Tag Archives: Miramichi

Death Dealer by Kate Clark Flora

On January 26th, 2003 David Tanasichuk of Miramichi New Brunswick called the Miramichi Police Force (MPF) to report that Maria, his wife was missing. He stated that she had been gone since January 14th and he hadn’t heard from her since. An MPF constable, in following up on the call said: “Hi David, I understand you haven’t seen your wife since January 12th?” Tanasichuk replied, “Yes.”

“I found that the Miramichi investigators were very open to discussing the details of the case, and the story they told me was very compelling.”

Kate Clark Flora

That was the first of many mistakes that David Tanasichuk would make over the course of the investigation. Maria’s body was found in the woods five months later. What is notable in this case is the use of cadaver dogs and their trained handlers from Maine who volunteered their services for their cross-border neighbours.

Kate Clark Flora, a former assistant attorney general for the State of Maine and crime writer has produced an excellent moment-by-moment account of how members of the small but very capable police force of Miramichi with the assistance of the Maine warden service and Maine Search and Rescue Dogs were able to find Maria’s body once the snow melted enough for the cadaver dogs to get a scent of the decomposing body. It is highly readable, suspenseful and educational (for police procedure, cadaver dogs and the legal system) all at the same time. Ms Flora had the full co-operation of the MPF in the writing of Death Dealer (New Horizon Press, 2014), which makes it feel even more authentic and adds to the realism. Highly recommended for true crime readers and those who enjoy the Law and Order/CSI type of story.

Hardcover, 300 pages with 8 pages of black and white photos.

The following Q&A with Kate Clark Flora is reprinted by kind permission of New Horizon Press:

Kate Clark Flora

What kinds of twists and turns interested you in this case?
The relationship that existed between the Miramichi police and David and Maria Tanasichuk at the time Maria disappeared was unusual. Though David had a lengthy criminal record, an explosive temper and a reputation for violence, the relationship had become a close and supportive one, developed when the police became involved in the death of Maria’s only child, B.J. The bonds forged as the police supported them through the investigation and trial of B.J.’s killer had softened the Tanasichuks’ anti-police stance to the extent that David Tanasichuk had actually told Detective Brian Cummings that if they had another child, they would name it after Cummings. So close that Cummings had even considered inviting the couple to his wedding.
That close relationship pulled them into the case in a powerful way when David Tanasichuk first called them to report his wife missing and begged for their help in finding her. And made it feel like a greater betrayal when they realized how many of David’s statements to them were lies.
What is it about Maria’s murder that touched the police involved in the investigation so strongly?
During the investigation of her son’s death, the investigators, primarily Paul Fiander and Brian Cummings, had become close to the Tanasichuks. Both of them fathers who are devoted to their own children, they were touched by Maria’s deep sorrow over the loss of her only child. Part of the role that police officers play in a homicide, especially in situations where there isn’t a victim/witness advocate, is helping the family through the legal process. Here they watched a woman who had been hardened by lifelong contact with the legal system into being distrustful become a softer and more vulnerable person, a person they could care about. When she disappeared, the loss was personal and, while all victims matter, getting justice for this particular victim became extremely important.
David and Maria appeared to have a close and loving relationship. What is it that the investigators discovered that changed their understanding of this marriage?
In the past, I was a government attorney doing child support enforcement and protecting battered kids. Later, I did domestic relations law. What I learned from the former was that people are very good at excusing their own bad behavior. From the latter, that sometimes the stories people who’ve been married tell are so divergent you might think they’d never met, let alone spent decades together. But when I started talking to Miramichi detective Brian Cummings and to Maria’s friends, what I learned about David and Maria Tanasichuk was that they had been deeply in love. Friends described them as always together and expressed envy at their closeness. I was curious to explore how that had changed, and what it was that had led David to kill his wife rather than divorcing her.
Something that crime writers know is that the underpinnings of many crimes are people’s secrets, and people will go to great lengths to keep them. I was curious to find out what David Tanasichuk’s secrets were. In addition to affairs and flirtations, some of which Maria knew about and had forgiven, and drug dealing, the investigators learned that David had much deeper secrets, secrets which involved the death of at least one, and possibly two, other people. As long as the Tanasichuks were happy, Maria was willing to be the keeper of her husband’s secrets. But if the marriage fell apart, that incentive might go away.
From a civilian’s perspective, what drew you into the events surrounding Maria’s murder and compelled you to write about them?
Initially, I was interested in the case because it involved the Maine game wardens and I was fascinated by these almost unknown public servants who possessed skills and expertise that could be put to use in assisting in criminal investigations.
Then I found that the Miramichi investigators were very open to discussing the details of the case, and the story they told me was very compelling. I was intrigued by taking readers behind the news stories and into what really happened in the investigation.
Three aspects of the case, in particular, attracted me. First was the discovery that this wasn’t an isolated domestic homicide. David Tanasichuk had a reputation for violence and an aversion to police pressure that had led him, in a prior instance, to plot the assassination of a police officer, the crown prosecutor and the judge in a case against him, so they knew that he was a dangerous individual.

