Gerry B's Book Reviews

River of the Brokenhearted, by David Adams Richards

A dynastic novel as Canadian as maple syrup…

bee5     (Non-GBLT)

Click to purchase at Barnes and Noble. Also available in Kindle format.

Click to purchase at Barnes and Noble. Also available in Kindle format.


Publisher’s Story blurb: In the 1920s, Janie McLeary and George King run one of the first movie theatres in the Maritimes. The marriage of the young Irish Catholic woman to an older English man is thought scandalous, but they work happily together, playing music to accompany the films. When George succumbs to illness and dies, leaving Janie with one young child and another on the way, the unscrupulous Joey Elias tries to take over the business. But Janie guards the theatre with a shotgun, and still in mourning, re-opens it herself. “If there was no real bliss in Janie’s life,” recounts her grandson, “there were moments of triumph.”

One night, deceived by the bank manager and Elias into believing she will lose her mortgage, Janie resolves to go and ask for money from the Catholic houses. Elias has sent out men to stop her, so she leaps out the back window and with a broken rib she swims in the dark across the icy Miramichi River, doubting her own sanity. Yet, seeing these people swayed into immoral actions because of their desire to please others and their fear of being outcast, she thinks to herself that “…all her life she had been forced to act in a way uncommon with others… Was sanity doing what they did? And if it was, was it moral or justified to be sane?”

Astonishingly, she finds herself face to face that night with influential Lord Beaverbrook, who sees in her tremendous character and saves her business. Not only does she survive, she prospers; she becomes wealthy, but ostracized. Even her own father helps Elias plot against her. Yet Janie McLeary King thwarts them and brings first-run talking pictures to the town.

Meanwhile, she employs Rebecca from the rival Druken family to look after her children. Jealous, and a protégé of Elias, Rebecca mistreats her young charges. The boy Miles longs to be a performer, but Rebecca convinces him he is hated, and he inherits his mother’s enemies. The only person who truly loves her, he is kept under his mother’s influence until, eventually, he takes a job as the theatre’s projectionist. He drinks heavily all his life, tends his flowers, and talks of things no-one believes, until the mystery at the heart of the novel finally unravels.

“At six I began to realize that my father was somewhat different,” says Miles King’s son Wendell, who narrates the saga in an attempt to find answers in the past and understand “how I was damned.” It is a many-layered epic of rivalries, misunderstandings, rumours; the abuse of power, what weak people will do for love, and the true power of doing right; of a pioneer and her legacy in the lives of her son and grandchildren.

About the author: David Adams Richards (born 17 October 1950) is a Canadian novelist, essayist, screenwriter and poet.

Born in Newcastle, New Brunswick, Richards left St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick, one course shy of completing a B.A. Richards has been a writer-in-residence at various universities and colleges across Canada, including the University of New Brunswick.

Richards has received numerous awards including 2 Gemini Awards for scriptwriting for Small Gifts and “For Those Who Hunt The Wounded Down”, the Alden Nowlan Award for Excellence in the Arts, and the Canadian Authors Association Award for his novel Evening Snow Will Bring Such Peace. Richards is one of only three writers to have won in both the fiction and non-fiction categories of the Governor General’s Award. He won the 1988 fiction award for Nights Below Station Street and the 1998 non-fiction award for Lines on the Water: A Fisherman’s Life on the Miramichi. He was also a co-winner of the 2000 Giller Prize for Mercy Among the Children.


Review by Gerry Burnie

The present day City of Miramichi, on the river from which it derives its name.

The present day City of Miramichi, on the river from which it derives its name.

I must admit that I have been working on this novel, River of the Brokenhearted by David Adams Richards [Arcade Publishing, January 12, 2012] (450 pags.) for a while, but like a glass of mellow wine it never suffered from age.

The people of Canada’s maritime region are great story tellers, as witness Alistair MacLeod, Linden MacIntyre, and now David Adams Richards, the latter two being both Giller Prize winters. Part of this remarkable ability may come the maritime provinces themselves, which, like most seafaring cultures, seem to have an uncommonly large population of characters just waiting to be written about.

This, coupled with David Richards’ keen ability to capitalize on every nuance of a character’s personality, makes this pithy read from that point of view, alone.

Plot wise it covers four generation, and so the pace is understandably slow in places, but never tedious. The topic of generational feuds on Canadian soil could, I think, only ring true in the Maritimes with its large population of Scots and Irish, as could the iron-willed resilience of Janie McLeary, but both are rich fodder and credible in every way.

One of the interesting touches was the inclusion of Nova Scotian, Max Aitkin (“Lord Beaverbrook”), for no story about Nova Scotia for the time would be complete without him.

I am unimpressed by the both the Giller and the GG awards, but in this case I believe they are well placed. Five bees.


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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: Frank Augustyn, OC, Canada’s ‘Principal’ Principal Dancer…


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!

