Gerry B's Book Reviews

Klondike Cattle Drive – Norman Lee

An absolute-must addition to your bookshelf. It would make a great gift for the kids as well!

 

 

Story outline: The latest addition to TouchWood Editions’ “Classics West Collection”, this is the colourful tale of a formidable trek undertaken by legendary Cariboo rancher Norman Lee. In 1898, Lee set out to drive 200 head of cattle from his home in the Chilcotin area of BC to the Klondike goldfields – a distance of 1,500 miles. He was gambling both his cattle and his life. This is his story, derived from the journal he kept, his letters and the loyal men who accompanied him. Throughout the daunting weeks of coping with mud, cold and sheer bad luck, Lee kept his sense of humour. When he returned from his Yukon trek, he rewrote the notes from his journal, illustrating his story with his own cartoons and sketches. He completed his manuscript around the turn of the century, but it sat untouched until 1960, when it was published by Howard Mitchell of Mitchell Press, Vancouver.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

In terms of “Canadiana,” it just doesn’t get any more so than “Klondike Cattle Drive,” Norman Lee (Touchwood Editions. 2005). In fact, this sixty-four- page, absolute nugget of a story virtually epitomizes the Canadian pioneering spirit as it once was. That is why it should be made required reading for every history course taught in this country.

In 1898 Norman Lee, a dapper five-foot-eight rancher from the Cariboo District, British Columbia, undertook a 1500-mile cattle drive ‘north’ to Dawson City, Yukon Territory. This in itself was unusual, for most cattle drives at the time were headed south. Moreover, the route north passed through some of the most formidable wilderness imaginable; from pastureless forests to muskeg and belly-scraping swamps.

Just about every type of weather condition was encountered, as well; riding night watches in discomforting drizzle, getting lost in disorienting fog, and braving minus-forty-degree (Fahrenheit) temperatures on the way home.

Remembering that there was no how-to book on how this should be done, and that Norman Lee’s background was as an architect in England, he had to constantly improvise as the trail presented challenge after challenge. Mud, charlatans, lack of supplies, spent animals, all had to be overcome to achieve his goal. Nevertheless, he took it all in stride with humour and stoicism. That is another quintessential characteristic of the pioneer spirit that built this country and nation, and is now in real danger of being forgotten.

As a writer of Canadian, historical fiction I can say with authority that there are precious few published journals to be found. Therefore, it was with considerable rejoicing that I came across Norman Lee’s journal in connection with a Canadian western I was considering. I can also add that when I did find it, it became the inspiration for my forthcoming novel, “Coming of Age on the Trail,” scheduled for release in March 2010. A M/M romance built around a closely similar cattle drive.

In closing I will add that “Klondike Cattle Drive” is an intrinsically enjoyable read for any reason. However, for those who appreciate the rarity of a find like this, and the unquestionable authenticity it adds to the 19th-century pioneer experience, it is an absolute-must addition to your bookshelf. It would make a great gift for the kids as well!

January 26, 2010 Posted by | Canadian author, Canadian autobiography, Canadian content, Canadian frontier stories, Canadian historical content, Homesteading in Canada, Non-fiction | 1 Comment

Trails Plowed Under by Charles M. Russell

I am adding a new, all-time favourite to my list…

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trails plowed under - cover twoPublisher’s blurb: Excerpts from Introduction: I have many friends among cowmen and cowpunchers. I have always been what is called a good mixer I had friends when I had nothing else. My friends were not always within the law, but I haven’t said how law-abiding I was myself. I haven’t been too bad nor too good to get along with. Life has never been too serious with me I lived to play and I’m playing yet. Laughs and good judgment have saved me many a black eye, but I don’t laugh at other’s tears. I was a wild young man, but age has made me gentle. I drank, but never alone, and when I drank it was no secret. I am still friendly with drinking men…

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Review by Gerry Burnie

Although I have personally reviewed over two hundred fiction and non-fiction books, I admit I have my favourites. Blazing the Old Cattle Trail by Canadian Grant MacEwan; We Pointed Them North: Recollections of a cowpuncher  by E.C. “Teddy Blue” Abbott and Helena Huntington Smith; and Klondike Cattle Drive by Norman Lee are three that I can think of off-hand, but now I can add another: Trails Plowed Under by Charles Marion Russell [Bison Books, July 28, 1996.] with forward by Will Rogers.

'The West that's passed' "When the land belonged to God"

‘The West that’s passed’
“When the land belonged to God”

Most people know Charles Russell as an internationally acclaimed artist, illustrator and painter of “The West that’s passed,” (his own words), but fewer know that he was a gifted writer of tall tales as well. “Betwine the pen and the brush there is little diffornce but I belive the man that makes word pictures is the greater.” ~ Charles M. Russell letter to Ralph S. Kendall, November 26, 1919.

Like most great writers, Russell knew his material first-hand. He was born March 19, 1864, in St. Louis, Missouri, on the edge of the burgeoning western frontier. As a boy, he crafted his own expectations of the American West by filling his schoolbooks with drawings of cowboys and Indians. Shortly before turning 16, he arrived in Montana, where he spent eleven years working various ranching jobs. He sketched in his free time and soon gained a local reputation as an artist. His firsthand experience as a ranch hand.

trails plowed under - cm russell portraitCharlie Russell became the personification of the West itself. He wanted little to do with the present and nothing to do with the future, and chose to celebrate and romanticize only the traditions and virtues of the West as he envisioned it. He wanted it known that he had taken part in the Old West, and was a better man for it. Even as an internationally-known western artist, Russell cherished—far more than his skills—his friendships and his place as a peer among common people.

Although he produced over 4,000 works of art and 27 books to internation acclaim, with fame went modesty. Charles Russell often said that God had given him his talent, that nature provided the schooling, and that therefore he had no cause to boast about the results. The talent was undeniable. He could model figures out of beeswax or clay without looking at his hands. From memory, he could paint men and horses he had known decades before, in action and with features which old-timers could identify, And he could accurately record in writing the speech patterns of wranglers, nighthawks, and rawhides long since vanished.

Russell was not so good a writer as he was a painter, illustrator, or sculptor. But that undeniable fact should blind no one to the rich excellences of his short stories, semiautobiographical anecdotes, and essays. At their best, they have the twang and tang of Mark Twain, Bret Harte, and Will Rogers. The main virtues of Russell’s writings are the same as those which distinguish his best art work: authenticity, detail, suspense, and humor.

But rather than try to explain the rustic charm of his stories, here is an example from Trails Plowed Under:

Gift Horse

trails plowed under - 'gift horse'Charley Furiman tells me about a hoss he owns and if you’re able to stay on him he’ll take you to the end of the trail. The gent Charley got him from says he’s, “Gentle. He’s a pet.” (This man hates to part with him.) “He’s a lady’s hoss. You can catch him anywhere with a biscuit.

“Next day Charley finds out he’s a lady’s hoss, all right, but he don’t like men. Furiman ain’t a mile from his corral when he slips the pack. Charley crawls him again kinder careful and rides him sixty miles an’ he don’t turn a hair. Next day he saddles him he acts like he’s harmless but he’s looking for something. He’s out about ten mile. Charley notices he travels with one ear down. This ain’t a good sign, but Charley gets careless and about noon he comes to a dry creek bed where there’s lots of boulders. That’s what this cayuse is looking for ’cause right in the middle of the boulder-strewn flat is where he breaks in two and unloads. Charley tells me, “I don’t miss none of them boulders an’ where I light there’s nothing gives but different parts of me. For a while I wonder where I’m at and when things do clear up it comes to me right quick. I forgot to bring the biscuits. How am I going to catch him? If I had a Winchester, I’d catch him just over the eye.

