Category Archives: Atlantic Canada

The Yankee Privateer by Derek Yetman

Derek Yetman has created a naval tale that fans of C. S. Forester and Patrick O’Brien will undoubtedly enjoy. Mr. Yetman has channelled the best of both authors in creating Jonah Squibb, his main protagonist who, along with his ship the Amelia, gets drafted into the British Navy during the American War of Independence to help protect the small community of St. John’s. (Jonah Squibb made an appearance in The Beothuk Expedition which was also published by Breakwater Books in 2011 but is now out of print).

What makes The Yankee Privateer unique is the colonial setting of St. John’s Newfoundland as the base of operations, rather than the familiar European side of the Atlantic. Squibb is given command of a prize ship, the schooner Independence which was recently captured by the British. Rather than change the name to something less ‘revolutionary’, it is decided to keep the name as a ruse, which proves prescient.

The Yankee Privateer of the title is proving troublesome to the British and Squibb and the Independence are a part of a small contingent to protect Britain’s fishing interests in the area, the many small coastal fishing villages and forts in the colony, as well as supply ships coming across the ocean. The mysterious captain of the privateer appears to be experienced and he keeps his crew operating like a well-oiled machine as they take prize after prize.

There are other sub-plots to The Yankee Privateer such as Squibb’s estranged stepson Ethan is now in the Marines, romance, as the widower Squibb makes tentative steps in courting a Yankee woman detained in St. John’s, as well as plenty of action on land and sea which is by turns heart-pounding and heart-wrenching. Breakwater Books has performed a great service to naval enthusiasts by publishing The Yankee Privateer. One hopes there are more adventures to come from the pen of Mr. Yetman.

(This review was based on an Advance Reading Copy provided by Breakwater Books. This review first appeared on the Atlantic Books Today website.)


About the Author

Derek Yetman is a former journalist and editor, and the author of four previous books, including Midshipman Squibb and The Beothuk Expedition (Breakwater Books). His historical novels of Newfoundland have an authenticity that comes from his many years as a sailing skipper and student of Newfoundland history. He has served as a naval reservist, an officer of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, secretary to the Crow’s Nest Officers’ Club, and communications manager for Canada’s national ship and ocean technology research centre. His debut novel won first prize in the Atlantic Provinces Writing Competition and later books have won widespread praise for their depiction of life and events from the island’s colourful past. He lives and works in St. John’s and Chance Cove, Trinity Bay.   

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Breakwater Books (March 30 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 208 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1550819232
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1550819236

This article has been Digiproved © 2022 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Land of Many Shores: Perspectives from a Diverse Newfoundland and Labrador Edited by Ainsley Hawthorn

We are all familiar with the Newfoundland and Labrador tourism ads that flash across our television screens every Spring;  loaves of Nan’s homemade bread cooling on the kitchen table while, just outside the window, colourful quilts dance in the warm breeze against a backdrop of the cool Atlantic Ocean slapping happily against million-year-old granite. The sun is shining, the grass is a brilliant hue of green and Skipper up the road is on the front bridge tapping his toe to the fiddle. A 40-minute drive “up the shore” or “past the overpass” will confirm that our Irish and English ancestry is still very much alive as evidenced in our dialect, friendliness, and Friday night kitchen parties. This is what we are famous for. This life is what tourists pay to experience. But Newfoundland and Labrador is so much more than just codfish, colourful houses, and George Street. Land of Many Shores edited by Ainsley Hawthorn and published by Breakwater Books is a personal glimpse into the lives of other Newfoundlanders and Labradorians; citizens whose identities and viewpoints have been misconstrued, neglected or underrepresented. It is a true celebration of the diverse population that inhabits our land. 

Land of Many Shores is an anthology of poetry, essays and short narratives written by 24 authors who call, or have called Newfoundland and Labrador home.  Through their own words, they paint a portrait of their lived experience as Indigenous people and as people living with physical or mental disabilities. Their stories examine the importance and need for community and culture as marginalized and underrepresented peoples.  As workers in the sex industry and as members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community these authors explore the heartbreak of being misunderstood and the resilience required to survive. Yet other authors offer praise for the character that the Newfoundland people have become famous for but lament feeling left out of the “proverbial wolf pack”. The narratives are wonderfully written, offering unique perspectives while at the same time broaching the elephant in the room; who do we want to become?

Newfoundland taught me to be proud of who I am and where I come from. Not to feel the need to assimilate to others and maintain the status quo. It also showed me that by being myself, I could create the best connections with people. Connections based on authenticity and sincerity, instead of the fear and ignorance that can prevail when people see each other as anonymous members of large groups instead of individuals.                                                            

From Salaam B’y ~ A Story of a Muslim Newfoundlander by Aatif Baskanderi

Land of Many Shores ~ Perspectives From A Diverse Newfoundland and Labrador is a deeply personal and thought-provoking read. Each story provided a source of reflection and caused me to question my own lived experience as a Newfoundlander. Throughout the anthology, I found myself constantly questioning my own thoughts and belief systems about the Newfoundland culture, those of the community that I identify with and those of the larger populace. Some of the stories baffled me, others touched me deeply, and others saddened and angered me. I have come to realize that “our” traditional story as the ancestors of Irish and English settlers is important and we must celebrate and hang on to that history but our story continues to be written…it is not stuck in time. 

