Category Archives: Newfoundland & Labrador

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  

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

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!


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

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. 


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”. 


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  

The Healer’s Journey by Jeanette Winsor

I was fortunate to read and review Jeanette Winsor’s prequel to The Healer’s Journey, The Apprenticeship of Molly Chant, and I experienced the same joy in reading the sequel. 

Once more Winsor takes us back to the outport of Silver Cape Cove in her home province of Newfoundland. This time our protagonist is Thomas Morely, the son of Joshua (Fodder) and Anna. Fodder is at odds with no fish in his traps and blames his son Tom, who due to his “fits” is labelled a “jinker”. Not only by his father but by the other fishermen. There are no secrets in the tightly knit community.  

Voices came from the other stages as he walked away. ‘What happened to Tom?’ ‘Is he all right?’ 

“All right? You knows he is. Like a youngster in the boat fer gawd’s sake. Hoppin’ around. Can’t keep his balance.” Fodder’s answer, barked out with shame, left him cold. 

Through subterfuge and an injury, Thomas is left ashore and the traps are full. What makes him different? And herein lies the story of Thomas Morley. 

If you read my earlier review of The Apprenticeship of Molly Chant, I extend the same praise for Winsor’s talent for creating explicit scenes in the novel. You can feel the excitement of a large catch of cod, the disappointment of empty nets, the heart-breaking distress of lost love, the fear experienced by soldiers, the emotional loss of loved ones, the love of family and the calling of the sea. You’ll visualize the rocky cliffs battered by sweeping waves, the raging storms, the horror of war, the unique attributes of her characters.  

Fodder’s expression changed. He stood still, feet planted firmly in the skiff, arms straight at his sides, eyes cold as the underbelly of a cod. 

Winsor has done an admirable job with The Healer’s Journey. She ties in the previous novel neatly; eye-opening surprises await you. You can’t help becoming emotionally involved with her protagonist. Not an easy task for an author, but one Jeanette Winsor excels at. 

Jeanette Winsor is a proud Newfoundlander, a writer of novels, short stories, and memoirs. Lover of books and Newfoundland music.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Independently published (June 23 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 319 pages
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 979-8525705050

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This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

My Visual Self Revealed: Original Paintings and Stories from Newfoundland by Elijah Lloyd Pretty

In his book of paintings and stories depicting life on the rugged coasts of Newfoundland, Elijah Lloyd Pretty shows eastern Canada in its best form. Bull moose and beaver dams, schooners and wharves, pond hockey under the northern lights— it doesn’t get any more Canadian. But Pretty’s Newfoundland offers a closer look into the expansive, diverse, often-quirky world of the Maritimes.

Denis Elijah Lloyd Pretty was born in 1944 in Chapel Arm, Trinity Bay. Rural Newfoundland, with its small-town communities and north-eastern landscapes, would become the focal point of Pretty’s work, an authentic portrayal of life in the Maritimes with all of its charm, peculiarities, and tragedies. His book, titled “My Visual Self Revealed” presents over 60 scenes of snowy mountains, rugged coasts, and children at play, accompanied by anecdotes, stories, and childhood recollections.

As Pretty’s son advises in the Foreword, “boil the kettle, grab yourself a slice of ‘lassy bread, pull up a chair, sit down, and get ready to lose yourself in the beauty, history, traditions and culture of our unique, rugged little corner of this wonderful world.”

From an early age, art was important to Lloyd. In 1956, his father bought a Marconi-brand with a round screen, which proved to be a pivotal moment in his life as an artist.

"When television first came to Chapel Arm, I used to watch a fifteen-minute program called /Jon Gnagy: Learn to Draw/. It came on every evening around 7 p.m. and I never missed a single episode. Every night before the show I'd be sitting in front of the television with my pencil and paper, ready to draw everything Jon drew. One Christmas I asked my mother for the drawing kit that was advertised on the show but she never said a word about it. That day we all got up and opened our gifts. I got a sweater and a few small items for school. When I realized that I didn't get the drawing kit, it was a challenge not to act disappointed. I was sitting off the side when Mom came down the hall carrying another gift. When I opened it and saw the kit, I nearly died on the spot. To this day, it's still the best gift I ever got."