“To make a long story short, I followed him back to the ranch afoot. Walking ain’t my strong holt an’ these boulder bumps don’t help me none. Next morning after a good night’s sleep, I feel better. Going out to the corral, I offer this cayuse a biscuit, thinkin’ I’ll start off friendly. He strikes at me and knocks my hat off. My pardner tries to square it by telling me I ain’t got the right kind. ‘That’s a lady’s hoss,’ says he, ‘and being a pet, he wants them little lady’s biscuits; it’s enough to make him sore, handing him them sour doughs.’

“While I’m getting my hat, I happen to think of a friend of mine that’s got married and I ain’t give him no wedding present. This friend of mine is a bronk rider named Con Price. So while my heart’s good, I saddle a gentle hoss and lead this man-hater over and presents him to Price with my best wishes. “I don’t meet Con till next fall on the beef roundup. He ain’t too friendly. Next morning when we’re roping hosses, he steps up to me and says, kinder low, holdin’ out his hand to shake, ‘Charley, I’m letting bygones be bygones, but if I get married again anywhere in your neighborhood, don’t give me no wedding presents. If you do you’ll get lots of flowers.”

For anyone who enjoys Western yarns, told be someone who experienced the West first hand, and can spin a yarn the way it was told, this collection is for you. Five bees.

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Some examples of Charlie Russell’s Paintings that appeal to me:

"When Law Dulls The Edge of Chance"

“When Law Dulls The Edge of Chance”

"Meats Not Meat Til It's In The Pan"

“Meats Not Meat Til It’s In The Pan”

"Bronc to Breakfast"

“Bronc to Breakfast”

"Wild Horse Hunters"

“Wild Horse Hunters”

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  Interested in Canadian history? Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.

It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  Molly Lamb-Bobak, CM, ONB: Canada’s first Official Woman War Artist.

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 Introducing a new logo for Gerry Burnie Books:

logo - gerry burnie books - couple

If you would like to learn more about my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

       

Notice to all those who have requested a book reviewThank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.

Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 19, 2014 Posted by | Charles Marion Russell, Real Western Tales, Semi-biographical, Western Vernacular | Leave a comment

The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men, by Christina Hoff Sommers

An absolute must read for every man, woman and parent who wishes to see their children grow into healthy, well adjusted beings.

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the war against boys - coverBlurb: Despite popular belief, American boys tag behind girls in reading and writing ability, and they are less likely to go to college. Our young men are greatly at risk, yet the best-known studies and experts insist that it’s girls who are in need of our attention. The highly publicized “girl crisis” has led to many changes in American schools, politics, and parenting…but at what cost?

In this provocative book, Christina Hoff Sommers argues that our society has continued to overemphasize the troubles of girls while our boys suffer from the same self-esteem and academic problems. Boys need help, but not the sort of help they’ve been getting.

About the author: Christina Hoff Sommers is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise institute in Washington, D.C. She has a PhD in philosophy from Brandeis University and was formerly a professor of philosophy at Clark University. Sommers has written for numerous publications and is the author of Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women. She is married with two sons and lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I have been lamenting, of late, that men are being regularly emasculated in most radio and television ads to an extent that would not be tolerated if the same thing were happening to women. In fact, “Advertisers degrade men about 19 times more often than women, and usually to a higher degree,” says the National Coalition for Men. Given the insidious nature of advertising, and the fact that such ads are not only ubiquitous, but are also repeated hundreds of times a day, it amounts to a subtle form of social brainwashing.

To some extent, and perhaps at a more insidious level, this ‘brainwashing’ is what Christina Hoff Sommers is getting at in her book The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men [Simon & Schuster; Reissue edition, August 20, 2013]. In it, she addresses the very real problem of boys failing or dropping out of a school system that is, intentionally or unintentionally, biased toward girls. The rationale is often couched in terms of ‘equal opportunity,’ but as Sommers points out there is a marked difference between ‘feminist equality’ and ‘feminist gender’.

male bashing feministsIn one of the more blatant examples, she describes in some detail how seventh-grade boys are told they will grow up to be abusers, even rapists. It is the sort of thing that men’s rights advocate, Warren Farrell, planned to talk about at the University of Toronto in December 2010, i.e. “the crisis among boys and how they were not doing well educationally,” when he was shouted down by about 100 feminists—as reported by Toronto Sun Newspaper columnist, Michael Coren:

There were around 100 of these fanatics, at the university before he spoke, ripping down posters, threatening and insulting anybody who tried to attend the lecture, and explaining as only heavily funded students can do, “You should be f—ing ashamed of yourself, you f—ing scum” to those with whom they disagreed. There is ample video evidence. ~ “Shrill backlash to men’s rights advocate,” December 8th, 2012.

Specifically, Sommers points out (with statistical verification) that girls tend to receive more academic attention, and go on to higher education in greater numbers than boys—even if feminists claim the opposite. The squeaky wheel gets the oil, after all, and complacency doesn’t grab headlines.

She also posits that boys are being feminized by discouraging traditionally masculine play, like physical competition and rough-housing, etc., for more feminine or unisex games. Moreover, this is being carried into the classroom by the choice of books like Jane Eyre, as apposed to more male oriented stories. Ergo, in terms of literacy, boys are being turned-off reading for lack of interest.

As a possible solution, Sommers suggests that boys would do better in a segregated system with other boys. It is not a new idea, England has had exclusive boys’ school for centuries. Moreover, private schools—such as St. Andrews College in Aurora, Ontario (Est. 1899), and Upper Canada College in Toronto (Est. 1829)—have both operated along this line for over a century with outstanding results.

Some people may feel intimidated by the title, i.e. the ‘war’* against boys, but to me it is quite appropriate. War has been declared, and is being waged against both boys and men, but it is only now that men are beginning to wake up to the fact. It is ironic, therefore, that it took a feminist—albeit an objective one—to sound the alarm.

An absolute must read for every man, woman and parent who wishes to see their children grow into healthy, well adjusted beings. Five bees.

*For those who still feel ‘war’ is too strong a term, see:Men’s rights under fire,” ~ Toronto Sun  Newspaper, February 7, 2014.

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Interested in Canadian history? Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.

It is a collection of little-known people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  Norman Lee (1862 – 1939): The Klondike Cattle Drive.

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If you would like to learn more about my other books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

         

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Notice to all those who have requested a book review

Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.

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February 10, 2014 Posted by | Academic study, bias in education, Christina Hoff Sommers, Feminism, Non-fiction | Leave a comment

A Book of Tongues: Volume One of the Hexslinger Series, by Gemma Files

A raw, unapologetically sensuous novel – 

Story blurb: Two years after the Civil War, Pinkerton agent Ed Morrow has gone undercover with one of the weird West’s most dangerous outlaw gangs-the troop led by “Reverend” Asher Rook, ex-Confederate chaplain turned “hexslinger,” and his notorious lieutenant (and lover) Chess Pargeter. Morrow’s task: get close enough to map the extent of Rook’s power, then bring that knowledge back to help Professor Joachim Asbury unlock the secrets of magic itself.

Magicians, cursed by their gift to a solitary and painful existence, have never been more than a footnote in history. But Rook, driven by desperation, has a plan to shatter the natural law that prevents hexes from cooperation, and change the face of the world-a plan sealed by an unholy marriage-oath with the goddess Ixchel, mother of all hanged men. To accomplish this, he must raise her bloodthirsty pantheon from its collective grave through sacrifice, destruction, and Apotheosis.

Caught between a passel of dead gods and monsters, hexes galore, Rook’s witchery, and the ruthless calculations of his own masters, Morrow’s only real hope of survival lies with the man without whom Rook cannot succeed: Chess Pargeter himself. But Morrow and Chess will have to literally ride through Hell before the truth of Chess’s fate comes clear-the doom written for him, and the entire world.

Available in e-book format – 459 KB.