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June 2, 2014 Posted by | Canadian content, Fiction, Historical period, non GBLT, Nova Scotia Setting, Twentieth century historical | Leave a comment

A World Ago: A Navy Man’s Letters Home (1954-1956)

“It’s not often one has the chance to become 20 again…”


A world ago - coverStory blurb: A World Ago chronicles, through one young man’s journal and vivid letters to his parents, his life, adventures, and experiences at a magical time. It follows him from being a Naval Aviation Cadet to becoming a “regular” sailor aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga on an eight-month tour of duty in the politically tense Mediterranean Sea.

Learn to fly a plane, to soar, alone, through a valley of clouds, experience a narrow escape from death on a night training flight, and receive the continent of Europe as a 21st birthday gift. Climb down into the crater of Mt. Vesuvius, visit Paris, Cannes, Athens, Beirut, Valencia, Istanbul and places in-between; wander the streets of Pompeii, have your picture taken on a fallen column on the Acropolis, ride bicycles on the Island of Rhodes, experience daily life aboard an aircraft carrier during the height of the cold war—all in the company and through the eyes of a young will-be-writer coming of age with the help of the United States Navy.

A World Ago is a rare glimpse into the personal and private world of a young man on the verge of experiencing everything the world has to offer—and discovering a lot about himself in the process.

About Dirien Grey: Born Roger Margason in Rockford, Illinois, far too many years ago, Dorien emerged, like Athena from the sea, full-blown with the first book in the Dick Hardesty Mystery series in 2000. Roger, a lifelong book and magazine editor, is in charge of all the details of day-to-day living, allowing Dorien full freedom to write books and blogs. The Dick Hardesty series was followed by the Elliott Smith Mystery series, which now alternates with the Dick Hardesty series.

Dorien emerged partly because Roger has always resented reality. It is far too capricious and too often unkind and unfair. Roger avoids reflective surfaces whenever possible. Having Dorien as an alter ego allows the “duo” to create their own reality, and worlds over which they have some degree of control.

Both are incurable romantics, believing strongly in things which reality views too often with contempt, such as happy endings, true love, and the baic goodness of people.

As the real-life spokesman for the pair and using “I” for both, the one personal characteristic in which I take great pride, and which has been my rock throughout life is that I never, ever, takes myself too seriously. If one has a choice between positive and negative, why would anyone (though too many people do) opt for the negative? Life is not always kind, but it is a gift beyond measure, and one which must all too soon be given back. I really try to enjoy and be thankful for ever single day allotted to me.

For most people, children are their posterity. For me, as a gay man, it is my words which will, I hope, stand as evidence that I was here (albeit, no matter how long I may live, never long enough to suit me).

And because written words are nothing unless someone reads them, I am heavily reliant on my readers, who I sincerely consider to be partners and traveling companions on every journey my writing embarks on.


Review by Gerry Burnie

There isn’t a great deal of critical comment one can make about a book like A World Ago: A Navy Man’s Letters Home (1954-1956) by Dorien Grey [Untreed Reads Publishing, April 8, 2013]. It is a charming look into one man’s life at an interesting age and time I would say; although, the older Roger Margason, a.k.a. Dorien Grey has the depth of character I prefer. Therefore, I will limit my remarks to some personal observations.

I am a great advocate of journal keeping for very selfish reasons. They are absolutely invaluable when it comes to recreating someone’s life and times. Therefore, I am utterly amazed that he had the foresight to save these epistles intact. Otherwise the memories they contain might have been lost forever. Moreover, for informal writings, they are remarkably literate and easy to read.

At the time the letters where written, 1954 – 1956, Dorien was between ‘grass and straw’—as the old cowpokes would say, i.e. past puberty but not quite matured. Interestingly the letters show this, for there is a perceptible maturing as they progress in time.

One is also struck by the candid nature as well. They may have been edited for journalistic reasons, but one does not get the impression they have been altered in the process.

His powers of observation regarding the exotic places he visits, i.e. Paris, Cannes, Athens, Beirut, Valencia, Istanbul, etc. is like reading a travelogue of the time, and as an amateur historian I found this intriguing.

Altogether, therefore, this is a fascinating insight into a personality and the times, and not once did I feel it lost my interest on account of self-ndulgence. A truly interesting read. Five bees.


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

It is a collection of little-known facts and events in Canadian history, and a bibliography of interesting books I have collected to date. Latest post: Superintendent Sam Steele of the North West Mounted Police – Canada’s toughest gentleman police officer.



CoA6edit3 - medI thought I would take this opportunity to update the news regarding my work-in-progress novel, Coming of Age on the Trail. The rewrites are coming along well, and it looks like it will be published in time for the Christmas market.

I also plan to publish  it as a two part series. Already the manuscript is up to 140,000 words (387 pages in book form), and that is far too long for a novel of this type. Part One will therefore contain the introduction, while Part Two (scheduled for the spring of 2014) will contain the conclusion.

I will update you again as the work progresses.


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.



Thanks for dropping by. 