For Pretty, art was more than a pastime. “Since I spent all of my spare time drawing, it was one thing I could do well and I was admired for it. People would always ask me to draw things for them and every Christmas, Easter and Valentine’s Day, the teacher would get me to draw something on the blackboard.”

Pretty’s portrayals of Newfoundland and the accompanying stories tell of a happy childhood.

"As a boy growing up in the bay, your only worries were why the trout weren't biting or if your can of worms went missing"

Pretty recalls the activities that kept him occupied as a child: skipping rocks at the wharf, sledding or “randying” down snowy hills, troutin’, and copying pans.

"Growing up in a small community around the coves of Newfoundland, we were blessed with a fun and enjoyable childhood. Looking back on those times as an adult is one of the main reasons why I created so many paintings set in the past when I was a small boy"

The infamous steam engine, ironically named the “Newfie Bullet” for its slow pace, which Pretty once rode to reach his favourite trouting spots, brought him beyond Newfoundland’s borders. As a young man, he worked on oil tankers in the Great Lakes, where he “developed a healthy respect for the sea as well as the sailors who lost their lives on its often-cruel expanse.” This respect for the sea can be seen in his depictions of boats: canoes in calm waters, schooners braving the waves, brigs shipwrecked by the hostile forces of the sea.

Pretty went on to build a successful career as an artist, selling out solo shows in Montreal, Halifax, and Stephenville, Newfoundland, where he ultimately settled. 

On January 30, 2020, Elijah Lloyd Pretty passed on at the age of 75 after a battle with prostate cancer. His artistic mark lives on in his paintings, which rendered the history, character, and life of Newfoundland into oil and acrylic on canvas. This book is the only retrospective of his work.

Lloyd (1944—2020) was born in Chapel Arm, Newfoundland to a large family. His father, Clarence, worked at a distant lumber camp and wasn’t always home, so the task of providing guidance and teaching often fell to his mother, Lucy. Even at an early age, art was a major part of Lloyd’s life. As an adult living in Montreal, Lloyd continued to hone his craft, resulting in many new creative ventures. His art career took flight when a gallery offered him a small show in Montreal and then in Halifax. With every solo show selling out, he quickly became a sought-after realist. In addition to teaching art classes independently and at the College of the North Atlantic, his work has sold all over the world, appearing in private and corporate collections.

  • Publisher : Crossfield Publishing (This book was first printed in June 2018. It was reprinted with minor text changes in Sept 2018.)
  • Language : English, English
  • Paperback : 128 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1775149625
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1775149620

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This article has been Digiproved © 2021 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

The Bullet: Stories From The Newfoundland Railway by Robert Hunt

Conceived in hope during the days of Colonial Government, the Newfoundland Railway survived 88 years and countless bureaucratic near misses before suffering its first blow in July 1969. With the suspension of passenger service aboard the Newfie Bullet, the 20-year-old CN Railway seemed to be doomed from the start and finally died in controversy in September 1988 with a payout from the Federal Government of Canada that promised to improve the provincial Newfoundland road system.

And so, just like that, a remarkable era of Newfoundland history came to a grinding halt leaving a whole population of people in mourning. The Bullet ~ Stories From The Newfoundland Railway is a compilation of memories, stories and recollections that provides a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes operation of a struggling transportation service and the proud people who lived and died on the tracks.

“Hunt’s passion for the trains and respect for his father, the passengers and the people who worked the rails was clearly evident on every page of this book.”

The Bullet by Robert Hunt is the fifth book following a trilogy of memoirs and a book of short stories that detail the life and times of growing up in St.John’s, Newfoundland, “when many people barely survived on their income.” Readers will be happy to know that Hunt opens this classic piece of Canadiana by detailing the historical context in which the Newfoundland Railway was born. History buffs will appreciate his comprehensive account of all the significant players who contributed to the success and eventual demise of the pre-Confederation railway.