About the author: Previously best-known as a film critic for Toronto’s eye Weekly, teacher and screenwriter, Gemma Files first broke onto the international horror scene when her story “The Emperor’s Old Bones” won the 1999 International Horror Guild award for Best Short Fiction. She is the author of two collections of short work (Kissing Carrionand The Worm in Every Heart) and two chapbooks of poetry (Bent Under Night andDust Radio).

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I generally bypass sci-fi and supernatural-type genres, but since my forthcoming novel includes both a western and an underlying supernatural theme, I thought I would see how Gemma File approached these in A Book of Tongues: Volume One of the Hexslinger Series [ChiZine Publications; First edition, 2010].

Suffice to say the two novels are very different, inasmuch as Ms File has pulled out all the stops on the supernatural end of the things, and just about everything else in the process. She has, in fact, written a tour de force in imagination, violence, bloodshed, gore, and raunchiness, that is both shocking and mesmerizing at the same time. I hasten to add that all these elements are in keeping with the shadowy nature of the story, but by the same token they are not for the squeamish or faint of heart.

The story is set at the end of the Civil War when two men are sentenced to death for killing a deranged Confederate Captain from leading a suicide charge against the other side. One is Asher Rook, a preacher, who is hanged, but in so doing it releases a magical power within him known as a “hex.”

His partner (and lover), Chess Pargeter, a cold-blooded gunslinger who kills with the same impunity that one would dispatch a fly.

The third principal player, from whose perspective the story is told, is an undercover Pinkerton Agent, Ed Morrow, charged with the task of infiltrating Rook’s gang to learn the extent of Rook’s powers so that it can be analyzed.
The emergence of Rook as a “Hexslinger” catches the attention of Ixchel an ancient Aztec goddess (described in the blurb as “mother of all hanged men”) who wishes to return to the world along with some of her pantheon. I have some problem with this characterization of Ixchel, because in the several sources I checked she is described as “the goddess of midwifery and medicine.” Though sometimes depicted as a goddess of catastrophe (the woman who stands by as the world floods), she is more often depicted as nurturing. Therefore, unless I am missing something, this is a significant contradiction of personalities.

As I have already mentioned, this is an ‘all out’ novel. There are no half measures regarding profane language, sex, guts and gore, but the saving grace—from being just a gratuitous shocker—is the strong characterization. Thus, the bloodshed seems entirely in keeping with the personalities involved. This is enhanced, as well, by the skilful use of a vernacular that gives the characters extra depth.

The noticeable shortcomings are the backhistory of Mayan gods and cosmology, which for me was too onerous to grasp even superficially; the switching between the present and past contexts; and the resulting, erratic pace.

Otherwise it is a bold, unapologetically adventurous story that you will have to judge for yourself. Three bees.

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Thanks to everyone who voted for Gerry B’s Book Reviews in the Independent Book Blogger Awards … Luv each and everyone of you!

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Meet the characters, settings etc., from my forthcoming novel, Coming of Age on the Trail

Norman Lee’s legendary cattle drive is the true-life inspiration for this story. In 1898, Lee set out to drive 200 head of cattle from his home in Hanceville, British Columbia (the so-called “settlement” in the story), to the Klondike goldfields – a distance of 1,500 miles. He was gambling both his cattle and his life. Throughout the daunting weeks of coping with mud, cold and sheer bad luck, Lee kept his sense of humour. When he returned from his Yukon trek, he rewrote the notes from his journal, illustrating his story with his own cartoons and sketches. He completed his manuscript around the turn of the century, but it sat untouched until 1960.

Click on image to enlarge.

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Introducing a brand new author and her new Novel.

Altered-Revelations, by Shawnda Falls-Currie is new on the Kindle market.

Story Blurb: Abandoned by her family, Lacey is sent to a juvenile detention center known as Clear Waters. Her teen years don’t look promising until she is befriended by a mysterious stranger named Taylor, a gorgeous guy whose captivating eyes seem to stare into her soul. Convinced she is in danger at Clear Waters, Lacey joins Taylor in a daring escape. As she meets Taylor’s group of friends, she discovers that they’re more than they seem – they’ve been sent from the future to head off an evil corporate plot that will lead to a world war unless averted. With Lacey as their only hope to prevent a grim future, Taylor shows Lacey how to tap into her psychic abilities known in his time as evolved humans. Travelling with her new friends, she discovers the magic of love while she grows into the powerful warrior chosen to make the difference to the world!

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If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

        

Thanks for dropping by. See you next week!

April 22, 2012 Posted by | Fantasy, Fiction, Gay fiction, Historical period, Homoerotic | Leave a comment

My Brother and His Brother, by Håkan Lindquist (author’s translation)

A multidimensional story of brotherly love –

Story blurb: My brother and his brother is the story about an 18-year-old boy Jonas, who tries to create an image of the brother he never met, a brother who died the year before Jonas himself was born. Jonas soon learns that his brother, Paul, had an intense love affair with another boy during the last year of his life. The story – which is told like a crime story, with loose ends, clues and cliff hangers – has been translated into Danish, Norwegian, Dutch, Hungarian, Icelandic, Greek, German, Italian and French. It has also been awarded the French Prix Littéraire de la Bordelaise de Lunetterie.

Available in paperback – 169 pages.

Review by Gerry Burnie

I was first drawn to My Brother and His Brother [Bruno Gmunder Verlag Gmbh, 2011]by the intriguing title, as well as the strikingly handsome, Nordic lad portrayed on the front cover by photographer Howard Roffman. Now, I’ll admit that this is not the best way to choose a novel—“you can’t judge a book by its cover,” etc.—but fortunately Håkan Lindquist came through with an intriguing story as well.

Written in Swedish in 1993, but not translated until 2002, My Brother and His Brother, tells the intriguing story of Paul Lundberg, deceased older brother of Jonas Lundberg, who undertakes to piece it together from clues hidden away in his parent’s attic, newspaper archives, and the mind of a family friend.

Compelling Jonas onward is the desire to know something of his brother who died under curious circumstances in front of a train. The cause of his death is particularly curious because, in the course of his discovery, Jonas learns that Paul had a rather intense love affair with another boy.

So was it a suicide prompted by Paul’s inability to come to grips with his newly-discovered sexuality? Or perhaps a lover’s tiff? Or was it something more sinister? The answer to any one of these questions would make an intriguing story, but to all this Lindquist has added the quest for closure when the loss of a family member might have been caused by suicide on account of his homosexuality.

There is also a coming of age dimension, for in unravelling the truths about his brother Jonas is also learning about himself. Therefore it is an epiphany of sorts, and also a bridge that brings the family closer—particularly between Jonas and his father.

This is a ‘sweet’ story of brotherly love[1], a topic not often explored, but thoroughly poignant and enjoyable. Five bees.

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Introducing the characters, etc, featured in my upcoming novel, Coming of Age on the Trail

The cattle drive that Cory and Reb undertake—based on Norman Lee’s 1,500- mile drive in 1898—follows the Collin’s Overland Telegraph Company’s trail for much of the way. The Russian–American Telegraph, also known as the Western Union Telegraph Expedition and the Collins Overland Telegraph, was a $3,000,000 undertaking by the Western Union Telegraph Company in 1865-1867, to lay an electric telegraph line from California to Moscow via British Columbia and under the Bering Sea.

Abandoned in 1867, following the successful laying of the Transatlantic cable, the trail remained. It was about 12’ to 15’ wide through deep woods and swamps, and the cattle drive pictured in this photograph may well be Norman Lee’s herd.

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Meet Kerry Sullivan, an Irish-American poet about to break onto the scene with his first collection of poems. The following is an example of a shorter poem. To learn more you can contact him at: kilverel@gmail.com.

I quarrel with the sunshine,

And in the rain there’s pain.