David Tanasichuk

Second was an aspect of the case I call “crossing the thin blue line.” In general, due to their small numbers, police are only able to function in society if they enjoy a level of protection and respect that make harming them unthinkable. This is doubly true for their families. In this case, the investigators discovered, through an informant, that Tanasichuk had become so angry at their questions and surveillance, and the way that impacted his life, that he had decided to target their families if they didn’t back off. This turning of the tables was unusual and added a powerful extra dimension of tension to the story. Third was their unwillingness to quit when endless initiatives and relentless searching failed to turn up Maria’s body. It’s tempting, when a criminal investigation hits a wall, to move on to something else. The Miramichi detectives’ willingness to “think outside the box” when months passed and they were unable to find Maria’s hidden body was impressive, beginning their stories of the many avenues they investigated, such as metal detectors and searching with poles and nighttime surveillance. They then explored cadaver dog resources in Canada and looked across the border to the United States for help.
Cadaver dogs play a key role in solving this case. How did you learn about the ways in which cadaver dogs work?
I was the beneficiary of the generosity of both the warden service and Maine Search and Rescue Dogs, who allowed me to attend training in search and rescue and in cadaver dog training. Reading a dozen books can’t duplicate the experience of watching. The bond between the dog and handler is a very powerful one and it was fascinating to watch a series of different handlers take their dogs through training exercises. I watched beginners working with a row of cinderblocks where a single coffee can held cadaver scent to experienced dogs working different situations where the scent might be above ground, buried or even up in a tree in a large block of land.
I watched warden dogs doing building searches where cadaver scent was present, scent running the spectrum for a very recent scent to many years old and got to observe the ways that individual dogs would respond. Some are averse to the scent; others will thrive on finding it. Trainers will carry many different types of scent to prepare dogs for different situations, including scent from burned bodies and scent that may be a decade old. As part of the training, I also got to be a victim hidden in the woods that the dogs had to find.
In what ways are cadaver dogs different than general search and rescue dogs?
Put most simply, cadaver scent searching is one of the many expertises that search and rescue dogs will acquire. There are defined rules for the different abilities and the dogs must train and then pass a test to be certified in different areas of searching.
The case’s investigators were eager to have their story told, yet getting them to tell it was a complex process involving time and trust. How did you earn their trust and get them to open up?
One of the initial challenges of writing about a real crime from the police perspective is getting their trust. Law enforcement personnel are naturally skeptical about civilians and can be wary about whether a writer is going to write bad things about them. I was lucky in this case that my introduction came from Lt. Dorian, because, in their minds, his contribution to the case had been instrumental in helping them solve it, something they could never have done without Maria’s body.
That got me through the door. After that, it was up to me. I’ve found that having a genuine and sincere interest in their stories, and being a good listener, helps. I’m pretty new to this, so when I’m done with what I think are the right questions, I always say: Now what are the questions I should have asked you? That usually brings me the most useful information.