True to form, Hunt writes from the heart in recalling his love for the railway and the people whom he befriended. As I read the 20 plus stories Hunt gleaned from his own memories and various interviews with CN pensioners, I was smitten by the tenderness and admiration that he exuded during his recollections. Transported back in time to an era where chivalry was alive and well and youth respected their elders, Hunt’s passion for the trains and respect for his father, the passengers and the people who worked the rails was clearly evident on every page of this book. Readers will also enjoy amusing side stories characteristic of the time. From train tragedies to transporting prisoners to travelling on the Trouters Special; it is easy to see why this iconic piece of history is still a great source of conversation in Newfoundland homes today. Most notably, however, I particularly enjoyed reading about how Hunt comes to meet and befriend Mr. Tommy Ricketts, a respected Newfoundland soldier and Victoria Cross recipient.

I loved my job. Every chance I got between meals I would find a spot in a coach or stand in between the coaches. I would look out at the scenery while the diesels and coaches zigzagged across Newfoundland. With every mile we covered, the landscape was more breathtaking than the last. The rugged Newfoundland terrain could not be matched anywhere else in the world, I thought. You have to ride a train to truly understand and appreciate the experience. Sitting there as it rolls along, hearing the whistle blow, listening to the sounds of these powerful engines, is a pleasure in its own right.

The Bullet ~ Stories From The Newfoundland Railway by Robert Hunt will transport you back in time with heartwarming stories of hard work, survival, and kindness. This piece of Canadiana is a must-read for all Newfoundlanders and lovers of Canadian history.

Robert Hunt was born and raised in St. John’s, Newfoundland. He grew up in a time when many people barely survived on their income. When he wrote his trilogy of memoirs—Corner BoysTownies, and Brazil Street—it was with the intention of showing readers what growing up in that era was like. It was also for the benefit of his grandchildren, who of course are growing up in a much different age. Robert has two children, Stephen Hunt and Heather Johansen, who both live in Alberta, and he is blessed with seven beautiful grandchildren. He and his partner, Marion Penney, reside in St. John’s. Robert can be reached by email at

  • Publisher : Flanker Press Ltd (Aug. 19 2020)
  • Language : English
  • Paperback : 220 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1771178094
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1771178099

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On This Day: 365 Tales of History, Mystery, and More by Dale Jarvis

In On This Day: 365 Tales of History, Mystery, and More, author Dale Jarvis offers a veritable buffet of factoids and history pertinent to Newfoundland and Labrador. Self-described as “weird little pieces of half-forgotten history and folklore from all over Newfoundland and Labrador, one for every day of the year,” (p. 2) the book is structured by calendar date, starting January 1 and running through to December 31.

Nautical disasters, youthful hijinks, mysterious explosions, community events, and “modern” (for the time) inventions are just a few of the subjects dealt with in the day-by-day snippets. The installation of a new curling and skating rink on Circular Road in St. John’s in 1883, the startup of the Blue Ribbon Coin-operated laundry on Pine Tree Road in Gander in 1962, and the establishment of night school for logging camp workers are among the entries, each allocated to the appropriate date.

Jarvis periodically includes visuals to liven the text, including an image of Lady Baden-Powell, a photo from the Royal Visit of Queen Elizabeth and King George V in St. John’s in 1939, and a picture of Bouncer, a Newfoundland dog presented to the Prince of Wales in 1901.

The bulk of the stories are drawn from the time period 1851-1950, although there are some events as early as 1503 and an entry as late as 2013. At the back of the book, Jarvis provides a comprehensive list of his sources.

“As provincial folklorist for Newfoundland and Labrador, Jarvis is eminently suited to pen a volume of this sort.”

Lisa Timpf

As provincial folklorist for Newfoundland and Labrador, Jarvis is eminently suited to pen a volume of this sort. Jarvis, who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in anthropology/archaeology from Trent University and a Master of Arts in folklore from Memorial University, has written other books about Newfoundland and Labrador ghost stories and folklore.

A #ReadAtlantic Book!