Some of us play the accordion, step dance, and eat Jiggs’ Dinner. Others play the qilaut, dance salsa, or eat shawarma. Some of us roll down Broadway in our wheelchairs instead of strolling on foot. Some of us go to work in the sex trade instead of in an office in Atlantic Place. All of these experiences make us who we are as a people. To dismiss them is to erase the richness of our culture, to discount our collective wisdom, and to alienate members of our own communities. To dismiss these experiences is to impoverish ourselves.                                              

From Mapping A Diverse Newfoundland and Labrador by Ainsley Hawthorn

About the Author

Ainsley Hawthorn, Ph.D., (she/her) is a cultural historian, author, and multidisciplinary artist. Raised in Steady Brook, NL, and now based in St. John’s, she earned her doctorate in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Yale University. Her expertise includes sensory studies, Mesopotamian literature and religion, Middle Eastern dance, and the history of language. Hawthorn is a past fellow of Distant Worlds (Munich) and the Advanced Seminar in the Humanities (Venice), and she has been invited to lecture on her research at universities in Germany, Austria, Italy, Canada, and the United States. Hawthorn is passionate about using her academic knowledge to bring new ideas about culture, history, and religion to a general audience. As a public scholar, she blogs for Psychology Today, writes for CBC, and has contributed to various other publications, including The Globe and Mail, the National Post, and the Newfoundland Quarterly. She is currently completing her first solo-authored non-fiction book, The Other Five Senses.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Breakwater Books (Sept. 30 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 304 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1550818961
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1550818963

This article has been Digiproved © 2022 James Fisher
Acknowledgements: Stephanie Collins
Some Rights Reserved  

Death Between the Tables, An Old Manse Mystery by Alexa Bowie

“This is a helluva way to take people’s minds off last month’s murder, darling.”

That’s right, there’s been another murder at Emma Andrews’ Old Manse in Newcastle. Previous to this freshly dead body, a skeleton was found between the walls of the same building during renovations. Poor Emma. She’s trying to make a go of the Old Manse as an arts and culture venture for the city as well as maintaining an apartment there where she writes freelance articles on wine.

Emma is not one to shy away from solving her own mysteries, especially if the authorities appear to need a little help or appear to be dragging their feet. This sophomore effort from Alexa Bowie more or less picks up where 2020’s Death Between the Walls left off, as we can see from the opening quote by Emma’s Aunt Emm. The dead body between the tables is a long-time employee of the Newcastle Fire Department, and the investigation takes a turn when the Fire Chief gets involved, as he is one nasty piece of work and has it in for Emma, for no apparent reason that she can discern. Naturally, this heightens her curiosity even more.

The Old Manse Mysteries have all the necessary ingredients for a good “cozy”: a likeable protagonist, helpful and supportive friends and family, local yokels, and of course a body or two. I would rank this entry in the series as a notch above its predecessor, which was the typical introductory type of story where we meet the principals and get to know their backgrounds and roles in the town as well as those who use the Old Manse for creating their art. Now, with Death Between the Tables, we get more mystery and fewer character backgrounds. Well done, Ms. Bowie!


About the Author

Alexa Bowie writes cozy mysteries because she wants a well-written tale told that delivers a satisfying ending and because she wants her readers to experience a warm, humorous, story with a happy ending. This is her second novel in the Old Manse Mysteries series, with more to follow. Alexa makes her home in New Brunswick, Canada.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Independently published (April 21 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 238 pages
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 979-8738053863

This article has been Digiproved © 2022 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

When The Dead Are Razed by Samuel Martin

Feisty hipster Teffy Byrne is not one to take a back seat to anyone. Part owner of an independent newspaper and always on the lookout for a story, Teffy is about to become involved in a sinister plot in an attempt to protect her boyfriend Ger from his former drug boss, Troy Hopper. Teffy will stop at nothing even if it means becoming a drug mule for the newly released convict; a transaction that quickly gets out of hand when Teffy finds herself stranded on a remote Newfoundland island with a pound of Troy’s heroin hidden inside a dead woman’s urn. On top of all this, the stolen coded journal in her possession that once belonged to Ger’s old flame from his former life contains information that could blow everything wide open, exposing sensitive information about the illicit drug and sex trade that exists within the nooks and crannies of the island province of Newfoundland. When The Dead Are Razed by Samuel Martin is a harrowing North Atlantic noir that explores the dark underworld of ordinary people living a not-so-ordinary life.

She dives into the rain and finds her way to Ellie Strickland's gallery. Pushes the door open easily - no alarm, thank God - and digs the gum wrapper out of the striker plate and pockets it. The door clicks shut behind her and she heads up the stairs to the gallery, avoiding the clank and grind of the rickety lift. She steps into the gallery, the only sounds her ragged breath and rain slashed against glass. Shadows blue the fishbowl room, cast from the faint glow of unseen harbour lights out the rain-pelted windows. The whale's tail seems to flick in the strange light and the whole room tilts nauseously toward her, making the humpback look as if it's diving deep from outside the storm, its maw wide to swallow her whole.

Just pick up the package, she tells herself, gulping against the sudden urge to vomit. Call the cops on the way back across the island. Say Troy blackmailed you into playing delivery girl and abducted your boyfriend to force you.

Yeah right, she thinks.

When The Dead Are Razed is Samuel Martin’s third novel, following This Ramshackle Tabernacle (2010) and A Blessed Snarl (2012). Hailing from the mainland province of Ontario, Martin moved to the east coast in 2008 to begin studies at Memorial University of Newfoundland. It was during this time that he fell in love with his new island home and embarked upon this latest novel as “a love letter to a place” he terribly missed before leaving to teach in Iowa in 2012. Readers will be mesmerized by multiple plotlines and will be propelled mercilessly through the harrowing and sometimes jarring details of Martin’s vivid and unrelenting prose. A suspenseful read, I occasionally got lost in the fast-paced action of the many ordinary characters and the things that happened to them. Martin’s crime thriller does an excellent job at highlighting the many complex reasons for the crimes these regular people commit. In this narrative, love is the bright light that eventually triumphs over evil, but at what cost? The formidable protagonist Teffy Byrne’s strong desire to protect Ger from harm and avenge the death of his ex-girlfriend is what propels the narrative. Readers will find themselves immersed in Teffy’s world of poor decision-making and at times, utter mayhem, shaking their heads but wanting more.