This article has been Digiproved © 2017 James Fisher
Acknowledgements: New Horizon Press
Some Rights Reserved  

A Deadly Drive – The Miramichi Experience During the Great War by Gary Silliker

An excellent book, primarily due to the research and the compilation of all the information Mr. Silliker was able to discover on the many men and women from the Miramichi area that served in WWI. Arranged in a logical fashion, the text also includes tidbits of local news as well as notes on the progression of the war and what was happening back home.

The devastating effects of the Spanish Influenza pandemic, that may have taken more lives than were lost on the battlefields, is not forgotten. A Deadly Drive tells the story of many individuals swept up in the work of war. All the known Miramichi “war dead” of the Great War are accorded detailed obituaries throughout the book. Details are also provided about individuals, men and women, who were decorated for duty, bravery and/or distinguished conduct in the face of the enemy.

A gem of a book for anyone interested in Miramichi history, or New Brunswick war history in general.

Gary Silliker is proud of his Miramichi roots. He has always had a keen interest in the men and women who were swept up into the events of the world’s first global conflict – The Great War for Civilization. He had a lengthy military career, proudly serving with the Canadian Military Engineers. In 2005 he took leave from his position with the UN Mine Action Center in Afghanistan to tour the battlefields of France and Belgium and seek out the graves of the Miramichi war dead. That journey prompted him to research and write A Deadly Drive. Gary and his wife currently reside at “Sappers Rest” in Mahone Bay, NS, and have two children and four grandchildren.

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Rapid Reviews: Two Non-Fiction Titles (April 2016)

The coming of spring brings with it many new book releases and the ‘read’ stack here at the Miramichi Reader is getting high. So I have resorted to writing some ‘rapid reviews’ of books that I have read and that do not require a lengthy article to summarize them. This works particularly well for non-fiction titles and I have two that I would like to incorporate below:

Talented Miramichiers in the Gilded Age by Thomas W. Creaghan

Subtitled “Irish Miramichiers who Made a Difference at Home, New York, Leadville and Bathurst” this 368 page book makes for fascinating reading as it relates the story of Sam Adam’s arrival as an Irish immigrant in Douglastown, New Brunswick in 1835. What makes it so fascinating is not just a description of the state of affairs of the Miramichi region in the 19th century, but how successful the family of Samuel and Mary Ann Adams became. They were successful not only in New Brunswick, but also in New York City as employees and later, as owners of a huge dry goods department store. This was the age of the rise of the Sixth Avenue department stores: Macy’s, Claflin’s, etc. From there, investment in a productive silver mine in Leadville Colorado, mills in Bathurst and Quebec, politics (U.S. and Canadian) and so on. Yet, they never forgot their Miramichi roots, coming back when they could to enjoy family and fishing and hunting on the river. Mr. Creaghan (who is a distant relative of the Adams) has done a massive amount of research, both here in Canada, in the U.S. and abroad, as he attempts to find out more about Samuel Adams before he left Ireland to come to Canada. It is all described and catalogued in the Bibliography and end notes. A great book for the New Brunswick historian, and the section on the what big business life was like in New York City in the late 1800s and early 1900s makes for especially intriguing and enlightening reading. Published by Friesen Press, 2015

My Life With Trees by Gary L. Saunders

Trees are underrated, even taken for granted, especially if you live in a heavily forested area like Atlantic Canada. Gary L. Saunders, a retired forester and professor, sets out change our perception of trees, one species at a time in this 2015 offering from Gaspereau Press. Each chapter is dedicated to a particular tree indigenous to Atlantic Canada starting with conifers, then moving on to the broadleafs. The chapter starts with a brief introduction: latin name, form, silvics, lifespan and identifying traits. Then the author relates some relevant history of each species, as well as his own personal encounters with that type of tree throughout his life. It makes for surprisingly good reading and it made me want to take more notice of the trees I encounter every day. All that is really missing from this book are drawings of trees, leaves, cones etc. that would have been helpful in field identification. Then again, this book is not really a field guide, but more of a companion guide. A good title to have handy at the camp, along with your bird and plant identification books.

