30 October 2017

CNQ at 100



It doesn't seem right to describe the new issue of Canadian Notes & Queries as special – every issue is special – but this one, the one hundredth issue, marks a remarkable milestone. That it did so in its fiftieth year is both a reflection of an often precarious past and its stability this past decade under publisher Dan Wells.

I came on board with my first Dusty Bookcase column in issue 81 (Spring 2010). My subject back then was The Miracle Man, the very first book I'd ever read by Frank L. Packard. This time around, the column takes the form of an investigative update on thriller writer and passer of forged cheques Kenneth Orvis (a/k/a Kenneth LeMieux). His is not exactly a household name, though regular readers may remember my reviews of his debut, Hickory House (1956), and Cry Hallelujah! (1970), his greatest flop.


I've also contributed an essay, "For All Its Faults," which has been described by historian Christopher Moore as an evisceration of the killing of the New Canadian Library. In this unpleasant task I was supported by Daniel Donaldson's razor sharp editorial cartoon.


On a related note – two, actually – my daughter Astrid provides an editorial cartoon to "Hints and Allegations," a chapter from Elaine Dewar's GG-nominated The Handover, the shameful story of how it was our country's greatest publisher was given away to a foreign multinational.


Also featured is Andreae Callanan's "The Xenotext's Woman Problem," winner of this year's CanLit Crit Essay Contest. Nick Mount writes on CanLit's beginnings, Anna Porter shares memories of McClelland & Stewart as it was in the 'seventies, and Jim Polk looks at fifty years of the House of Anansi. In "Will Anyone Care?" Mark Sampson lays bare his obsession to preserving his work. The issue is rounded out by contributions from Seth, Pierre Nepveu (translated by Donald Winkler), Robert Wringham, Mary H. Auerbach Rykov, Mark Bourrie, Kamal Al-Solaylee, Jason Dickson, David Huebert, David Mason, J.C. Sutcliffe, Rohan Maitzen, André Forget, Alex Good, Bruce Whiteman, Stephen Fowler.


More information can be found here at the CNQ website. And this link will take you to the subscription page, which will bring you issues 101, 102, and 103.

Every one special.


26 October 2017

The New Apocalypse: Passchendaele



On the centenary of the Second Battle of Passchendaele, verse by John Douglas Logan, 85th Battalion, Nova Scotia Highlanders, from his second volume, The New Apocalypse and Other Poems of Days and Deeds in France (Halifax: T.C. Allen, 1917):


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23 October 2017

Our Stephen



In anticipation of All Hallow's Eve, five favourite Stephen R. George covers, beginning with 1989's Nightscape. As with all other George titles it was published by Kensington Publishing's Zebra imprint.

I get the impression that children don't have an easy time of it in the author's fiction. I could be wrong. I'm only a few pages into my first Stephen R. George, a book bought for its cover... which is not featured here. You'll have to wait. Torment.

1989
1989
1991
1994
A bonus:

Creature nel cervello [Brain Child]
Milan: Mondadori, 1991

16 October 2017

A Great War Veteran's Pre-War Thriller



Black Feather
Benge Atlee
New York: Scribners, 1939
345 pages
The weapons Britain is supplying to its Arab allies are somehow ending up in the hands of Eastern European fascists and the Foreign Office is not amused. One man, Gerald Burke, is called upon to put a stop to it. An Oxford-educated archeologist-turned-adventurer, Burke seems a good choice; he knows the region, has a good number of contacts, and hails from rural Nova Scotia (Chignecto, it is implied). What's more, Burke comes with Abdula el Zoghri, a manservant who has a talent for getting out of tight spots. 
After accepting the assignment, our hero returns to his Bloomsbury Square flat to find a warning in the form of a black feather, quill-upwards, protruding from the brass plaque bearing his name. The fact that they're onto him doesn't deter Burke from his mission. Burke makes for Marseilles, and is booking passage to Salonika when a pretty Russian girl literally falls into his arms. He knows she's a spy, Zoghri knows she's a spy, and yet they're happy to play along.
So begins my review of Black Feather, the lone novel by war hero and sometime pulp writer Harold Benge Atlee (1890-1978). You can read the entire piece here – gratis – at the Canadian Notes & Queries site.


Object: A solid, somewhat bulky book in bright yellow boards. My copy was a gift from James Calhoun, with whom I wrote the introduction to the latest edition of Peregrine Acland's Great War novel All Else is Folly. This year, James contributed the introduction to the reissue of second novel of the conflict, God's Sparrows by Philip Child.

Access: Five Canadian university libraries have copies, but not Dalhousie, at which he studied and later served as Professor and Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Our public libraries – Library and Archives Canada included – fail entirely

The Scribners edition is the only edition. It enjoyed a single printing. Only three copies are listed for sale online – US$30 to US$50 – none of which feature the dust jacket.


13 October 2017

Talking Ricochet in Quill & Quire



Steven W. Beattie's piece on Ricochet in the brand new Quill & Quire is available free online. Some guy named Busby is interviewed. You can read it here.

Busby will be speaking at Bouchercon tomorrow at 5:00 pm.


10 October 2017

Talking Ricochet at Bouchercon



I'll be speaking about Ricochet Books at Bouchercon 2017 as part of the 20 on the 20 Spotlight Sessions this coming Saturday. Please drop by and say hello if you get a chance. Always nice to put a face to a name.

Sheridan Centre
123 Queen Street West, Toronto

VIP Room, Concourse Level

Saturday, October 14
5:00 pm


08 October 2017

Edna Jaques' Award-Winning Thanksgiving Verse



For this Thanksgiving weekend, verse from Canada's beloved Poet Laureate of the Home. First published in 1932, "Thankful for What?" was named New York Times Outstanding Poem of the Year. She received twenty American dollars.

Thankful for What? 

     Not for the mighty world, O Lord, tonight,
          Nations and kingdoms in their fearful might —
     Let me be glad the kettle gently sings,
          Let me be thankful just for the little things. 
     Thankful for simple food and supper spread,
          Thankful for shelter and a warm, clean bed,
     For little joyful feet that gladly run
          To welcome me when my day's work is done. 
     Thankful for friends who share my woe or mirth,
          Glad for the warm, sweet fragrance of the earth,
     For golden pools of sunlight on the floor,
          For love that sheds its peace about my door. 
     For little friendly days that slip away,
          With only meals and bed, and work and play,
     A rocking-chair and kindly firelight —
          For little things let me be glad tonight.

A bonus:

from My Kitchen Window
Edna Jaques
Toronto: Thomas Allen, 1935
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05 October 2017

Timeless Advice from Stephen Leacock


Bagdad on the Subway
Stephen Leacock
[n.p.]: [s.n.], 1916

03 October 2017

The Hugh Hood Memorial Plaque



The plaque is cast!

This evening I'll be hosting the ninth annual plaque dedication at Montreal's Writers' Chapel, honouring novelist and short story writer Hugh Hood. Sarah Hood, the author's daughter will speak, as will Andre Furlani.

As in the past, this is a free event and will be followed by a wine and cheese reception.
The Writers' Chapel
St Jax Montréal
1439 St Catherine Street West
(Bishops Street entrance)
Tuesday, October 3rd at 6:00 pm
All are welcome!

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