Every mood I have today,

So surely would I trade,

For simplicity.

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Just in time for St. Paddy’s Day!

Sean and Patrick McConaghy are two young cousins who set sail from Ireland one St. Patrick’s Day in 1820, and after a long and eventful crossing of the tlantic, they tackle the mighty St. Lawrence River with a band of rugged voyageurs to eventually settle in the wilderness of Upper Canada.

Here they are not only confronted by the daunting task of carving a homestead out of the vast primeval forest, but also the ever-present danger of living as a devoted couple in a world where the possibilities of humiliation and death stalked them at every turn if their secret should ever be discovered.

It is a tale that also encompasses mystery, tragedy, brawling, humour and pathos, and altogether it will have you turning pages to discover what is about to happen next.

Kindle and Nook versions: $4.95 U.S.D.

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[1] Gerry B’s editorial comment: I hasten to add for Paypal’s edification that this is not an incestuous love in any way—although it would be none of their damned business if it was.

March 11, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay Literature | Leave a comment

River Thieves, by Michael Crummey

A superb weaving of fact and fiction set in the Canadian wilderness –

Story blurb: River Thieves is a beautifully written and compelling novel that breathes life into the pivotal events which shaped relations between the Beothuk Indians of Newfoundland and European settlers. Following a series of expeditions made under the order of the British Crown, the reader witnesses the tragic fallout from these missions as the Beothuk vanish and the web of secrets guarded by the settlers slowly begin to unravel …Told in elegant sensual prose this is an enthralling historical novel of great passion and suspense, driven by the extraordinary cast of characters. And with it Michael Crummey establishes himself as one of Canada’s most exciting new talents.

Available in e-book format – 2058 KB

About the athor: Born in Buchans, Newfoundland, Crummey grew up there and in Wabush, Labrador, where he moved with his family in the late 1970s. He went to university with no idea what to do with his life and, to make matters worse, started writing poems in his first year. Just before graduating with a BA in English he won the Gregory Power Poetry Award. First prize was three hundred dollars (big bucks back in 1987) and it gave him the mistaken impression there was money to be made in poetry.

He published a slender collection of poems called Arguments with Gravity in 1996, followed two years later by Hard Light. 1998 also saw the publication of a collection of short stories, Flesh and Blood, and Crummey’s nomination for the Journey Prize.

Crummey’s debut novel, River Thieves (2001) was a Canadian bestseller, winning the Thomas Head Raddall Award and the Winterset Award for Excellence in Newfoundland Writing. It was also shortlisted for the Giller Prize, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the Books in Canada First Novel Award, and the IMPAC Award. His second novel, The Wreckage (2005), was nominated for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and longlisted for the 2007 IMPAC Award.

Galore was published in Canada in 2009. A national bestseller, it was the winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book (Canada & Caribbean), the Canadian Authors’ Association Fiction Prize and was shortlisted for the Governor-General’s Award for fiction.

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Review by Gerry Burnie
My bio reads in part: Canada has a rich and colourful history that for the most part is waiting to be discovered, and River Thieves by Michael Crummey [Anchor Canada, 2009] is a case on point.

The Beothuk (pronounced “beo-thuk”) people of Newfoundland, a.k.a. “The Red Indians” because of the red ochre they smeared on their bodies, are truly one of the most fascinating and mysterious aspects of it. They are referred to as a “population isolate” because they developed their unique culture in total isolation, starting around 1 A.D. until—with the death of Shanawdithit (“Nancy April”) in1829—they were declared officially extinct.

Part of the extinction process was as a result of being retreated into areas that could not sustain them; European diseases (particularly tuberculoses) for which they had no immunity; and anecdotes of genocide in which they were hunted like wolves. Indeed, the extinction of such a shy, peaceful and unique people is a black mark in Canadian history.

All of this Michael Crummey has captured with remarkable insight, and a superb sense of time and place. His approach of fictionalizing historical events and persons (while not unique) is certainly affective in making them come to life in the context in which they existed, i.e. the rugged and austere wilderness of Newfoundland in the early nineteenth century.

British naval officer, James Buchan, [a real historical figure] is sent to the British Colony of Newfoundland to establish productive relations with the mysterious aboriginals. In order to accomplish this mission he recruits the help of the Peyton family—a sort of backwoods aristocracy led by the tough-minded John Peyton Sr., a ruthless Beothuk persecutor [yet another real individual and fact]. However, his son, John Jr., although dominated by his father, is also vested with a conscience and becomes Buchan’s ally.

Rounding off this complex household is Cassie Jure, the enigmatic housekeeper, who is surprisingly independent for a female servant of the 19th-century, but she nonetheless adds a feminine perspective to a dominant cast of men.

Crummey’s poetic style is a real boon here, for the setting is very much part of the story—both the harshness and austere beauty of its topography and climate. He has therefore woven it into the tapestry as though it were one of the characters, emphasizing the hardy resilience of its occupants—like Joseph Reilly, a transported (“exiled”) Irish thief turned trapper. Likewise, his research and portrayal of 19th-century mores and terms gives it a solid credibility that invests the reader from beginning to end. For all these reasons, it is highly recommended. Five bees.

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One of the historical events portrayed in this story is “The stealing of Demasduit (“Mary March”).

Demasduit was a Beothuk woman who is thought to have been about 23 years old when she was captured near Red Indian Lake in March 1819.

The governor of Newfoundland, although seeking to encourage trade and end hostilities between the Beothuk and the English, had approved an expedition led by captain David Buchan to recover a boat and other fishing gear which had been stolen by the Beothuk. A group from this expedition was led by John Peyton Jr. whose father John Peyton Sr. was a salmon fisherman known for his hostility towards the small tribe. On a raid, they killed Demasduit’s husband Nonosbawsut, then ran her down in the snow. She pleaded for her life, baring her breasts to show she was a nursing mother. They took Demasduit to Twillingate and Peyton earned a bounty on her. The baby died. Peyton was later appointed Justice of the Peace at Twillingate, Newfoundland.

The British called Demasduit Mary March after the month when she was taken. Later bringing her to St. John’s, Newfoundland, the colonial government wanted to give Desmaduit comfort and friendly treatment while she was with the English, hoping she might one day be a bridge between them and the Beothuk. Demasduit learned some English and taught the settlers about 200 words of Beothuk language. However, in January 1820 while making the trip back to Notre Dame Bay Demasduit died of tuberculosis before reaching her kin. Source: Wikipedia.

News

Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 21,811

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Introducing the characters, etc. from my forthcoming novel: Coming of Age on the Trail

Norman Lee’s Route (click on image to elarge)

The inspiration for this fictional tale comes from Norman Lee’s epic, 1,500-mile cattle dive from Hanceville, British Columbia, to the gold fields around Dawson City, Yukon Territory, in 1898. Fortunately, Lee had the presence of mind to keep a journal along the way, and so we have a first-hand account of his remarkable feat just as it unfolded over a century ago. It is fortunate as well that Eileen Laurie of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation took an interest in this unique piece of Canadian history, and that the Lee family generously allowed it to be published. [See: Klondike Cattle Drive: The journal of Norman Lee, Touch Wood Editions, Surrey, British Columbia, 2005]. Consequently, many of the scenes depicted in this fictional version are taken from Lee’s actual experiences.

Once again this remarkable adventure proves that: Canada has a rich and colourful history that for the most part is waiting to be discovered.

Read an excerpt.

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If you haven’t done so before, do drop by the InnerBouquet website.

The InnerBouquet mission is to spread the word about & celebrate LGBT ARTS, CULTURE & ATHLETICISM from past to the present. The site features bios, reviews, critiques, interviews, photos, news, videos, songs, poems, etc. – all related to the contributions of LGBT icons world-wide. On a personal level, the InnerBouquet founder and creative director, David-Paul, in his “FlashBack Diary” reveals poignant moments from his gay journal.