This article has been Digiproved © 2016 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

The Michelle Butler Hallett Interview

St. John’s Newfoundland writer Michelle Butler Hallett is the author of This Marlowe (2016, Goose Lane Editions), an excellent historical fiction novel set in Elizabethan England. Now, it was my intention to interview her about the writing of the novel, doing the research for it and such, but there already exists several YouTube videos of Michelle explaining just about everything one would want to know about writing and researching for This Marlowe, so I gave up on that idea; Goose Lane had beat me to the punch.

Here’s one of Michelle explaining the process of writing This Marlowe:

I then learned from Kathleen Peacock, Goose Lane Edition’s publicist, that Michelle is an honorary Miramichier! Now there’s something I would like to know more about! So I wrote Michelle and she agreed to tell the story, which makes for interesting reading:

1989, Ottawa. My boyfriend (later husband), David Hallett, joins me at Carleton University, and we settle in.  David is  pursuing his MA and wants to focus on Canlit, on fiction. He’s thinking about Robertson Davies. His supervisor doesn’t care for Davies’ work and suggests instead a novelist from New Brunswick. I got my hackles up, expecting this Ontario professor to then ask us if we know the guy, New Brunswick and Newfoundland being so close together, ah ha ha. The prof is nowhere near that stupid. In fact, he’s smart as hell, twigging right away to David Hallett’s likely response to these novels from the guy in New Brunswick: surprise, empathy, and recognition. Over the next two years, David Hallett completes his MA thesis, focusing on the novels but also collecting and commenting on a collection of appalling book reviews which expose the reviewers’ prejudices and ignorance, which paint an image of the novelist in question as some backwoods savant. The reviews were meant to put one David Adams Richards back in his perceived place — they failed, naturally — but these reviews also stung us. So much hatred for Atlantic Canada, hatred and blame? So much regionalism? So many toxic presumptions from academic minds supposedly trained to think outside such folly?


Around this time a prominent national journalist suggests Newfoundland be towed out to sea and sunk.

2001, Mount Pearl. My husband and I are back in Newfoundland, and we now have two young children, one of them an infant. Apart from a short story in 1994, I’ve published nothing, and I’m in some despair. Have I deluded myself? I knew since the age of seven I wanted to write fiction, and by 2001, aged thirty, I’d hoped to be further along. After a difficult pregnancy, I’ve slipped into a post partum depression — not that I recognize that. I’ve been working full-time except when on maternity leave, working through sickness and writing bad fiction and terrible drama, since 1995. My husband David is also struggling: a freshly minted PhD, he can only get adjunct work. I spy an ad in the Globe and Mail books section for the Humber School for Writers, for a correspondence course: established writers for mentors, close attention to your manuscript. I take the risk. I get matched with David Adams Richards. My husband finds this coincidence fascinating;  years later he’ll write an entry for the CanadianEnyclopedia.ca on DAR. I learn a lot. DAR is kind and encouraging — and also blunt about my weaknesses. I respect this. I consider his advice and even take some of it.

Some of it.

I never said I was smart.

2004. I enter and win a  short novel-writing competition run by the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick. (In 2004, the comp was open to anyone in Canada. It’s now kept to NB residents only.) The prize is named after David Adams Richards. I’m invited to the WFNB AGM in Miramichi. (I get a speeding ticket on the drive from Dieppe to Miramichi. This is what comes of being excited, driving a rented Jeep when you’re accustomed to a five-speed Sentra, and playing the Tragically Hip really loud.) Several Miramichiers reach out to me, make sure I’m looked after, fed, on and on … and, listening to voices, studying the signs of a resource-based economy and the economic tyrannies that might spring from it, I feel at home.  I didn’t expect that.

