Reid Coolsaet got advance look at The Illegal

The Illegal

The IllegalOn Monday, Reid Coolsaet saw Canadian author Lawrence Hill while out running in Hamilton. Hill passed Coolsaet on his bicycle and the two chatted, Hill’s new book slated to be released the next day, on Tuesday. Coolsaet had played a small role in making the author’s newest novel a reality.

The two have known each other for years, Hill having at one point lived down the street from Coolsaet’s parents. About three years ago, Coolsaet got a preview of the then-unfinished book, asked by Hill to review the running scenes for him.

“He wrote the book and then wanted my feedback on the running,” explains Coolsaet. The Illegal is fiction, but tells a surprisingly familiar story of many elite marathon runners. The main character, growing up a poor African nation, must run to make ends meet through racing.

Coolsaet was asked to review it because of his unique perspective on the minutiae of the sport, “the kind of small details that really most people reading the book wouldn’t pick up on anyways, but he really wanted to, you know, make sure it was and accurate portrayal.” But it was Hill’s writing which kept Coolsaet engaged.

“[Lawrence] gave me the running scenes and I started reading the book and ended up reading the whole things.” says Coolsaet. “It was a really interesting beyond just the running.”

The story, though fictional, is one Coolsaet recognizes. Having trained in Kenya and raced many athletes who have come through systems similar to the one in The Illegal. He says that, though there was no single athlete the main character, Keita, was based off of, the story “definitely parallels athletes coming from a poor country with a rich running history and travelling to countries with bigger prize purses and the struggles they go through.

But the book isn’t just for runners. Coolsaet himself reads many types of books.

“I really like true stories. I guess my favourite genre would be something where fictional characters take place in what could be real life. Like The Book of Negros, fictional characters but a lot of what’s happening is true.” He says the book, which deals with immigration and statelessness, is a timely release and will appeal to a wide audience. “Runners will grab on to it, but it will be a very broad audience beause it’s a well written book.”

The Illegal was released Tuesday, Sept. 8, and is available in bookstores across Canada. It is published by Harper Collins.

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