She jolts awake yelling and whips the covers against the wall. A second ago, Jake had been riding her like an old hag, prying down on that scraper's bar. Choking her.

Spitting in her face.

Then the sleep paralysis broke. And now it's just her in the room. Christ on the wall there, holding out his Sacred Heart. The house quiet but for the wind knocking the window frames. That breath on her face. Ger's breath. She listens. A roundabout wind by the sounds of it. How did Fin say it? Anything can happen in a roundabout wind.

Out the toilet-side window, she sees Ellie's car in the drive still and Daryll's goats grazing freely beside the house. Still not a sound. So she zips up and thinks it's now or never to make that switch and call Troy. Find out where she can drop this shit, then get a hold of Ger.

When The Dead Are Razed by Samuel Martin is an explosive, well-written novel. Readers will tread lightly with one eye covered as they are thrust into the violent underbelly of the criminal side of Canada’s friendliest province. This novel is published by Slant Books.


  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Slant (Sept. 1 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 258 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 172525896X
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1725258969

Revisiting Restigouche: The Long Run of the Wild River by Philip Lee

When I worked in the newspaper business, a great editor and friend taught me how a true story well told becomes a parable. He was a libertarian editor in the old school who saw his newspapers as daily journals of moral conduct. When something is broken, it is the work of the moralist, the storyteller, to place a finger on it and then ask who’d responsible for fixing it.”  – Philip Lee, Restigouche

Last August I went on a long canoe ride down the Restigouche River with a guide who knows the river intimately; he knows the pools where you might find a salmon, he knows where you can and can’t camp or pull up a canoe, he knows who to talk to if you want to know more about the river than he does, and he shares what he’s learned about the river along the way. Philip Lee is that guide in Restigouche: The Long Run of the Wild River, and he tells a story not only of the Restigouche itself, but also the impacts of both colonialism and capitalism on the river and the people of the river, and it is a beautiful, sobering, and necessary ride.

Philip Lee the author is the son of my childhood Minister Reverend Philip Lee, and I know his family, though not well. My own father passed his copy of Restigouche on to me saying it had changed his perspective of how natural resources and native people have been treated in New Brunswick, and that I would appreciate Lee’s appreciation of nature (he was right). From the opening pages, Lee’s writing style and a clear sense of intention/moral compass reminded me of his father’s sermons, which enthralled and grounded me growing up.
When I returned, I lay awake long into the winter nights, trying to unweave and unwind all that I had seen and learned. At the end of my exploring I didn’t have all the answers and still wondered what the future might hold. What I did know was, like the man who washed his eyes in the Pool of Siloam, I had come back seeing.”

“Restigouche is a natural biography of sorts, and we get to know the river’s story through Lee’s first-hand experience, but also through his careful research and storytelling.”

I read Restigouche chapter by chapter, many of them sitting by the brook at the bottom of our lane near Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. It was just the way to read it, bit by bit because there’s so much to learn from this well-informed guide as you travel with him down the northeastern New Brunswick river. You’ll also want to savour the trip. Though it was a literary journey I went on via Lee’s Restigouche as he poled and paddled his canoe down the Restigouche, it felt like I was there on the river as a member of his party, listening to him and his companions tell stories around the campfire.

Restigouche is a natural biography of sorts, and we get to know the river’s story through Lee’s first-hand experience, but also through his careful research and storytelling. The impacts of elitist sport fishing, clearcutting, hydro-damming, herbicide spraying and overfishing are examined here, as is the indefensible tragedy and injustice of how the Mi’kmaq have been excluded from the waters they’ve inhabited for many thousands of years. Lee also retells the story of the 1981 Incident at Restigouche through voices of people who were directly involved, and which was a turning point for the Listiguj Mi’kmaq and reasserting their right to fish.

 As Canadians struggle personally and collectively to re-right the wrongs of the past (and present) at this juncture of truth and reconciliation, Lee’s book is an important contribution to better understanding what has happened not only to the Restigouche River–but to the whole country– and what it will take to fix it. It also says something about shame, and what it will take for us as a culture to own it and move forward. Because, as Lee writes “Rivers are remarkably resilient, but they do not wash away our sins.”

Lee takes on the job of moralist and storyteller in Restigouche; subtly asking who is responsible for fixing the Restigouche, though he gathers the information and leaves it to the reader to decide. What he is clear about, though, is that we as a culture have sanctioned travesty and destruction, and it will take much to heal the damage.

I hope I live long enough to see the day when the dams are removed, so I can watch the river begin to heal itself. Even if I do, I know that much of what has happened is irrevocable, the consequences of a series of decisions made by a few men during a period of about fifteen years during the life of a fifteen-thousand-year-old river.”

Published to acclaim in 2020, Restigouche reads almost like a parable or allegory about the arrival of colonial rules, private property law and resource exploitation, and the exclusion of people from their own native land and resources. Told with a journalist’s objectivity and a poet’s sensibility, Lee’s Restigouche is an extraordinary work of research and finely-crafted writing that should be revisited and widely shared. There is much to (re)learn and rehabilitate. Restigouche is part of that education.


Wanda Baxter is originally from the Kingston Peninsula, New Brunswick, and is the author of If I Had an Old House on the East Coast. She works as a creative and environmental consultant, and lives and works on an old farm in Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia.


This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James Fisher
Acknowledgements: Wanda Baxter
Some Rights Reserved  

An Embarrassment Of Critch’s: Immature Stories from My Grown-Up Life by Mark Critch

Mark Critch is known for being a son, brother, townie, actor, comedian, writer, father, husband, television star, ex-husband, husband again, author and most proudly a Newfoundlander and Labradorian first. His talent can be seen weekly on the CBC starting in the award-winning show This Hour has 22 Minutes. This is Crutch’s follow-up memoir to “Son of a Critch: A Childish Newfoundland Memoir”.