2007. I’m invited to give a workshop at the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick’s AGM, once again held in Miramichi. I stay and visit with friends I made in 2004, make new friends, and really enjoy my time there. I give a reading and a workshop. I get to meet DAR and thank him, and then badger him into signing some books for my husband and a friend. I attend the WFNB awards dinner … and there, to my surprise and delight, hear Dorinda Glover pronounce me a Daughter of the River, an honourary Miramichier. I wept: happy tears.

I’ve promised myself a return to the river almost every year since, this time with my husband and children. I’ve failed them: money, time, illness. Trees and water, though, trees and water: I’ll get there.

We hope you do, Michelle!

You can learn more about Michelle’s other writings here on her blog: https://mbutlerhallett.wordpress.com/

Her Facebook page is here: https://www.facebook.com/michellebutlerhallettwriter/


This article has been Digiproved © 2016 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

In the Country by Wayne Curtis

New Brunswick author Wayne Curtis has released his latest title, In the Country (2016, Pottersfield Press) a collection of short stories, twelve in all, that will resonate with anyone familiar with the Miramichi River area where the author was born some 73 years ago.  It will especially appeal to readers who lived here over the decades of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. It was a time when there was a distinct social divide between country folk and those from the larger towns and villages in the Miramichi area. Many of the stories deal with social restrictions such as not hanging around with townsfolk or striving to become more educated, which was considered pretentious. “A high education is for rich people and not much needed around these parts” Tom Creamer tells his daughter Anne in the title story.

In the Country contains twelve short stories of a time that, like the abandoned farms and fields of rural New Brunswick, have all but disappeared.

The Twelve

The twelve stories making up this 200+ page book (including an enlightening introduction by the author) are all good and several are quite exceptional in the storytelling. Although Mr. Curtis denies any of his characters are based on actual people, he draws heavily (and worthily) on his past to recreate some very endearing and captivating stories.  A few stories (“October Mourning,” “Of Fall and Winter Rain,” “The Road to Falconer” and “The Last Hunt”) all deal with death of a loved one in some way, and Mr. Curtis is at his best when prodding into the thoughts and actions of the loved ones left by the passing of a family member, whether it was a beloved sister committing suicide, a son or younger brother dying accidentally, or the death of a grandfather slowly killing himself with tobacco and alcohol after a lifetime of hard labour in the woods to support the family. These four stories in particular made the reading of In the Country a worthwhile endeavour.


There are stories of love, too such as “The Natural Way of Things” and “Deceptions of Youth” the latter dealing with the differences between love and infatuation, the country boy/town girl relationship taboo, and the romantic vs. pragmatist outlook on life and love.

It is said you never forget your first love, and Dan Stanton has never forgotten Megan O’Brien. Decades later, Dan has an opportunity to see Megan as she owns a summer place on the Miramichi. As he sits in his car in her driveway he peers into the rearview mirror and thinks to himself:

Why would I do this to Dan Stanton again? Why would I dig up a grave that has taken a lifetime to sod over? It is a question there is no mature answer for. It is like another power, one stronger than human, stronger than good common sense, has overtaken me and I am going against my better judgement, putting myself in a place where i should not be. Again.

At forty pages, “Deceptions of Youth” is one of the longest stories in the book, and has all the makings of a an excellent novel, but Mr. Curtis manages to span the intervening years of Dan and Megan quite adroitly while maintaining the mix of emotions Dan has carried with him all those years.


In the Country contains stories of a time that, like the abandoned farms and fields of rural New Brunswick have all but disappeared. Nevertheless, each story has timeless value in the relationships that we have (or must have) with each other and with the land we live on as well. If you are not familiar with Wayne Curtis’ previous novels and short stories,  In the Country is a great place to start.