This week David-Paul has added new and poignant information about Steve Walker, renowned Canadian artist who passed away on January 4 2012.

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I’ve added new pages: If you haven’t noticed already I’ve added an “About” and “Gerry Burnie Books” page.” You’ll find the links at the top of the page. Hope you find them interesting.

***

Protest Paypal. Recently, Paypal started to refuse transactions for books which do not meet a set of narrowly-defined criteria, i.e., teenage sex (16 is the “age of consent”), rape, incest, etc. This is de facto censorship, and not the business of money broker. If you would care to send a letter to Paypal execs, etc., here is a list of email addresses you can use.

mbarrett@paypal.com,
executiveoffice@paypal.com,
harbor1@paypal.com,
ppelce@paypal.com,
complaint-response@paypal.com,
abuse@paypal.com,
Europeanservices@paypal.com,
resolutions@paypal.com,
appeals@paypal.com,
compliance@paypal.com,
webform@paypal.com,
Unmonitored <service@paypal.com>,
spoof@paypal.com,
aup@paypal.com,
Let public relations know you are filing complaints <press@paypal.com>,
apires@paypal.com,
pending_reversal@paypal.com,
global2@paypal.com,
intl@paypal.com,
ppe_courtesycredit@paypal.com
***

If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

       

Thanks for dropping by. The numbers are growing, thanks you!

March 4, 2012 Posted by | Canadian content, Canadian historical content, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical period, non-GLBT | Leave a comment

We Pointed Them North: Recollections of a cowpuncher by E.C. “Teddy Blue” Abbott and Helena Huntington Smith

A rollicking tale of true adventure, and perhaps the first admission (ever) of male love in a cowboy’s own story

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we pointed them north - coverE.C. Abbott was a cowboy in the great days of the 1870s and 1880s. He came up the trail to Montana from Texas with the long-horned herds that were to stock the northern ranges; he punched cows in Montana when there wasn’t a fence in the territory; and he married a daughter of Granville Stuart, the famous early-day stockman and Montana pioneer. For more than fifty years he was known to cowmen from Texas to Alberta as “Teddy Blue.”

This is history, as told by Helena Huntington Smith, who says, “My part was to keep out of the way and not mess it up by being literary.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

When I come across personal reminiscences of this nature (“We Pointed Them North: Recollections of a cowpuncher” by E.C. “Teddy Blue” Abbott and Helena Huntington Smith, drawings by Nick Eggenhofer, University of Oklahoma Press, 1955) I am immediately envious of my cousins south of the border because they have yet another window into their past.

Unfortunately, apart from Norman Lee’s journal [see: Norman Lee Klondike Cattle Drive,” Touchwood Editions, 2005] I am unaware of any other first-hand account(s) of Canadian history that is/are currently: a) published, and b) still in print. I would be happy if someone were to correct me on that statement, but alas I doubt it will happen. Therefore, with each generation that passes our Canadian pioneer experience becomes more and more obscure. Therefore, I have the greatest admiration for Abbott and his patriotic notion to leave a legacy behind for our appreciation.

The early years 

We Pointed Them North is without a doubt the most candid, and thereby the most ‘credible’ of any similar accounts I have read thus far. However, this is a personal observation to be taken for what it is worth. Nevertheless, by his own admission young Eddie Abbott was a bit of a free spirit—even a ‘renegade’ in his formative and teenage years. He attributes this, in part, to having an overbearing father:

“I never got on with my father and never pretended to. He was overbearing and tyrannical—and worse with me than with the others … And I resented it. But I got back at him. I remember one time the butcher wanted to buy some beef, and my father was going to cut them out of the herd for him, and he asked me to give him a horse. So I caught up little Pete, my cutting horse, for him … Father had rode all his life on one of these flat English saddles, and he thought he was a rider … And when he rode into the herd and started to cut out a steer, and the steer dodged … of course Pete turned right out from under him and left him on the ground.” 

The other part was from growing up around the rugged Texans who came north with the very first cattle drives. As Abbott points out in clarifying the record, the cattle drives as we know them only lasted from about 1870-1886, and were almost completely gone by the 1890s. He also points out that the cowboy packin’ a gun on each hip was mostly a Hollywood embellishment.

“I punched cows from ’71 on, and I never yet saw a cowboy with two guns. I mean two six-shooters. Wild Bill carried two guns and so did some of the other city marshals, like Bat Masterson, but they were professional gunmen themselves, not cowpunchers.” 

Nevertheless, Abbott carried a gun from the time he was fourteen, and even shot a man in a mêlée of drunken cowboys shooting out gas lamps. However, it was his contention that a gun was a necessary tool in frontier country. It enabled a man to protect himself against all manner of threats; to shoot food and signal if lost; and to avoid a robbery, etc.

The adventurous years 

If Teddy Blue’s ‘hellion’ years had any benefit at all, apart from sewing his wild oats and gaining a reputation as a ‘wild one’—which he was immenselyproud of—it enabled him (at age nineteen) to take his place among some of the toughest crews on the trail. Among these were the Olive Brothers:

“The Olives were noted as a tough outfit—a gun outfit—which was one reason I wanted in with them. It would show I was tough as they were … They were violent and overbearing men, and it taken a hard man to work for them, and believe me they had several of those all the time. 

Men had to be tough considering the life they led. Abbott describes one situation where they were camped near a large prairie dog ‘town’ when a big storm came up that resulted in a stampede. In the morning it was discovered that one of the men was missing, and a search was made.

“We found him among the prairie dog holes, beside his horse. The horse’s ribs was scraped bare of hide, and all the rest of horse and man was smashed into the ground as flat as a pancake … [T]he awful part of it was that we had milled [the cattle] over him all night … And after that, orders were given to sing when you were running with a stampede … After a while this grew to be a custom on the range, but you know this was still a new business in the seventies [1870s] and they was learning all the time.” 

That was not an untypical circumstance for a teenager in the 1870s. Imagine, if you will, asking today’s counterpart to give up the BMW for a horse, or his TV remote for an evening of chasing a stampede! Yet, for the most part—and almost entirely in Canada—the rugged contributions of these pioneers are all but forgotten.

Life was not all hardship, however, for the average cowpoke played almost as hard as he worked. One episode that Teddy Blue relates took place at a ‘parlor house’ owned by a Mag Burns:

“Three of us was in the parlor of Maggie Burns’ house giving a song number called “The Texas Ranger.” John Bowen was playing the piano and he couldn’t play the piano, and Johnny Stringfellow was there sawing on a fiddle, and I was singing, and between the three of us we was raising the roof. And Maggie—the redheaded, fighting son of a gun—got hopping mad says: ‘If you leather-legged sons of bitches want to give a concert, why don’t you hire a hall? You’re ruinin’ my piano.’ 

“So I got mad, too, and I says: ‘If I had little Billy [his horse] here’—well, I told her what I’d do to her piano. And John Bowen said: ‘Go and get him, Teddy, go get him.’ … I went across the street and got Billy … and rode him through the hall and into the parlor … And as soon as I got in the parlor, Maggie slammed the door … and called the police. 

“But there was a big window in the room, that was low enough to the ground , and Billy and me got through it and got away. We headed for the ferry on the dead run, and that is the origin of the story that Charlie Russell [noted artist and writer] tells in ‘Rawhide Rawlins,’ about me telling that jack rabbit to ‘get out of the way, brother, and let a fellow run that can run.’ I got to the ferry just as it was pulling out, and jumped Billy a little piece onto the apron. The sheriff got there right after me and he was hollering at the ferryman to stop. And the ferryman hollered back at him: ‘This fellow has got a gun the size of a stovepipe stuck to my ribs, and I ain’t agoing to stop.’” 