Travel along to small-town Trinity, Newfoundland then all the way to Kandahar and almost everywhere in between. The stories are both informative and laugh-out-loud funny as Critch makes his mark of filling his childhood dream of being an entertainer.

To be honest I didn’t know much about Mark Critch until I saw him one evening on the local news. He wasn’t on my local News doing an interview or a sketch bit. He was there as a proud Newfoundlander and Labradorian calling out PETA VP Sam Simon and actress Pamela Anderson as they tried to hand off a million-dollar cheque to buy out the sealing licenses from the NL Fishermen and women. Once you read what Critch does next, I promise you’ll be a fan of his for life.

The most touching chapter I read was “The Road” in which Critch shares about his personal life. His 22 minutes castmates and changing of different actors and actresses but all in all the main thing with this chapter I think it shows that how he embraces the ups and downs in life.  Showing that Critch is a real person just like the rest of us even though his career is in the spotlight.

Even though Critch has made a career of making fun of a lot of politicians and famous people he’s able to do this with the warmest regard. Not everyone could handle this kind of career because not everybody can go on TV and make fools of themselves for our viewing pleasure.

It’s amazing how Critch always stays true to his Canadian roots and he’s especially a proud Newfoundlander and Labradorian with his rise in fame over the years. It’s very apparent that Critch’s talent is on a global scale. I highly recommend this memoir for anyone who wants to unwind and have a few laughs. Two thumbs up!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

MARK CRITCH is one of the most recognizable faces in Canadian comedy and has won multiple awards for both writing and performance. For fourteen years, he has starred on CBC’s flagship show, This Hour Has 22 Minutes. As an anchor and “roving reporter,” he has brought celebrities and politicians to Canadian living rooms across the nation. He is the host of CBC’s Halifax Comedy Festival and has written for and appeared in CBC’s world-renowned Just for Laughs series.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Viking (Oct. 5 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 224 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0735235090
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0735235090

Cadence: Voix Féminines, Female Voices edited by Kayla Geitzler and Elizabeth Blanchard

Cadence: voix féminines, Female Voices is a compilation of poetry from twenty-five female New Brunswick authors with diverse styles and distinct cultural backgrounds, including French, Vietnamese, German and Arabic. Editors Kayla Geitzler and Elizabeth Blanchard brilliantly produced a chapbook that evokes feelings of empathy, resilience, empowerment, liberation, and self-awareness from a female perspective.

This collection is a dactylic combination of poetry and prose that is as diverse as its authors. An articulate mixture of writing styles has just enough use of metaphors and pathetic fallacy to describe the trials and tribulations of humankind beginning from birth and ending with death. In this particular case, the issues women encounter i.e., loss of innocence, youth, virginity, child, parent, and self with underlying tones of misogyny, devastation, regret, disappointment, and grief tend to be overpowering which makes it difficult to devour this book in one seating.

“An articulate mixture of writing styles has just enough use of metaphors and pathetic fallacy to describe the trials and tribulations of humankind beginning from birth and ending with death.”

A cultural patch-work quilt of verse that is mainly translated to English allows its audience to ride the highest tides in the world, to relive youthful joyrides, be named after a cloud “Cumulus congestus or cumulonimbus/Heaped, fibrous, anvil topped.” (Steel, pp. 37), feel the drumbeats of mother earth and watch a father’s dying soul carried away by “black talons spread/ at dawn/ my father’s last whisper/ hawr hawr hawr/ his raven took flight” (Bowman, pp.100)

Readers can peer through the eyes of those struggling with loyalty to self vs family and religious, sins of the father, belittlement, and the tearing away of innocence and how the subject chooses to succumb or rise above.

Loss seems to be the most prevalent theme between the covers of this extra-large chapbook beautifully illustrated by Nancy King Schofield. “The Night Mares” suits the ghostly cover illustration perfectly, as Vanessa Moeller refers to buried “cannon bone, pastern, coffin bone” that are “lost under pine and coyotes’ throated hunger.” (pp.69). This selection leaves the reader wondering if this is a metaphorical loss of one’s self as a result of a woman broken down by society or the loss of nature and ecology on a grand scheme.

This collection would be perfect on the curriculum of an advanced art literature course but may prove intimidating to the novice reader. It is the type of collection that, read more than once, would find new meaning each time, based on the reader’s self-reflection within the pages and may cause triggers for some. The task of reviewing the works of genius from these phenomenal female authors and editors was daunting, but their cadence beat strong and loud and needs to be revibrated to more voices.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Cadence may be purchased directly from Frog Hollow Press.
  • Edition of 135 copies. 150 pages*
  • ISBN 978-1-926948-92-8
  • Published: 2020  

Three for Trinity by Kevin Major

Three for Trinity, the third installment in Kevin Major’s Sebastian Synard Mystery series, finds our intrepid hero operating his boutique Newfoundland tour business in the days of Covid-19. After months of enforced inactivity, the establishment of the Atlantic Bubble means he can offer tours for small local groups, and it turns out there is sufficient interest in his services within the Atlantic region to justify going ahead. He decides to focus the tour on the scenic and historic Bonivista Peninsula and takes the group north, out of St. John’s, to the village of Trinity. Sebastian is serious about his responsibilities as guide. He’s not seeking distractions. But despite some doubts, he finds himself striking up a tentative romance with tour group member Ailsa Bowmore, a recently divorced inspector with the RCMP. As part of the tour of Trinity, the group attend a play at Rising Tide Theatre. But during the performance, one of the actors, a young man named Lyle Mercer, collapses on stage. Ailsa, assuming a first-responder’s role, and Sebastian attend to the stricken actor and see him rushed off to the hospital. But by next morning Mercer is dead. Speculation leans toward a drug overdose, but the toxicology analysis finds traces of poison. This is murder.  

“Kevin Major keeps the reader guessing in this propulsive narrative that features abundant twists and turns along with plenty of quirky humour and briny Newfoundland atmosphere.”