Variety in the length of articles, the themes and subjects covered, and the time frames from which the stories stem keeps the book from getting monotonous. Jarvis also changes up the style of his delivery, opting at times to quote directly from the source and at other times describing the event of the day in his own words, often adding additional historical context.

Though not all of the subject matter is inherently humourous, the book contains a generous amount of levity due to the nature of the events as well as Jarvis’ descriptions. Examples include the February 14th entry, which contains the details surrounding a “weighing party” held by the St. Andrew’s Church Aid Committee in St. John’s in 1899, and the June 3rd entry, titled “Larceny of Cod Oil—St. John’s, 1890” (p. 96):

Henry Taylor, an employee of A. Goodridge & Sons, was arrested for larceny of cod oil. Taylor had made away with several casks of cod-liver oil belonging to his employer, and then was brazen enough to sell the same casks back to the same company. The master cooper became suspicious when he recognized the cask as his handiwork, and the police were called in . . . 

The book also includes touching episodes, such as the letter from an Australian soldier, thanking a St. John’s woman “for the pair of socks she had knitted.” (p. 25)

On This Day is a book that is perhaps best enjoyed spread over several sittings, or even, as the title suggests, one day at a time. Packed history and whimsy, this volume holds interest for readers well beyond the geographic region of its focus.

About the author: Dale Jarvis is the provincial folklorist for Newfoundland and Labrador, helping communities to safeguard traditional culture, the first full-time provincially funded folklorist position in Canada. He holds a B.Sc. in anthropology/archaeology from Trent University and an M.A. in folklore from Memorial University. Dale is a past president of the Newfoundland Historic Trust and has contributed as a board member and volunteer to many local arts and heritage organizations. He regularly teaches workshops on oral history, cultural documentation, public folklore, and intangible cultural heritage.

  • Publisher : Flanker Press Ltd. (Aug. 5 2020)
  • Language: : English
  • Paperback : 265 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1771178132
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1771178136

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The Hush Sisters by Gerard Collins

Ghostly girls, a creepy cradle, and whispers from hidden passageways would be enough to make most people leave their family home. Regardless of any personal or generational connection to the place, an average person would be put off by putrid smells or the continual feeling of someone watching over them while they slept. Sissy and Ava Hush, of Gerard Collins’s new novel The Hush Sisters, are definitely not most people.

Quiet, reserved, and happy to spend her time alone, Sissy Hush finds comfort in the dark. Though she doesn’t always understand why she is connected to their haunted family home in a way her sister Ava is not. Boisterous, dramatic, and living a tumultuous but lonely life in Toronto, Ava is vocal about her hatred of the Hush house. She wants to sell the property and leave Newfoundland with cash in hand. While the sisters have very different feelings about the place, they remain connected to and by its spectres and its secrets.

This core tension around the fate of the Hush home guides the narrative, but Collins offers no simple domestic drama. In fact, The Hush Sisters is tricky to effectively synopsize, but it’s safe to say that the deaths of their fragile mother and their brutal father cause the sisters to reflect on their lives. They reckon with difficult memories, struggle to reconnect after years apart, and confront both past and present mysteries as they unfurl—penetrating and deliberate—like a fantastical fog.

“Collins is skilled at crafting descriptive yet off-putting prose (in a good way), and his character development draws readers in.”

gemma marr

Collins is skilled at crafting descriptive yet off-putting prose (in a good way), and his character development draws readers in. Sissy is particularly compelling. Her compounding worries align with an emerging sense of self-awareness, and a new love interest from out of town shakes things up even further. She reaches out for answers and connection as the novel moves forward, and with pain and horror comes unexpected clarity.

Just as the characters develop in interesting ways, so too is the Hush family house wonderfully rendered. A dilapidated Victorian manor of the best kind, lies and shame mix like a disease and rest in the veins of the walls or rot in “the bowels of the house” where Sissy spends her time. “Castle Hush” as Ava calls is, “rises up from the dark landscape like some grotesque monstrosity.” It is the locus of the darkness in the family and Collins paints an effective picture of its power. The mysterious past and jittery present are all impacted by different spaces—like the garden, the baby’s room, or the basement—and haunted by different kinds of presences.

