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Will Michael Winter get the verdict he wants?

Michael Winter

The Globe and Mail

Who will win the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize (and that $25,000 pot)? Sure, the jurors have their views. But we want to hear yours. This week, read daily clips from the nominated novels, share your views - then, just as the culling is finalized for that Nov. 2 award announcement, tell us who you would eliminate from the race. The contenders: Trevor Cole for Practical Jean, Emma Donoghue for Room, Michael Helm for Cities of Refuge - and the ultimate sibling rivalry - Kathleen Winter for Annabel and her brother Michael Winter for The Death of Donna Whalen. Today's excerpt is from The Death of Donna Whalen, a work of documentary fiction (based on court transcripts) about the case of a woman stabbed 31 times.

From The Death of Donna Whalen, by Michael Winter

It was in the fall of the year, Donna was looking for a car and she asked Sheldon if you see a cheap car, to let her know about it, and there was times before this when he was in jail he'd be talking to her suppertime and she'd tell him that she's going into Eugene Driscoll's garage that night. A friend of his got a Cougar for sale and he told Donna about it and she told him that she never had the money. This car was in good shape, so Sheldon told her to tell Driscoll about it. He sold cars and Donna said, He's here now. So Sheldon said, Let me talk to him, and he spoke to Eugene about the car. When you give her the gas, instead of having the hand to come up, she had digitals. It was a nice car and Sheldon explained it to him what the car was like and told him who owned it.

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Sheldon was sent to a drug addiction program out in Corner Brook. Humberwood. He was straight for two months. He'd go to AA meetings. Donna even come to a couple. But he was drinking a lot. If he dropped into someone's house and they had liquor, he'd have a couple of drinks of it.

One night they were home and Donna phoned Cory's father to see how Cory was doing. Cory was the youngest and got a tendency to get spoiled and Cory's father they were just after having a newborn. Cory wanted to come back and Donna got mad. Sheldon tried to explain to Donna, Cory's feeling that he's not getting the attention with this little youngster. She wanted to drive out over the road and Sheldon said, Donna, you can't go driving out in your car, the ball joints and everything, and she flew right off the handle.

He was rushing into the Avalon Mall picking up some more Christmas presents. Donna was out. He got Sharon to help wrap the gifts. He gave Sharon the gifts that her and Cory were going to give to Donna. There's pictures there of the youngsters, both of them dressing the tree, putting the ornaments on.

Just after Christmas they went down to Mrs Whalen's for supper. They ended up having a fight. They went out after, but not together. Their relationship could be good for two weeks then it was like there was animosity for a couple of days. Donna's mom gave her a half bottle of liquor. Sheldon ended up drinking it and got really drunk. They were arguing. It was like everything would come up and he give Donna a smack in the face and put an ashtray through the kitchen window.

That night Donna called her mother. Mrs Whalen come to the house. She had words to say and asked Donna to come home with her. Donna said no, she wasnt going down. Sheldon shouldnt be drinking liquor, her mother said. He should have more sense.

Excerpted from Michael Winter's The Death of Donna Whalen. Courtesy of Penguin Group (Canada).

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