From this intriguing setup Major’s novel takes off. Acting on his own, Sebastian, a registered private investigator, goes undercover within Rising Tide to see what he can find out about Lyle and his relationships with the other actors. Ailsa leads the official investigation. Sebastian’s inquiry takes him beyond the theatre, into the community, where he meets local folks with whom Lyle came into contact, and ultimately deep into the past, where secrets and lies abound. Inevitably, he finds himself butting heads with the RCMP, and Ailsa in particular, who seems stubbornly disinclined to pursue the leads that Sebastian’s uncovered, and whose distant manner and overly decorous conduct leave Sebastian wondering if their evening of intimate disclosures actually happened.  

Kevin Major keeps the reader guessing in this propulsive narrative that features abundant twists and turns along with plenty of quirky humour and briny Newfoundland atmosphere. Once again Sebastian’s family life comes into play: his delicate balancing act with ex-wife Samantha, the worry and second-guessing that go along with helping to raise their smart, curious teenage son Nick. Three novels in, Sebastian Synard (“rhymes with innard”) remains an attractive protagonist, a shrewdly observant and empathetic pragmatist whose voice is peppered with snarky asides and cheeky observations on family, love, scotch, and the challenge of making ends meet in Newfoundland at any time but especially during a pandemic. Readers on the hunt for an engaging, fast-paced entertainment will not be disappointed. 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Governor General Award winner Kevin Major is the author of twenty-one books—fiction, literary non-fiction, poetry, and plays. His first novel, Hold Fast, is considered a classic of Canadian young adult fiction, and was recently released as a feature film. As Near To Heaven By Sea: A History of Newfoundland and Labrador was a Canadian bestseller. Land Beyond the Sea is the final book in Major’s Newfoundland trilogy of historical fiction, which also includes New Under the Sun and Found Far and WideOne for the RockTwo for the Tablelands, and Three for Trinity are the first three books in Major’s new series of crime novels. He and his wife live in St. John’s. They have two grown sons.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Breakwater Books (Oct. 15 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 224 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1550819143
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1550819144

This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Best Flanker Press Titles of 2021

As the province’s most active publisher of trade books, Flanker Press averages twenty new titles per year, with a heavy emphasis on regional non-fiction and historical fiction. The mission of Flanker Press is to provide a quality publishing service to the local and regional writing community and to actively promote its authors and their books in Canada and abroad.

Stephanie Collins is an enthusiastic reader of Flanker’s titles and reviews them for her own site, Fireside Collections and The Miramichi Reader. She was recently asked to select her favourite Flanker titles of 2021. She chose six, and here they are in no particular order.


1. The Hanged Woman’s Daughter by Nellie Strowbridge – Quite frankly, beautifully written with a captivating story to boot.

2. Rough Justice by Keith Mercer – In-depth and very well researched, providing readers with excellent historical information about policing in Newfoundland. A great piece of academia!

3. My Father’s Son by Tom Moore – Strong characters, rich symbolism. The more I reflect on this book, I wonder if Moore is using the characters and plot to infuse some of his own personal thoughts and political ideology about the unfortunate state of affairs of his home province, Newfoundland and Labrador.

4. The Stolen Ones by Ida Linehan Young – The final book (I’m guessing !?) of a great series!

5. The Body On The Beach by Patrick Collins – An overall great book, kept me reading, wanting to find out what happened. The ending caught me off guard completely, not what I was expecting.

6. Don’t Be Talkin’: Recitations and Other Foolishness From Newfoundland and Labrador by Harry Ingram – a fun, light-hearted feel-good read told in traditional Newfoundland prose! A reminder to look for the funny side of life.


This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James Fisher
Acknowledgements: Stephanie Collins
Some Rights Reserved  

Rough Justice: Policing, Crime, and the Origins of the Newfoundland Constabulary, 1729-1871 by Keith Mercer

The early 19th century was a time of great growth for St. John’s.   Under the administrative control of a colonial government and with a growing population and a demand for services, the lack of a municipal government within a community of landlords that were largely absent most of the time created conditions that were unsavoury at best. Though municipal taxation faced great resistance, lawmakers of the day made great strides in attempting to improve building construction, fire services and water and sewer in the growing fishing town. A small number of constables paid from the sale of tavern licences managed to keep some semblance of peace through nightly patrols but the government largely depended on the garrison and the clergy to keep the peace during times of crisis. In 1870, however, with the threat of maritime conflict fading, the Governor of the day, Stephen Hill,  was informed that the garrison would be recalled and that Newfoundland would now have to pay for its own security and defence. And so, born out of desperation, began the Newfoundland Constabulary and what would become the oldest police force in Canada.

Rough Justice, written by Newfoundland historian and Memorial University graduate, Keith Mercer, chronicles “the first detailed study of policing in early Newfoundland.” 

Rough Justice, written by Newfoundland historian and Memorial University graduate, Keith Mercer, chronicles “the first detailed study of policing in early Newfoundland.”  A project of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Historical Society and published in 2021 in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Constabulary’s establishment, Mercer utilizes a case study approach to “shed light on the social history of law and order in both St. John’s and the outports” focusing on the “lived experiences of the largely anonymous men who filled that position” as constable during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  Mercer’s historical analysis is garnered from detailed surveys of court records and documents organized chronologically over the course of two centuries.  Through the use of frequent storytelling and the presentation of various case studies, Mercer presents a scholarly account of a colony-wide endeavour to bring law enforcement to the area known as the Old English Shore.  The eight-chapter narrative is thorough and in-depth, citing archives and publications and also including maps, tables, appendices, a bibliography, and an index.  An 8-page album of black and white photos provides a visual context for the time period that Mercer comprehensively recounts in presenting the colony-wide endeavour to shed light on the social history of law and order in the fledgling colony. 