At times, the various threads can be hard to follow or become disconnected. I found myself needing to know more about certain characters (like the eccentric and loving uncle, Cotton Hush) or curious about conflicting details. These discrepancies may frustrate readers looking for a tidy mystery to solve, but in the end I considered them to be part of the novel’s atmosphere. A sentiment toward obscurity is made clear by Sissy in the opening pages. She is “confused about what was solid, what was imaginary”, and notes that “more and more, she was getting used to not knowing everything.”

The novel draws readers in and makes us feel off-kilter, simultaneously intriguing and repelling while building curiosity and momentum. With suspense and séances, ominous gardens and hidden staircases, creepy portraits and eruptions of Great Big Sea from empty rooms, The Hush Sisters has all the tenets of Newfoundland Gothic saga that will grip readers from the beginning.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

About the author: Gerard Collins is a Newfoundland writer whose first novel, Finton Moon, was nominated for the International Dublin Literary Award and won the Percy Janes First Novel Award. His short-story collection, Moonlight Sketches, won the NL Book Award, and his stories have been published widely in journals and anthologies. He lives in southern New Brunswick.

  • Paperback : 312 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1550818414
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1550818413
  • Publisher : Breakwater Books (Oct. 5 2020)

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Blaze Island by Catherine Bush

Blaze Island opens with a Category Five hurricane off one of Newfoundland’s most northern Islands, a ferry ride from Gander. Rain and wind batter the Island and the home of Milan Wells and his daughter. A disturbance from the front door finds a young man, soaked and unconscious.

Catherine Bush tells us a story of the climate changes that threaten the world as we know it. Climatologist Milan Wells escapes to the Island, with his daughter Miranda, grieving for his dead wife and disgraced by the denial of his peers for his warning that the climate is in trouble. Miranda is approaching adulthood. Having lived under her father’s strict rules and secrecy, she questions her father’s intention and her own loneliness. We get an understanding of the past with Miranda’s memories.

Miranda is friends with her father’s assistant, Caleb, who is infatuated with Miranda but she has a new interest with Frank, the visitor stranded on the Island. Other strangers arrive that are wealthy and interested in Well’s ideas of controlling the weather. But nor for any idealistic reason, other than how it can be used to their advantage.

Catherine Bush’s distinctive prose makes the reading enjoyable. One can experience the isolation, the ways of the locals, the revelation of the problems with the climate. She points out a dire situation that climate change could bring and offers us food for thought towards a better future. Her attention to detail and research is evident throughout the novel. People who are concerned about the changes in the climate and how it can affect us will like this story.

  • Paperback : 365 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1773101056
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1773101057
  • Publisher : Goose Lane Editions (Sept. 1 2020)

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Operation Wormwood: The Reckoning by Helen C. Escott

The long-awaited sequel to Operation Wormwood (2018, Flanker Press), The Reckoning concludes the story of a disease that appears to only target pedophiles and is accredited to God by those of the Roman Catholic Church.

I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to say that Helen C. Escott is Newfoundland’s premier crime-thriller author. Her novels such as Operation Vanished (2019, Flanker Press) and now the two Operation Wormwood books will cement her career as such. All three books lean toward the “cozy’ side of the crime-thriller genre, but they have touches of grittiness that keeps things a little on the edgy side too. Her decades of service as a civilian employee of the RCMP serves her well when it comes to the force’s officers (who are styled after real-life members of the RCMP and RNC) including the crimes and criminals they encounter as well as the investigative process.

“I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to say that Helen C. Escott is Newfoundland’s premier crime-thriller author.”