July 22, 2013 Posted by | Historical period, Military history, Naval historical fiction, Non-fiction, Semi-autobiographical, Twentieth century historical | | 1 Comment

The Secret Catamite 1: The Book of Daniel, by Patrick C. Notchtree

This is a breakthrough novel for its sensitive and realistic portrayal of adolescent sexuality –

Story blurb: A trilogy telling a story of love and loyalty, passion and perversion, betrothal and betrayal, triumph and tragedy; biographical novels that chart one man’s attempts to rise above the legacy of a traumatic childhood, going to the very brink of suicide and the efforts to understand and come to terms with himself and his actions.

The first book follows the protagonist Simon through childhood, growing up with a distant father and his developing friendship and eventual love affair with an older boy.

This account is not suitable for those under 18 years of age or those who find explicit sexual narrative offensive.

Available in digital format only – 418 KB

About the author: Patrick Notchtree now lives in the north of England with his wife and has his son and granddaughters nearby. Much of his life is reflected in the biographical trilogy “The Secret Catamite”, so to repeat too many biographical details here would be something of a ‘spoiler’!


Review by Gerry Burnie

Definition of a “catamite”: A boy kept for homosexual practices. Oxford Dictionaries

While this story doesn’t deal with a “kept” boy, (i.e. harboured or enslaved), it does deal with young boys—one older—and homosexuality. Therefore, when I first saw the title (and the evocative cover) of The Secret Catamite 1: The Book of Daniel by Patrick C. Notchtree [Limebury Books, March 19, 2012], I was intrigued to see how the author would deal with the subject matter.

You see, most writers shun the topic of adolescent and teen sexuality, even though they know it exists from having lived through it. I did, and I certainly don’t consider myself unusual in any way. Therefore, to pretend otherwise is like ignoring the proverbial elephant in the room—the one with pink wings and yellow polka dots.

Fortunately, Patrick Notchtree chooses not to demure from it in characterizing the sexual relationship between Simon and Daniel as being both natural and wholesome. To them, it is the evolution of a friendship that includes both the emotional and the physical; no secrets withheld, and no holds barred.

But The Secret Catamite is so much more than just a story of physical love. It is the story of a boy who is adjudged “different,” and because of this is made to feel different by many who are barely adjusted, themselves. The father who is emotionally maladjusted, wavering between indifference and disciplinarian; the schoolyard bullies who call him “bastard” and “simple Simon;” the teacher who tells him he should never have been born; and the Draconian headmistress who is quick with the hickory stick.

Given these two bookends, it is not at all surprising that Simon finds solace, comfort and a measure of security in Daniel.

There are also other positive moments as Simon struggles to overcome his afflictions; his small academic achievements; the excitement of being able to watch the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on the family’s very own television set, family vacations, and learning to swim. These may not seem like notable occasions now, but in the late 1940s, early 50s, these were as good as it got for simple folk.

Altogether, for me this is a breakthrough book for its sensitive portrayal of adolescent sexuality, and its ability to relate to most people’s childhood experiences. There are some flaws, but I’m going to give it five bees, anyway.


For a real-life horror story involving adolescent sexuality read the following. For the full story click on the title link.

Gossip destroys a family


This is a bizarre and scary story, about how one family has been destroyed – ripped apart by a snickered conversation between two children on a school bus.

Based on that unfounded hearsay, the school bus driver spoke to the school principal, the school called Family and Child Services who called the cops.

A worker from FACS Niagara talked to the two boys. Little brother Mike recalled a time when they’d been wrestling on the ground and touched each other’s privates – outside their clothing. Their father had intervened and given them a time-out and told them to stop rolling on the floor.

The FACS worker decided to call in police.

The police officer spent another 45 minutes interviewing Mike, who steadfastly maintained that his brother hadn’t molested him, but that another boy had.

Shortly after, late one afternoon, the Smiths got a call from the Niagara Region police officer saying they were going to arrest Bobby at school the next day.

His parents asked why they’d do that in front of his peers – and said they’d bring him to the police station the next morning.

The officer balked, until John insisted that if they were going to arrest Bobby at school, he’d keep the child at home.

He is, after all, just a 12-year-old.

Bobby was forced to move out of the family home – away from Mike. Bobby and his dad moved in with the children’s grandparents in Hamilton, thinking it would be a temporary measure.

FACS told them if they didn’t do that, Bobby would be put in a detention centre.

He hasn’t been home since.

When they could no longer stay in their grandparents’ basement, and when they failed to have his bail conditions lessened, the only option was for the family to sign a temporary care agreement, which put Bobby in a group home for six months. The visiting hours when Mary and John can see their son have been limited, and Bobby has limited access to other children.

Suffer the little children? They certainly do in Niagara.


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Patrick Latter’s Photography

I am always excited when I come across an extraordinary talent in any field, so do have a look at the remarkable work of Canadian photographer, Patrick Latter. It is absolutely breathtaking in its technique and creativity. To visit his web site, go to:


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. Your participation is appreciated by all the fine authors who are featured on this blog. I’ll have another novel ready for you next Sunday, so please drop back.

September 16, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Fiction, Gay fiction, Gay romance, Twentieth century historical | Leave a comment


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