The Newfoundland experience was one of continuity and incremental reform rather than sudden change brought about by political or legislative milestones – in this, there are striking parallels with policing in other colonies and cities in British North America.

The narrative first begins chronicling some of the earliest visitors to our shores; the fishing admirals.  These mysterious fishing-ship captains selected the best beach space or fishing room but often ignored the legal responsibilities that came with the position, laying the groundwork for the introduction of the first constables in 1729.

Chapter 3 details the birth of police constables in Newfoundland, officers normally from middling occupations such as planters and who played an active role in regulating taverns and enforcing the observance of the Sabbath. The work was dangerous but the constables are seen as important figures in their communities and were elevated to a status of wearing a uniform and receiving a salary while playing active roles in serving the district and superior courts.

Chapter 5 details the tavern-keeper system which remained in place until the first full-time constabulary was created in 1812 and Chapter 6 tells the story of Newfoundland’s most prominent police officer, William Phippard, who led the way in fighting crime on the streets during a postwar depression.  As a lover of all things history and all things related to my culture, I found Rough Justice to be both an interesting and comprehensive analysis of subject matter not often explored yet crucial to the growth and development of modern society.  Though it was a slow-going read with a highlighter in hand, I often found myself revisiting many concepts for the sheer interest and amazement of the historical context in which it was presented.  There were many “Did you know?” moments that I simply could not contain!!

Rough Justice is a solid, well-written and expertly researched record of how Newfoundlanders lived and worked a century and a half before the formal establishment of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. It is the story of those many men who quietly enforced the law and helped to make communities safe through the maintenance of public order.  In the words of Chair Edward Roberts of The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Historical Society, it is “a valuable contribution to the public record of Newfoundland’s past”. 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Keith Mercer was born in Gander and holds graduate degrees in history from Memorial and Dalhousie Universities. He works for Parks Canada as the Cultural Resource Manager in Mainland Nova Scotia. He lives in Bedford, Nova Scotia, with his wife, Amy, and children, Abby and Sam.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Flanker Press (March 31 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 518 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1774570165
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1774570166

This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James Fisher
Acknowledgements: Stephanie Collins
Some Rights Reserved  

Unfiltered: An Irreverent History of Beer in Nova Scotia by Steven Laffoley

Folks, it’s right there in plain sight, in his last name. Laff. I mean, laugh. If you want to build your expertise on all things beer, from the making of to cultural artifacts and references along the way, AND you want to be entertained while doing so, this is one to add to your collection. Laffoly weaves technical process from the mash tun to filter types in between anecdotes, folklore and fun facts about local Nova Scotian history of beer with all the poise of an expert tittering tour guide worthy of high praise and monetary tips at the end. 

“What makes Unfiltered unique is the collection of facts and stories recounted while the author drinks his ale, served by some technologically distracted servers at local taverns.”

Unfiltered’s timeline is also delivered in chronological order for ease of association with process order. In the beginning, mead-chugging Vikings who invaded farmland near the Evangeline Trail may have introduced their wares to the Mi’Kmaq. Perhaps some harm, some foul, but they eventually left in search of other places and grapes worth conquering. A few centuries passed and the French settlers arrived with supper clubs and more imbibing opportunities. If you can make sense of the Shakespeare – Harvard University – Nova Scotia connection, I’m sure you’ll win a prize at a pub trivia night, so yet another reason to read this book. 

A #ReadAtlantic book!

As any book about alcohol consumption in Nova Scotia should, a brief history of distilleries and the popularity of rum is touched upon. And as this is a tribute to Nova Scotian heritage, you’ll learn more about the rise of Alexander Keith, and the comedically tragic fall of one of his lesser great-nephews.

What makes Unfiltered unique is the collection of facts and stories recounted while the author drinks his ale, served by some technologically distracted servers at local taverns. The entire book is a literal thirst trap, so I’d recommend investing in one of your local favourite craft beers while you enjoy a fun and funny course that includes forays into temperance, the reasons why different types of beer are served in different shaped glasses, and the cast of notorious and not-so-infamous characters who collectively seeded Halifax as the pub capital of Canada. It’s definitely worth an idea to have this one produced as a multi-episode podcast to reduce incidents of drunk retelling of tales, although apparently, as cited in this book, beer makes you smart and there are studies to prove such. Don’t believe me? It’s in here, it’s true, and the cenosillicaphobia is also real.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steven Laffoley is a writer, educator, and traveller. For almost two decades now, his numerous fiction and nonfiction books – including the award-winning Shadowboxing: the rise and fall of George Dixon, The Blue Tattoo, and Halifax Nocturne – explore the compelling people, unique character and uncommon stories of Nova Scotia. He lives in Halifax.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Pottersfield Press (July 12 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 180 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1989725597
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1989725597

This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

No Thanks, I Want to Walk by Emily Taylor Smith

I enjoyed Emily Taylor Smith’s travel memoir, Around The Province In 88 Days, enough to attend the launch event of her sequel, No Thanks, I Want to Walk: Two Months on Foot Around New Brunswick and the Gaspé. Somewhat ironically, no one had to travel to take part. It was a virtual event, like most readings over the past couple of years. Yet even through computer screens, a checkerboard of smiling faces couldn’t contain collective excitement. Along with shared pride and admiration. Pride and admiration in author Emily Taylor Smith and her accomplishments, having now walked thousands of kilometres for the sheer joy of it. Not to mention the friendships she makes. And her latest adventure, walking the perimeter of New Brunswick and the Gaspé Peninsula, is another epic journey for the record books.

The publisher’s blurb encapsulates the author’s undertaking:

“After completing a 3,000-kilometre hike of coastal Nova Scotia and making a number of dramatic changes in her life, Emily Taylor Smith is compelled to undertake another Maritime journey on foot, this time following the coastline of New Brunswick and the Gaspé all the way to Quebec City.