The Reckoning continues with the same character ensemble as it’s predecessor: Sgt. Nick Myra of the RNC (Royal Newfoundland Constabulary), Father Peter Cooke, former nun Sister Pius (now Kathis Fagan), pedophile Kevin Macy, nurse Agatha Catania and Dr. Luke Gillespie of the Health Sciences Centre. (As I mentioned in my review of Operation Wormwood, these appear to be the only doctor and nurse working there, and they are always there when something major happens). Kevin Macy is free on a technicality and Sgt. Myra is out to get him behind bars. But will Wormwood kill him before he can do any more harm? This, along with the Roman Catholic Church’s involvement in the global spread of the disease are the two main storylines. The other is Myra’s PTSD and his attempt to reconcile with his ex-wife Maria, which adds a human touch to the otherwise beleaguered Sgt.

As with any mystery (and particularly so here), certain stretches of the imagination are required to keep the story uncluttered and progressive in the telling. As a health care professional, I chafed at some of the medical scenes and the lack of other medical personnel in the care of Wormwood patients, but this is something that will pass unnoticeably to the majority of readers.

I highly recommend the reading of the two books in order, so if you haven’t read Operation Wormwood already, then you should do so before reading The Reckoning. Both books are well-written and contain enough plot lines to keep the reader thoroughly engaged. I know I was! Well done, Ms. Escott!

  • Format: Paperback
  • Published:2020-09-02
  • ISBN-13:9781771178174
  • Pages: 322

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Cod Collapse: The Rise and Fall of Newfoundland’s Saltwater Cowboys by Jenn Thornhill Verma

Jenn Thornhill Verma’s Cod Collapse: The Rise and Fall of Newfoundland’s Saltwater Cowboys is a tricky text to categorize. Part memoir, part historical overview, and part reckoning, Cod Collapse traces the development and decline of the ground fishing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. Centred on what is commonly known as the ‘cod moratorium’ of 1992, Thornhill Verma uses her personal and familial connections to Newfoundland to contextualize the ripple effects of the closure. 
As the “largest industrial lay off in Canadian history”, the scale of the devastation caused by closing the fishery is difficult to grasp. More than just the loss of work, a way of life was and remains altered¾houses are left empty as people look for work elsewhere, aging populations struggle to retain services, and social spaces once central to these communities no longer function as hubs of connection and culture. The psychological, social, and economic impacts of this loss are complex. Yet there is hope, and later sections of the text comprehensibly outline what a sustainable fishery could look like if focused on jobs creation, food security, and waste reduction. 
Thornhill Verma moves expertly between historical fact, qualitative interview, and personal reflection. Stories of resilience and ingenuity rest alongside accounts of hardship and death. Detailed profiles of burgeoning photographers and well-known songwriters are buttressed against ecocritical reflection. Careful descriptions of different fishing methods are nestled next to overviews of programs aimed at supporting a new generation of fishers. In a particularly poignant passage, she writes: “In the years leading up to the ‘cod moratorium,’ I was a preteen, finding myself in the world. In those formative years, it felt as though my family and province were losing their identities.” Later, with the ebb of collective identity loss continuing to impact her maturating sense of self, Thornhill Verma recalls developing complex feelings toward Newfoundland due to outsider perceptions of the province as ‘have not’ and ‘lazy.’ “I came to think of fisherman, Newfoundlander, and Newfie as dirty words”, she recounts, noting it wasn’t until well into adulthood that she reflected on the origins of these feelings. Personal recollections like this contextualize the historical record, and make the scientific data more accessible and affective for readers.

“The tactile energy of Thornhill Verma’s prose and her attention to narrative structure underscore the enduring significance of the ‘cod moratorium.’ “

There are areas where the volume of material becomes overwhelming. The movement through different family trees is a bit hard to follow, and I found myself wondering about some of the information discussed in passing but not developed more fully. This is, however, due to the nature of such a vast topic. Overall, the text is well-organized and offers a captivating account of personal and collective experiences of loss and resilience.  
In preparing to write this review, I found myself wondering who the ‘ideal reader’ would be for Cod Collapse. In the end, I can’t land on a single answer. Those interested in regional history, environmentalism, and/or extractive and industrial labour practices will certainly find this a thought-provoking read; so too will lovers of memoir, those interested in principles of community conservation, or concerned with the role of the arts in cultural preservation. Ultimately, though, Cod Collapse will appeal to those who enjoy a well-written story. The tactile energy of Thornhill Verma’s prose and her attention to narrative structure underscore the enduring significance of the ‘cod moratorium.’ Weaving a tapestry of historical reflection with the beauty of the everyday, Cod Collapse dynamically presents the complexities of place, the ongoing impacts of governmental failure, and the precious and intense pull of home.  
  • Paperback : 272 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1771088079
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1771088077
  • Product Dimensions : 15.24 x 1.8 x 22.86 cm
  • Publisher : Nimbus Publishing Limited (Oct. 30 2019)