In his time Teddy Blue also socialized with some legendary characters synonymous with the Old West. These included Charles Russell—already mentioned—who ranks with Frederick Remington as one of the West’s most outstanding artists; “Wild Bill” Hickock, for whom Teddy Blue worked for a while; also Teddy Roosevelt, later President of the United States; and Martha “Calamity Jane” Canary-Burke. Perhaps not as well known was Granville Stuart whose DHS spread was one of the largest such operations in Montana. He was also known for leading a pack of vigilantes that brought swift justice to a number of cattle rustlers and horse thieves in that frontier country.

Teddy Blue was a great admirer of Granville Stuart’s, and even more so of his pretty, young daughter Mary, whom Abbott married in 1889.

Another side of Teddy Blue … A male lover, perhaps?

One of the characteristics I particularly admire about Teddy Abbott is his candour. Not once does he back off, or back down from ‘telling it like it was.’ For example, he describes himself in his younger days as “A damn fool kid.” And with regard to his first girl, “I was a fool on a list of fools.” Therefore, I believe he truly meant to convey the fact that he had a male lover at one point in his career, i.e.:

“And there I claimed this young Indian, Pine … He was one of the best looking Indians I ever saw, six feet, one or two inches tall and as straight as a string. And he was brave—he fought for his knife—and I was sure stuck on him. 

“We all ate there [Rose station on the Northern Pacific], while we was waiting for the train I handed Pine the grub and water first, but he always handed them to the chief. And after they had eaten they all wrapped up in blankets and laid down on their stomachs and went to sleep. And so did I—right beside Pine. [166] 

“While they [the Indians] were all in jail, I went to see Pine ever day, and took him presents of tailor-made cigarettes and candy and stuff. And I told him I’d get him out of it, and luckily he did get out of it, and he was my friend for life. The last day he took a silver ring from his finger and gave it to me.” [167] 

Moreover, he casually relates that he and some of his girlfriends exchanged clothes and paraded around Miles City for a lark. Such an example can be seen in the above photo of him–wearing a woman’s bonnet–with Calamity Jane in the background.

In conclusion

Considering that Teddy Blue was relating all this to Helena Huntington Smith in 1938-39, including the ‘Pine episode,’ it speaks volumes about this truly delightful character; one of the last of a kind, and for that reason I highly recommend it as a rollicking read and a slice of endangered history.

Visit: Gerry B’s Books – News on current & future publications.

 

February 26, 2010 Posted by | Contemporary biography, Non-fiction | 5 Comments

Valour At Vimy Ridge: Canadian Heroes of World War I, by Tom Douglas

They said that it couldn’t be done…

Non-fiction works of this kind are not star-rated

A defining moment in Canadian military history. A much-needed Allied victory. A show of valour and heroism. The battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917 saw Canadian troops storm a strategic 14-kilometre long escarpment that was believed to be impregnable. This was the first time in the nation’s history that a corps-sized formation fought together as a unit under its own meticulous planning. Canadian troops persevered under heavy fire to take the ridge, demonstrating incredible discipline and bravery. The battle became a symbol of sacrifice for the young nation and a turning point in its role in the global theatre of war.

Amazing Stories Series–Altitude Press, 2007

Tom Douglas, an award-winning journalist and author, lives in Oakville, Ontario with his wife Gail, also an author in the Amazing Stories series. Tom’s father, Sgt. H.M. (Mel) Douglas, was part of the Invasion Force that stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Tom is a member of the Royal Canadian Legion, worked as a Communications Advisor for Veterans Affairs Canada, and has written speeches for the Minister of National Defence. Recently, he self-published a book, Some Sunny Day about his family’s experiences in Northern Ontario following his father’s return from World War II.

Review by Gerry Burnie

They said it couldn’t be done, and thousands of French and English had tried it, but four battalions of Canadians succeeded; not without 10,602 Canadian casualties, including 3,598 fatalities, however.

It was known as the “Great War,” and “The war to end all wars,” but history has proven that World War I was not the war that ended all wars. What it was, was a bitter, bloody conflict with over 15 million (combatants and civilians) killed, and 22 million wounded between July 28, 1914 and November 11, 1918.

This conflagration started with the assassination of an obscure prince, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, which led to posturing between two, now forgotten states—Austro-Hungary and Serbia. Serbia’s ally, Russia, then began to assemble troops, which brought in Germany as ally to Austro-Hungary. England and France then came to the aid of Russia, and this automatically brought Canada—as a dominion of England—into the fray.

Nevertheless, a nationalist fervour gripped Canada to aid the “Mother Land,” even though the militia numbered just over 3,000—and volunteers poured into recruiting stations so that by September of 1914, more than 30,000 set sail for England; making it the largest convoy to cross the Atlantic.

However, these patriotic young men who had dreamed of glory in a far off land soon learned that they had been sold a bill of goods, and that there was nothing glorious about existing like an animal in filthy, disease-ridden trenches that scarred the landscape, or seeing your friend—or lover—blown to bits by an enemy mortar shell.

Indeed, the recruiting posters showing clean-cut lads in freshly pressed uniforms sipping wine at outdoor cafés in Paris didn’t contain any scenes of a corpse-strewn no-man’s land—that stretch of barren ground that separated the trenches between the two opposing sides. “Nor were there any close-ups of a diseased rat crawling over your face as you tried to grab a few hours’ sleep before having to go “over the top” to raid the enemy trench just a few metres away from yours.”

“No mention of German snipers waiting for you to emerge from the relative safety of a muddy shell hole so that he could blow your head off. No depiction of life in the trenches, where foot rot, lice, and the stench of death were your constant companions,”

Vimy Ridge was a promontory near the River Aisne where, after a failed attempt to take Paris, the Germans were ordered to dig in to protect themselves. When the allies realized that the German trenches were a formidable obstacle, they dug in as well.

“After a few months the opposing trenches stretched from the North Sea to the Swiss frontier. For the next three years, neither side was able to advance more than a few kilometres along the line that came to be known as the Western Front. But living conditions in what amounted to little more than deep ditches wasn’t anything like the cozy bungalows or college dorms or rural family homesteads the young Canadians had left behind.”

Life in the Trenches

As part of this introduction to the battle, Author Tom Douglas describes the conditions:

“[N]o story about World War I—and in particular the magnificent achievement of the Canadians at Vimy Ridge—would be complete without a basic understanding of these inhuman and seemingly insurmountable obstacles that had to be overcome on the road to victory.

“The excavations along the Western Front were built in threes—the front line, support, and reserve trenches. This trio of long, snake-like ditches covered between 220 and 550 metres of ground from front to back and could wind for several kilometres across the terrain parallel to the enemy fortifications.”

“Running perpendicular to these channels were communication trenches for fresh troops, equipment, and supplies to move up the line and wounded soldiers to be taken to the rear.”

The trench was too deep to allow its occupants to be seen over the top, so a small ledge called a fire-step was added. The soldiers would crouch down on this protrusion, then pop up to take potshots at the enemy before ducking down quickly to avoid having their heads blown off by a camouflaged sniper who’d been lying motionless for hours in no man’s land.”

“The front-line trenches were protected by gigantic bales of barbed wire placed far enough forward to prevent the enemy from getting within grenade-lobbing distance. So impenetrable and tangled were these obstacles that they acted like the steel web of a monstrous spider, impaling any hapless soldier who came close enough to get tangled in the trap. Before a battle troops would be sent out with wire cutters to chop a path through the razor-sharp wire. It was one of the more hazardous duties to perform because of those ever-present snipers.”

 To make matters more difficult the Germans occupied the high ground, forcing the attacking allies to charge uphill while loaded down with weapons and equipment. Moreover, the allies—French, British and Canadians—were only a few feet above sea level, and would frequently find themselves standing ankle deep in water.

