founding director of Spur, a national festival of politics, arts, and ideas, Walsh spent five years working as a film/digital media producer in L.A. and New York. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.