Wayne Curtis Facts:

  • His influences were: Frost, Proust, Garcia Marquez, Faulkner and Hemingway.
  • His favourite books: In Search Of Lost Time, 100 Years of Solitude, Frost Poetry.
  • His personal favourite books that he has written: One Indian Summer, Last Stand, and In the Country
  • Biography of a person living or dead that he would most like to write: a biography on Robert Frost.
  • Presently working on: a collection of short stories.
  • When he is not writing: I like to read, watch hockey, boxing and golf on TV.

Wayne Curtis was born near Blackville in Keenan’s in 1943. He started writing prose in the late 1960’s. Books In Canada described his work as “A pleasure to read, for no detail escapes his discerning eye.”
In the spring of 2005 Wayne received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from St Thomas University. For his numerous literary contributions and his commitment and dedication to Atlantic salmon conservation, he received the Order of New Brunswick in 2014. He has lived in southern Ontario, the Yukon and Cuba. He currently divides his time between the Miramichi River and Fredericton.

This article has been Digiproved © 2016-2018 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Boss Gibson: Lumber King of New Brunswick by David Sullivan

One cannot read a history of New Brunswick without coming across the name Alexander Gibson, or “Boss” as he was affectionately called by his family, friends and employees. So it was that after reading several different books on New Brunswick, I decided to see if anyone had published a book about the man. An Internet search quickly informed me that a book had just been published (in 2015) by David Sullivan entitled Boss Gibson: Lumber King of New Brunswick (Friesens Press). I contacted the author (who lives in historic St. Andrews), and he kindly sent me a review copy.

“..the most colourful, and in his day, the most important lumber operator on the Nashwaak and St. John rivers.” – Lord Beaverbrook

Who Was the “Boss”?

Alexander Gibson lived from 1820 to 1913, and in those years managed to acquire woodlots, build saw mills, a cotton mill, establish the town of Marysville (a National Historic Site), and run railways. Lord Beaverbrook described Boss Gibson as: “the most colourful, and in his day, the most important lumber operator on the Nashwaak and St. John rivers.”

Colourful he certainly was, and larger than life; a big fish in the small pond that was New Brunswick back in the mid to late 19th century. It took a man with vision and some capital at his disposal to acquire what would become a veritable monopoly on wood and acreage in NB. In 1896, the Timber Trades Journal devoted part of its annual special edition to Boss Gibson, “the single largest employer of labour in the province, a man, who at 76 was still the mastermind and personal overseer of every department of his business, a man of note not only in his own province, but widely known beyond its borders.” 

At his death at age 93, there were many tributes to this great man, but one from the York Gleaner pronounced that Gibson “had all the good points of Rockefeller and Carnegie with none of their defects” and that Marysville was “a place of happy homes socially in which dwell a contented and prosperous people.”


This book was just what I was looking for regarding the life of Alexander Gibson. It is well written by a man who has an obvious love for New Brunswick history for he has also penned books on the historic Algonquin Hotel and historic St. Andrews itself (where runs a resort). If you are looking for a thorough history of Alexander Gibson, then this is the book you’ll want to read. Boss Gibson has made the shortlist for the first ever New Brunswick Book Awards, and I will add it to my “Very Best” Award long list of books that I have read in 2016.

This article has been Digiproved © 2016 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Three Wrongs by Chuck Bowie

New Brunswick author (born in Miramichi, now living in Fredericton) Chuck Bowie has written three books in his “Sean Donovan: Thief for Hire” series. Three Wrongs (Muse It Up, 2013) is the first instalment. The latest is Steal it All (2016).  Sean Donovan is a freelance thief, and he has been quite successful at it. With his IT security background and some shady friends, he manages to do very well. However, he is getting close to the point where a conscience is starting to take seed. He questions how much longer he can go on in this line of work.He asks himself:

When was that moment many years back, where it had occurred to him he could bypass the legal ways of working? How did he slip into a world that rewarded, richly, those who were skilled enough to separate people from their possessions?

Nevertheless, he is on a contract job in Romania and must steal what he promised to steal. Retirement would have to wait for now.