Bill’s new book is out now!

“She plans a solitary trip, searching for life lessons along the way and carrying everything she needs with her on her back. Emily severely underestimates the Fundy Footpath, struggles to communicate in French, nearly throws in the towel at the tip of Kouchibouguac Park, and survives a sleepless night in a collapsed tent on the windy Gaspé shore.

“What she doesn’t count on is the support which appears daily in the form of roadside messages, random gifts of ice cream, generous postmistresses and flag collectors, and help that comes from within. The challenging regimen of 45 kilometres a day for two months is transcended by a growing spiritual bond with the landscape that keeps her moving forward.”

What I enjoyed most about Smith’s latest adventure is that a depth of personal growth emanates from the page. Not only is it effectively articulated and shared, but is evident in the writing itself. I applaud the author for committing to the craft as much as her ambitious travel endeavour and succeeding at both.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Emily Taylor Smith grew up in Salisbury, New Brunswick. Her love of coastal hiking led her to walk the coastline of New Brunswick and the Gaspé Peninsula, as well as the perimeters of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

  • Title: No Thanks, I Want to Walk
  • Author: Emily Taylor Smith
  • Publisher: Pottersfield Press, 2021
  • ISBN: 9781989725337
  • Pages: 286 pp

This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James Fisher
Acknowledgements: Bill Arnott
Some Rights Reserved  

Just the Usual Work: The Social Worlds of Ida Martin, Working-Class Diarist by Michael Boudreau and Bonnie Huskins

Just the Usual Work: The Social Worlds of Ida Martin, Working-Class Diarist offers a historical narrative of Saint John, New Brunswick in the post-war period. Built from short diary entries penned by Ida Martin, grandmother of co-author Bonnie Huskins, the book follows the Martin family and their larger community from 1945 to 1992. Organized into six chapters, an introduction, and a conclusion, Just the Usual Work navigates local labour, gender, and familial histories. The text also raises questions of care and consumerism, and branches out from snippets of Ida’s everyday experiences and into the broader significance of religion, aging, and community relations. Through it all, Ida’s voice rings clear and offers access to a marginalized history of working-class women in the Maritime region.

Just the Usual Work brings together limited source material, family memory, and detailed scholarship to form an effective portrait of a place and people.”

Though Ida and her family are at the centre of the text, Huskins and co-author Michael Boudreau work to fill in the blanks created by the form of the diaries. Written as account-style ledgers of daily goings-on, Ida’s entries are sparse and use an economy of language that excludes detail while, at the same time, suggesting importance and meaning. Refrains like the title’s “Just the usual work” or notes about men “being bad” emphasize, to differing degrees, moments of both monotony and importance. As the authors note, in many places the diaries form a “textual collage . . . which contribute[s] to a representation of Ida Martin’s social and political self” (100). Likewise, Just the Usual Work brings together limited source material, family memory, and detailed scholarship to form an effective portrait of a place and people.

While some chapters scratch the surface of their intended focus, others offer an attentive investigation of their subjects. One of the most compelling aspects develops from an assertion made in the introduction, which outlines how the diaries were not an act of private reflection but rather familial record keeping. As the “key reference in her family’s efforts to reconstruct their collective pasts” (23), Ida’s diaries comprise recollections that were accessible to other family members. This positioning impacts what makes its way onto the page and what stays there. The authors make clear that what is left unsaid, scratched out, or written over in the diaries is just as important as what remains. In this way, the entries offer space for speculation, consideration, and questioning as a semi-public chronicling of events, a “textual projection of a life” mediated by a variety of factors, pressures, and external readers.

As a literary scholar, I find joy in the slow and careful reading of text within such complex matrixes. This joy is mirrored in Boudreau and Huskins’s methods, as they pay careful attention to language, tone, atmosphere, and materiality while discussing Ida’s writing. They observe, contextualize, and analyze the accounts while maintaining an accessible focus, making Just the Usual Work an enjoyable read for a broad audience. That said, some of the reflections on the difference between literary and historical approaches seem a bit heavy or excessive. There are also areas where I found the authors go to great lengths to underscore why this project matters, almost as if the anticipated reader is someone who will poke holes in, or undercut, the validity of the project. To me, the value of Ida’s life and diaries is overt and exciting, which left me wanting to dive in faster than this impulse to reasoning allowed.

Overall, Just the Usual Work is a wonderful addition to histories of the Maritime region and a loving homage to a woman whose diary practice spanned almost an entire lifetime. As Huskins and Boudreau navigate the accounts of Ida’s life, their analysis offers readers an overview of a community governed by patterns of seasonal labour, the need for frugal spending, and a complicated sense of contentment alongside a desire for stability. Without flourish or the time for embellishment, the ebb and flow of Ida’s narrative are enlightening and unique, so too are the insights Huskins and Boudreau garner from her words and experiences.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Boudreau is professor of criminology and criminal justice, St. Thomas University.

Bonnie Huskins teaches history at St. Thomas University and is adjunct professor at the University of New Brunswick.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ McGill-Queen’s University Press (Feb. 19 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 200 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0228005493
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0228005490

This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James Fisher
Acknowledgements: Gemma Marr
Some Rights Reserved  

A Canoer of Shorelines by Anne M. Smith-Nochasak

Every once in a while, you come across a novel whose characters and stories enfold you into the pages so effortlessly that you find it difficult to extract yourself even after you turn the final page. A Canoer of Shorelines is one of those books.

Set in Nova Scotia, near Kejimkujik National Park (or “Kedge” as it is locally known), A Canoer of Shorelines is about a farmhouse, Meadowbrook Acres, and two women, Rachel Hardy and Julie Martin, who are unknown to each other, but whose lives intersect at Meadowbrook, the so-called “dream house” because of the dreams both women had whilst living there. Dreams, the need for acceptance and a sense of home are themes that permeate Canoer.