“Waterlogged trenches meant wet feet for days and weeks on end—and wet feetled to frostbite or the dreaded trench foot that, if left untreated, could result in amputation.”

“Dysentery was another killer that accounted for thousands of death in the trenches. Needless to say, sanitary conditions in these waterlogged ditches were appalling. Latrines were dug behind the lines, but these soon filled up and spilled into the trenches. In addition, many of those excavations had been dug in areas were corpses from earlier battles had been hastily buried, and the decaying bodies were another source of deadly germs.”

“A steady diet of canned beef, mouldy biscuits, boiled sweets, and coffee made from ground turnips left the men susceptible to boils, scabies, and other skin eruptions.”

As the author points out, a great number of soldiers suffered from mental illness after weeks and months of living under such conditions. The term “shell shock” was coined to describe this condition, but many officers and even doctors refused this as a reason to remove the victims from the battle front.

“The rallying cry “for king and country” soon took on a cynical overtone.”

The Author then goes on to document the charge up Vimy Ridge from the personal perspective of the soldiers and officers who took part; many of them being awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery—some posthumously.

At this time of remembrance, this is Canadian history that should not—cannot be forgotten. If a country’s history forms its heritage, then this is what we are all about.

April 8, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

To Wawa With Love, by Tom Douglas

My nomination (if I had one) for the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour –

Story blurb: When Tom Douglas’s father returned home after the Second World War, he was forced to move his family from Sault Ste. Marie north to Wawa, where he was the timekeeper at the Helen Mine. Although his parents were upset by the move, Tom was thrilled. In the forties, Wawa was still a wooden-sidewalked mud wallow of a mining town, and for a city kid, nothing could have been more exciting.

To Wawa with Love is a nostalgic collection of true stories about a time in northern Ontario that still exists only in the author’s imagination. These are light-hearted stories about a town teeming with colourful characters, like Doc MacTavish, Wawa’s veterinarian and part-time dentist; magical places, like the Lions Club Hall, where a quarter could buy a kid an afternoon at the movies; and comical adventures, like the rescue of Rocky Mitchell from the bottom of the school outhouse on a sub-zero January day.

These warm and humorous vignettes about the way life used to be will delight readers of all ages.

Available in paperback only – 156 pages

About the author: Tom Douglas, an award-winning journalist and author, lives in Oakville, Ontario with his wife Gail, also an author in the Amazing Stories series. Tom’s father, Sgt. H.M. (Mel) Douglas, was part of the Invasion Force that stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Tom is a member of the Royal Canadian Legion, worked as a Communications Advisor for Veterans Affairs Canada, and has written speeches for the Minister of National Defence. He has also worked with The Canadian Press and served as the publisher/owner of a weekly newspaper in Australia.

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Review by Gerry Burnie

I have long admired Tom Douglas for his writings on the topic of Canadian military history [see my review of Valour at Vimy Ridge: Canadian Heroes of World War I], but I do believe To Wawa With Love, [Lorimer Press, 2012]—a charming, witty and hilarious collection of intimate tales—has to be my favourite for the following reasons:

Apart from the socio-economic impact of the returning troops, and the sudden demand for post-war housing, etc. (mundane topics devoid of any real colour or humanity) there are very few portraits of the men (and women) themselves, or of their families.[1] In this short memoir, Tom Douglas has done his bit to address the oversight, stating: “I have set down these few memories about that time and place in an effort to prevent it all from slipping away, without a trace down a sinkhole of history.” p.8

And what did the families think? Well, in young Thomas Douglas’ case—pumped on gangster movies etc, and not having seen his father in five years—he was convinced he was a murderer who had somehow beguiled his mother and was about to murder them all—except that young Thomas was ‘on to him,’ and ready to spring into action at any given moment.

Mind you, his younger brother Greg had no problem adjusting, but as the author points out, “My brother Greg sold out for a pair of white boots. He always did come cheap.

There was a slight pause in the pending drama to accommodate the adventure of moving to “Sinterville,” a company dormitory community near Wawa, Ontario. It was little more than a huddle of temporary housing set in close proximity to the mine, where:

The lung-searing sulphur fumes rolled in on the wind. Those who dared venture out of their clapboard shelters tied handkerchiefs over their mouths to prevent a fit of gagging and choking. Tears streaming down their cheeks, the hapless victims of this latest gas attack dashed from one spot to another, hurrying to do whatever had to be done.

“As the sun came up, vaporizing the puddles of overnight rain, the sulphurous air turned steamy and dank, inviting another onslaught of blackflies and mosquitoes that left everyone in their murderous path covered in bleeding sores.

“If the supply train had managed to get through that morning, chances were that the bread was mouldy and the milk sour from sitting in an unrefrigerated boxcar while the crew strained to remove a rock-slide or fallen tree from the railway tracks that provided the lifeline from the civilized south.”

And yet, to young Thomas it was an adventure where he would hone his bargaining skills by talking the local merchant into a 100% increase in his weekly wage (from $1 to $2.00); become a singing sensation at the Christmas concerts; be a white knight for his younger brother (even if he did have to bite the bully’s finger to get the upper “hand,” so to speak); and rescue one of his classmates from the depths of an outhouse hole, e.g.

You’ll never know what being really miserable is until you’ve had to sit in an unheated outhouse in forty-below weather. And I’m talking Fahrenheit, where water freezes at thirty-two degrees about the zero mark.”p.49

I was seated at my desk, staring out my window at the whirling snow and mentally mushing my huskies to the nearest outpost with a bottle of lifesaving medicine in a leather pouch slung over my shoulder. Suddenly, I became aware of Miss Grexton standing there with a slight smile on her face, waiting for my reply.

““I was asking you, my little daydreamer, if you’d mind going to see what’s keeping Rocky,” she repeated. “He’s been gone an awfully long time.”

“After a hazardous five-hour trek, that in reality lasted about thirty seconds, I reached the outpost, having had to shoot and eat all of my sled dogs along the way. Well, okay, I actually polished off the remains of a peanut butter sandwich I’d found in my pocket. I scrabbled the wooden door of the outhouse open with ice-numbed fingers and peered inside the unlit cubical. Where Rocky should have been sitting in frigid misery, there were two empty “thrones.” Too young to realize there was something amiss, I let the spring-loaded door slam back into place and turned to run back to the warmth of the classroom with the news that Rocky wasn’t where he was supposed to be.

“Lucky for him, the perpetually howling wind died down just then, and I heard a faint, eerie call for help from inside the ice palace. Prying  open the door once again, I tentatively called out, “Rocky?” and almost ran for cover when I was answered by a disembodied voice wailing, “Down here!””p.54

“Only in Sinterville,” you say, well there’s even more to read for your amusement and edification in To Wawa With Love.” Do get yourself a copy. You’ll be glad you did. Five bees.

Note: For more colourful Canadian history, go to my reviews at: https://gerrycan.wordpress.com/?s=amazing+stories, or http://www.lorimer.ca/adults/#

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Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 26,188

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An announcement regarding  Coming of Age on the Trail.

I’ve never thought of myself as being particularly ‘verbose’, but the more I work the new novel, Coming of Age on the Trail, it keeps getting longer. It is now up to 115,248 words, and growing, and so I have decided to publish it as a two-part series.

This is in keeping with the advice that a novel–especially in the western genre–should ideally be in the 90,000-word range. Personally, I don’t know how valid this is [perhaps someone could tell me] but it does make sense in this abbreviated world, where everything is in “tweet” size. Therefore, Part One should be out this summer, and Part Two should follow in the fall (ideally for the Christmas Market.

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Introducing a new author and her new Novel.

Altered-Revelations, by Shawnda Falls-Currie is new on the Kindle market.