One Thing Leads to Another….

While in Romania, he manages to get entangled with some stolen passports (and some unsavoury characters) and witnesses the cold-blooded murder of a young Roma street urchin. While he successfully manages to steal the item he set out to steal, the original passport thieves continue to track him. While in London, a famous actress wants a necklace stolen from her co-star (with whom Sean falls in love with, further complicating things)and then in New York, he is hired to steal a cassette tape with a clandestinely recorded conversation between JFK and Castro that has world-altering implications. Does that sound like enough action for one book? Through it all, Sean continues to question why he does what he does. It’s not for the money anymore, he has plenty of that. So he and his new-found love Nadia come up with the idea of  reversing his last three thefts: “three wrongs can make a right.”


I’ll admit that the thriller-type genre isn’t my first choice for reading, but I found Three Wrongs entertaining and fun to read. Sean has a conscience and is generally a nice guy. Three Wrongs is a great first novel, full of adventure and intrigue in locations such as Montreal, New York and Romania. Mr Bowie assures me that Book #2 and #3 are even better than Three Wrongs, and that makes me want to read them as well.

All of Chuck Bowie’s novels can be found on Amazon, at Chapters or purchased directly from his publisher: Muse It Up Publications

This article has been Digiproved © 2016 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

The Valerie Sherrard Interview

Miramichi New Brunswick author Valerie Sherrard has written more than a dozen novels for young people, including Counting Back from Nine, which was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award and The Glory Wind. Her work has also been shortlisted for numerous Canadian awards, including the Ann Connor Brimer, Red Maple, and Snow Willow Awards. Valerie’s most recent novel is Random Acts.

Miramichi Reader: Valerie, please tell us a bit of your background.

Valerie Sherrard: My father was in the Canadian Air Force (back before they were combined under one umbrella) and so we moved a good deal. While he was from Miramichi, I was born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and spent my younger years in Belleville, Ontario and then Lahr, West Germany. We settled back in Miramichi when I was fourteen and, aside from a few years away as a young adult, this has been my home ever since.

“The thing I’m most proud of is when a story works the way I want it to, when the characters come alive and the finished product is at least close to what I hoped it would be.”

Valerie Sherrard

MR: I am always interested as to when and how the inspiration to be a writer comes about. Tell us your experience.

VS: It was in Lahr that a teacher, Mr. Lower, singled me out and told me I could be a writer someday. I can’t imagine what he saw of any value in anything I might have written at that age, but he encouraged and praised me and inspired the first thoughts of someday writing books. I’d always been a good reader, but it had not occurred to me that I might also be a writer.
I wrote my first book (many years later) and sent it off to a handful of Canadian publishers, and three of them asked for the full manuscript. At that time, I thought back to my teacher, and I was able to locate him. I contacted him and we formed a friendship between then and his passing a few years ago. My fourth Shelby Belgarden mystery, called Hiding in Plain Sight, is dedicated to that teacher.

MR: When did you get your first big break in publishing?

VS: I was very fortunate in that, once I got serious about writing, and found the genre that was right for me, my very first manuscript got the interest of a publisher that signed it, and subsequently went on to publish more than a dozen of my books for young adults. Since then, I have worked with five different publishers and am always looking for additional homes for my work. I have expanded to stories for all ages of children, as well as different styles and genres. For example, my GG nominated title (Counting Back from Nine) was a free verse novel. Really, as is true for many full-time writers – it’s not so much a matter of getting a big break, as just working steadily and doing your best to produce good work.

MR: Talk about your husband Brent Sherrard (who is an author as well).

VS: It’s interesting that both Brent and I are writers. When we first met we were both unpublished but shared an interest in writing. I got serious about it first but he was working on stories long before he was first published. He kept writing new stories, and I think he had a half a dozen finished novels written before I talked him into submitting one to publishers. He got an offer not long after that, and he’s now had three novels for teens published, but he continues to write a lot more than he submits. If he’s not happy with a story he’ll let it sit and go back to it later – usually after he’s written another whole novel at least! My philosophy is quite different – once a draft is done, I want it off my desk. I figure an editor will see and discuss revisions.