Meadowbrook Acres is the hereditary home of the Hardy family. Once a working farm, it has now fallen to Rachel’s brother Samuel to maintain. Ironically, as he doesn’t want it to pass out of the Hardy family (even though no other family members are interested in it), he needs to rent it out in order to maintain and keep it. His sister Rachel used to live there, but due to the dreams she had there, she found she had to move out.

Julie is a young schoolteacher who has been teaching in Northern Canada, but now finds herself back home in Nova Scotia after she and her boyfriend Doug split, he leaving for a teaching job in Alberta, and taking Musko, a large black dog with him. Julie misses Musko more than Doug, who is the type of person that blames everyone but himself for his problems. Julie sees that Meadowbrook is available for rent, and as it was a house she was familiar with from growing up in the region, she wants to live there. She takes on substitute teaching work to pay the bills, particularly the oil bills for heating the draughty old farmhouse. She is soon befriended by Laila, who, it turns out, is Rachel Hardy’s best friend.

However, Rachel has been missing from the area for some time. She was living in a rustic cabin (“Wasaya”) with her dogs on a small island but appears to have left that abode as well. The stories of Rachel and the Hardy family as well as her sympathies for Samuel who so desperately wants to keep his family home intrigue Julie to the point of distraction, and the dreams she has in the house draw her ever further into the quest to find out where Rachel went and why.

"The dreams are growing, mutating into horror. The bittersweet dreams that pull at the heart are giving way to darker dreams, nightmares that cling to the skin when you awaken."

Ms. Smith-Nochasek’s writing style reminded me of another Nova Scotian, Carol Bruneau, as well as the lesser-known, but just as exceptional a writer, Dian Day. Here are a few samples:

Mid-August rains were wetter, colder, and darker. They robbed you of the last dazzling bike rides and the last ice creams at the beach.
A lone axe rings hollow and lonely across the campground. Laughter over breakfast hangs in the dark air; intrusive. Grey winds flip the leaves. The boughs swing, damp and distant, and you try to call your summer back but it is gone.
Laila carries other's burdens. She carries your hard things without burdening you with hers.
"The age of phrophecy closed before the time of the Maccabees," she [Rachel] continues. "So all your dreams are just that. Dreams. Imaginings. You can't dream the future into reality."

Written from two perspectives, the first-person journals of Rachel and the third-person story of Julie, Canoer drew me in as so few novels do these days. The characters of Julie, Rachel and Laila are well-defined and exist separately as well as interactively within themselves and with other lesser actors in the narrative. Male characters are less defined, and are, interestingly enough, defined through Julie in her dreams and imaginings and Rachel through her journals.

I highly recommend A Canoer of Shorelines. It is well-written novels like this that fly under the radar and we at The Miramichi Reader love to bring them to the forefront of CanLit.

A Miramichi Reader “Best Fiction of 2021” choice!


About the Author

ANNE M. SMITH-NOCHASAK grew up in rural Nova Scotia and was a waitress, nursing home worker, and many other things before turning to teaching. She taught in high school, elementary, and resource programs. Working in northern and isolated settings in Indigenous communities brought her greatest joy in teaching; there was acceptance and partnership there on the learning journey. Her son traveled with her for many years, but as an adult returned to his northern birthplace to live his father`s ways. She is currently retired in rural Nova Scotia. A Canoer of Shorelines, her first novel, began as the story of a haunted farmhouse, but as the characters grew, she realized that it was a story of forgiveness, acceptance, and love. She is currently working on a second novel, a story of love that culminates in a time of pandemic.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ FriesenPress (April 16 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 366 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1525598775
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1525598777

This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

The Last Time I Saw Her by Alexandra Harrington

Filled with mystery and drama, The Last Time I Saw Her by Alexandra Harrington is this summer’s young adult novel to read.

A year after leaving town without warning, Charlotte Romer returns home to River John, Nova Scotia. She left behind her only remaining family member, her brother Sean, who struggles to keep the lights on and food in the fridge, but remains a staunchly protective older brother. She also left behind her best friend Sophie, who was recovering from a life-changing accident and felt abandoned when Charlotte disappeared.

“The Last Time I Saw Her by Alexandra Harrington is this summer’s young adult novel to read.”

When Charlotte shows up unannounced to Sophie’s eighteenth birthday party one summer evening, tensions are high. It isn’t the homecoming that Charlotte had hoped for. As the days roll on, it becomes clear that something happened the night of the accident, and Charlotte is determined to find out what it is. But the more she searches for answers, the more the questions arise.

Family and friends are pitted against one another in this tale of broken relationships and unpredictable secrets.

The first half of the book was slow-moving—like a leisurely River John summer—but the second half picks up the pace as Charlotte rapidly connects the dots of the different mysteries enveloping her. There is an almost dizzying number of subplots pulling Charlotte in different directions, which require varying background information and draws out the start of the main plot. In the end, however, they all come together in a spiderweb of connected mysteries.

Our protagonist, Charlotte, is funny and relatable. It was easy to become immersed in the story through her eyes, to feel her grief and hurt, her joy and gentle happiness. I appreciated her wit, quick thinking, and commitment to the truth.

The slow-burn romance that develops with a childhood friend of Charlotte’s is also very well done and had me rooting for the pair the whole way. There are some brief but explicit scenes, so keep that in mind if you’re a younger reader.

Harrington’s writing is captivating, with lyrical descriptions and natural dialogue. She’s a welcome new voice in YA fiction and I’m looking forward to reading what she writes next.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexandra Harrington is a writer living in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she has worked as a restaurant manager, fiction editor, and waitress. She has a degree in journalism from the University of King’s College in Halifax. The Last Time I Saw Her is her first novel.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Nimbus Publishing Limited (June 3 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 304 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1771089369
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1771089364

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This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James Fisher
Acknowledgements: Claire Bennet
Some Rights Reserved