Story Blurb: Abandoned by her family, Lacey is sent to a juvenile detention center known as Clear Waters. Her teen years don’t look promising until she is befriended by a mysterious stranger named Taylor, a gorgeous guy whose captivating eyes seem to stare into her soul. Convinced she is in danger at Clear Waters, Lacey joins Taylor in a daring escape. As she meets Taylor’s group of friends, she discovers that they’re more than they seem – they’ve been sent from the future to head off an evil corporate plot that will lead to a world war unless averted. With Lacey as their only hope to prevent a grim future, Taylor shows Lacey how to tap into her psychic abilities known in his time as evolved humans. Travelling with her new friends, she discovers the magic of love while she grows into the powerful warrior chosen to make the difference to the world.

♥♥♥

If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

        

 Thank you for dropping by! Your participation is appreciated.

    

 


[1] I have long complained about this aspect of Canadian recorded history, for it leaves the impression that Canada has no history worth bothering with.

May 20, 2012 Posted by | biography, Canadian biography, Canadian content, Canadian historical content, Non-fiction, non-GLBT | Leave a comment

Valour At Vimy Ridge: Canadian Heroes of World War I, by Tom Douglas

They said that it couldn’t be done…

Non-fiction works of this kind are not star-rated

A defining moment in Canadian military history. A much-needed Allied victory. A show of valour and heroism. The battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917 saw Canadian troops storm a strategic 14-kilometre long escarpment that was believed to be impregnable. This was the first time in the nation’s history that a corps-sized formation fought together as a unit under its own meticulous planning. Canadian troops persevered under heavy fire to take the ridge, demonstrating incredible discipline and bravery. The battle became a symbol of sacrifice for the young nation and a turning point in its role in the global theatre of war.

Amazing Stories Series–Altitude Press, 2007

Tom Douglas, an award-winning journalist and author, lives in Oakville, Ontario with his wife Gail, also an author in the Amazing Stories series. Tom’s father, Sgt. H.M. (Mel) Douglas, was part of the Invasion Force that stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Tom is a member of the Royal Canadian Legion, worked as a Communications Advisor for Veterans Affairs Canada, and has written speeches for the Minister of National Defence. Recently, he self-published a book, Some Sunny Day about his family’s experiences in Northern Ontario following his father’s return from World War II.

Review by Gerry Burnie

They said it couldn’t be done, and thousands of French and English had tried it, but four battalions of Canadians succeeded; not without 10,602 Canadian casualties, including 3,598 fatalities, however.

It was known as the “Great War,” and “The war to end all wars,” but history has proven that World War I was not the war that ended all wars. What it was, was a bitter, bloody conflict with over 15 million (combatants and civilians) killed, and 22 million wounded between July 28, 1914 and November 11, 1918.

This conflagration started with the assassination of an obscure prince, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, which led to posturing between two, now forgotten states—Austro-Hungary and Serbia. Serbia’s ally, Russia, then began to assemble troops, which brought in Germany as ally to Austro-Hungary. England and France then came to the aid of Russia, and this automatically brought Canada—as a dominion of England—into the fray.

Nevertheless, a nationalist fervour gripped Canada to aid the “Mother Land,” even though the militia numbered just over 3,000—and volunteers poured into recruiting stations so that by September of 1914, more than 30,000 set sail for England; making it the largest convoy to cross the Atlantic.

However, these patriotic young men who had dreamed of glory in a far off land soon learned that they had been sold a bill of goods, and that there was nothing glorious about existing like an animal in filthy, disease-ridden trenches that scarred the landscape, or seeing your friend—or lover—blown to bits by an enemy mortar shell.

Indeed, the recruiting posters showing clean-cut lads in freshly pressed uniforms sipping wine at outdoor cafés in Paris didn’t contain any scenes of a corpse-strewn no-man’s land—that stretch of barren ground that separated the trenches between the two opposing sides. “Nor were there any close-ups of a diseased rat crawling over your face as you tried to grab a few hours’ sleep before having to go “over the top” to raid the enemy trench just a few metres away from yours.”

“No mention of German snipers waiting for you to emerge from the relative safety of a muddy shell hole so that he could blow your head off. No depiction of life in the trenches, where foot rot, lice, and the stench of death were your constant companions,”

Vimy Ridge was a promontory near the River Aisne where, after a failed attempt to take Paris, the Germans were ordered to dig in to protect themselves. When the allies realized that the German trenches were a formidable obstacle, they dug in as well.

“After a few months the opposing trenches stretched from the North Sea to the Swiss frontier. For the next three years, neither side was able to advance more than a few kilometres along the line that came to be known as the Western Front. But living conditions in what amounted to little more than deep ditches wasn’t anything like the cozy bungalows or college dorms or rural family homesteads the young Canadians had left behind.”

Life in the Trenches

As part of this introduction to the battle, Author Tom Douglas describes the conditions:

“[N]o story about World War I—and in particular the magnificent achievement of the Canadians at Vimy Ridge—would be complete without a basic understanding of these inhuman and seemingly insurmountable obstacles that had to be overcome on the road to victory.

“The excavations along the Western Front were built in threes—the front line, support, and reserve trenches. This trio of long, snake-like ditches covered between 220 and 550 metres of ground from front to back and could wind for several kilometres across the terrain parallel to the enemy fortifications.”

“Running perpendicular to these channels were communication trenches for fresh troops, equipment, and supplies to move up the line and wounded soldiers to be taken to the rear.”

The trench was too deep to allow its occupants to be seen over the top, so a small ledge called a fire-step was added. The soldiers would crouch down on this protrusion, then pop up to take potshots at the enemy before ducking down quickly to avoid having their heads blown off by a camouflaged sniper who’d been lying motionless for hours in no man’s land.”

“The front-line trenches were protected by gigantic bales of barbed wire placed far enough forward to prevent the enemy from getting within grenade-lobbing distance. So impenetrable and tangled were these obstacles that they acted like the steel web of a monstrous spider, impaling any hapless soldier who came close enough to get tangled in the trap. Before a battle troops would be sent out with wire cutters to chop a path through the razor-sharp wire. It was one of the more hazardous duties to perform because of those ever-present snipers.”

 To make matters more difficult the Germans occupied the high ground, forcing the attacking allies to charge uphill while loaded down with weapons and equipment. Moreover, the allies—French, British and Canadians—were only a few feet above sea level, and would frequently find themselves standing ankle deep in water.

“Waterlogged trenches meant wet feet for days and weeks on end—and wet feet led to frostbite or the dreaded trench foot that, if left untreated, could result in amputation.”

“Dysentery was another killer that accounted for thousands of death in the trenches. Needless to say, sanitary conditions in these waterlogged ditches were appalling. Latrines were dug behind the lines, but these soon filled up and spilled into the trenches. In addition, many of those excavations had been dug in areas were corpses from earlier battles had been hastily buried, and the decaying bodies were another source of deadly germs.”

“A steady diet of canned beef, mouldy biscuits, boiled sweets, and coffee made from ground turnips left the men susceptible to boils, scabies, and other skin eruptions.”

As the author points out, a great number of soldiers suffered from mental illness after weeks and months of living under such conditions. The term “shell shock” was coined to describe this condition, but many officers and even doctors refused this as a reason to remove the victims from the battle front.

“The rallying cry “for king and country” soon took on a cynical overtone.”

The Author then goes on to document the charge up Vimy Ridge from the personal perspective of the soldiers and officers who took part; many of them being awarded the Victoria Cross for bravery—some posthumously.

At this time of remembrance, this is Canadian history that should not—cannot be forgotten. If a country’s history forms its heritage, then this is what we are all about.

This is my Remembrance Day tribute. A new memorywill be added every day until November 11th. Lest we forget!

November 9, 2010 Posted by | Canadian content, Canadian historical content, Historical period, Military history, Non-fiction | 5 Comments

   

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