Answering a screed on Canadian nonfiction

Ken Whyte is trolling, I know, but I can’t help responding to that scattershot screed he published by David Lemon. Some of what Lemon writes about Canadian nonfiction, let me be clear, I agree with. But much of it, speaking as a writer of historical and biographical narrative, much of it I reject. Lemon asserts…

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Memoir sings of the natural world

SPECIAL TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL Reading the Water: Fly Fishing, Fatherhood, and Finding Strength in Nature, by Mark Hume (Greystone Books, 276 pages) When he was just a tyke, Mark Hume lived on a farm in the Okanagan Valley where “a big Barred Rock rooster … attacked any perceived threat” to his flock of…

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Remember Michael Collins on the day he died

Excerpt from my book CELTIC LIGHTNING: Remembering Aug. 22, 1922. . . 100 years on. We got lost in the dirt roads north of Clonakilty. We were looking, Sheena and I, for the spot where Michael Collins got killed in an ambush. According to historian Tim Pat Coogan, Collins was “the man who made Ireland.”…

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Canadian book trade abuzz about signing?

So I offer this graphic in lieu of a photo of me doing my happy dance.  Trust me, this is better. The occasion? I have just signed a contract with Douglas & McIntyre to publish my next book – number sixteen. I am thrilled because British Columbia-based D&M is rightly described as “one of Canada’s…

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Rushdie after the ban, before the fatwa

In October 1988, after the Indian government banned The Satanic Verses, but before Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran issued a fatwa condemning Salman Rushdie, I interviewed the author in Toronto. He almost cancelled on me because suddenly he was mired in politics. But on the phone, before we met, I told him the truth: that as…

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Letters of the Lost Franklin Expedition

Special to the Globe and Mail May We Be Spared to Meet on Earth: Letters of the Lost Franklin Arctic Expedition; Edited by Russell A. Potter, Regina Koellner, Peter Carney, and Mary Williamson (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 481 pages) From out of England and the mid-19th century, place names come whirling at you: Greenhithe, Bedford Place,…

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An Open Letter to Explorer John Rae

Dear Dr. Rae: You have been gone from us since July 22, 1893 – precisely one hundred and twenty-nine years. I write from the future to mark the day of your passing. What to report from 2022? Six years ago, I relayed the news that searchers have found the two long-lost ships of Sir John…

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Singing 4 books at the Fergus Scottish Festival

All right, singing may be an overstatement. But four books, four half-hour talks, THAT is going to happen. On August 13 and 14, Ken will see to it in the Heritage Village at the Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games. This oldest festival of its kind in North America attracts thousands to Fergus, Ontario, ninety…

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Tracking Jack Kerouac deep into Quebec

The ancestral homestead in the Quebec countryside is long gone. But a monument, unrelated, marks the spot where it stood – and where, in August 1967, Jack Kerouac came to visit. Born in Lowell, Mass., in 1922, the author best-known for On The Road would have turned 100 last March. The township he visited at…

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WAKE-UP-TO-CANADA DAY – TAKE 2

  So here we are in Quebec, Kamouraska country, with me chasing around after my 17th-century Quebecois ancestors.  Sheena shot these pix. Are we having fun yet? You betcha! Because also we are celebrating WAKE-UP-TO-CANADA DAY!  Whole-heartedly. Unreservedly. Even, dare I say it, unapologetically. Of course we Canadians face a myriad of concerning issues, starting…

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