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Man And Dog by Justin Barbour

In April 2017, Justin Barbour and his Cape Shore water dog, Saku, arrived in Robinsons, on the Rock’s west coast, where they began a quest to experience the province’s woods and waters first-hand. A late winter lingers as they push over the Long Range Mountains to the interior of the island, where they hope thawed lakes and rivers will allow them to continue by inflatable raft. From sunrise to sunset, follow the companions as they battle the dangerous and unforgiving elements to reach Cape Broyle, some 700 kilometres away.

I like travel. Simple as that. Travelogue, travel lit, travel memoir – I’ll read it, and I’ve read a lot of it. Written some too. So when I saw Justin Barbour’s Man and Dog on my friend’s stack of books, I had to have it. That friend being generous, the book’s now mine. And I’m glad it is.

There’s an old joke. Goes like this. Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. And those who can’t teach, teach gym. Untrue but funny. So if I were a prejudiced profiler, in any way influenced by the old joke and its associated stereotypes, I may be disinclined to include part-time phys-ed instructor Justin Barbour with the literati. I don’t like to judge, mind you. Nor have I been asked to. But as a comedian once said, the job was there. However. Preamble, prejudice and tasteless jokes aside, author Justin Barbour is in fact a capable, engaging writer with a knowledge and passion for the outdoors as exemplary as Wordsworth, Macfarlane, or Oliver, with the ability to capture it like Proenneke or Stroud.

I liked Man and Dog the moment I started reading it – timeline, maps and photos laid out with care – the methodical approach of a well-prepared adventure-traveller, with enough cockups and poor decisions to make it relatable. It’s impossible to dislike our nonfiction protagonists – in this case, Barbour and his Newfoundland Cape Shore water dog Saku. As the two undergo their audacious quest – a self-powered trek across Newfoundland, we can’t help but pull for our affable explorers. Whether by default or design I can’t say, but Saku quickly becomes our story’s hero. Barbour’s love for his dog – his best friend – leaps from the page, puppy-like, to lap at the reader’s face. It’s infectious in its sincerity. In the author’s honesty, I see the welcoming warmth of east-coast storytelling taking the lead like a fiddle-fuelled ceilidh.

With that, we walked off the pond. Near an outlet to a river I heard a few rumbles under our feet. I froze and called Saku to my side. We were at least a hundred feet from the opening, but I was worried the day’s heat was further loosening things up. It was either that or an air pocket. Thankfully the latter proved true, and we continued back up the hill and over the snowdrifts. I went back to the summit, but there was no case to be found. I came to grips with the loss and headed back to Rang Tang. Trekking back, the landscape resembled a vast wasteland. With rolling white hills as far as the eye could see. Still no big game had surfaced, and I was starting to feel disappointed. Where were they hiding? This was a playground for them!

If you, like me, like travel writing and armchair adventures, Justin Barbour’s Man and Dog delivers. I applaud this outdoorsman-writer-photographer-filmmaker on his accomplishment – the trek, the photos, the book – a well-executed, outdoorsy trifecta. Like anything, even if it’s not your thing, hearing it from someone with knowledge and passion makes it interesting and enjoyable. Which Barbour accomplishes in spades. To take a page from this book’s openness, I now have a confession. I’m not one for adoration but reading this book I developed a bit of a fanboy crush. Yes. I’ve fallen for Saku.

Title: Man And Dog: Through the Newfoundland Wilderness
Author: Justin Barbour
Publisher: Flanker Press, 2019
ISBN: 9781771177559
Pgs: 300

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