MR: What literary accomplishment you are most proud of?

VS: It’s nice to have your work recognized and awards are nice – I’m always pleased with nominations and awards, but the thing I’m most proud of is when a story works the way I want it to, when the characters come alive and the finished product is at least close to what I hoped it would be.

MR: The Young Adult genre: why the focus on it (as opposed to adult lit)?

VS: They tell you to write what you know, so starting with the young adult genre was a natural fit for me. I worked as the Executive Director of a group home for young people for a dozen years, and besides raising my own children, I fostered approximately 70 teenagers in my home over a decade and a half or so. Young people had been a huge part of my life and so when I began to write, it was stories for and about them that I wanted to tell. It feels like the right choice for me.

MR: Thanks for your time Valerie!

This article has been Digiproved © 2015 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

New Location for Miramichi’s Book Nook

Check out their new location at 1 Allen St. Douglastown (behind Northumberland Square Mall, formerly Sky-Tech and T&R Sports). They have a spacious, uncluttered, and well-stocked site now.

New Brunswick bookstore run by staff of people with autism

This article has been Digiproved © 2015 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Three Million Acres of Flame by Valerie Sherrard

Three Million Acres of Flame (2007, Dundurn Press) is a historical novel by Miramichi author Valerie Sherrard. It tells the story of young Skye Haverill and her family and friends against the backdrop of the Great Miramichi Fire of 1825, one of the largest forest fires ever recorded in North American history.


Fourteen year old Skye Haverill and her family are living near Newcastle, on the north side of the Miramichi River when, on October 7th, a large forest fire advances on the community overtaking homes, livestock and humans as the extremely dry conditions that summer assist in the rapid spread of the fire. The only escape is to the Miramichi River itself, a natural fire barrier protecting Chatham (on the south side of the river) from being devastated as well. The survivors are taken across the river by the kind folks of Chatham who take them into their homes and supply them with clothing and other necessities, since most only escaped with their clothes on their back that day. The story follows the Haverill family and their friends as they are taken in by complete strangers in Chatham, try to rebuild their lives and find love ones that are still missing, and all the while dealing with losses, both material and physical.

An Educational and Enjoyable Read

Recently, in the Western provinces of Canada there have been many wildfires destroying not only forests, but displacing residents and damaging property. The difference between the threat of fire today and back in 1825 is one of communication. Today, fires can be tracked, fought by planes in the sky and trained firefighters on the ground. Back in 1825, the only way to spread news was by word of mouth, or a messenger on horseback travelling from one isolated community to the next over poor roads. There was no telephone, telegraph or radio available to warn others of an impending disaster. Hence, the fire was upon them almost before they realized it. Ms. Sherrard (who is primarily writes Young Adult novels) recreates in words what it must have been like to experience the fear of fire, the flight to the river and the horrible aftermath: the charred ruins of homes, bodies of animals and livestock, and sadly, loved ones and fellow townsfolk:

“Everywhere, hacking coughs and laboured breathing could be heard, together with the sizzling, snapping sounds of the dying fire. Skye choked as she breathed in the soot and acrid odour that was impossible to escape. The overpowering smells of burnt wood and flesh sickened her and, like many others, she found herself retching, although her stomach had nothing to yield.”

While this book may be catalogued as a “young adult” novel, it is mature enough in voice to be enjoyed by an adult reader. Ms. Sherrard’s vivid descriptions of the scenes of the aftermath are just graphic enough (and not merely included for shock value} so that we can understand what it must have been like to be there. However, balanced against the hardships is the seemingly unlimited generosity of the Chatham townspeople who took the survivors in and cared for their needs for as long as necessary until word was spread to other communities and the larger cities of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and PEI who readily responded to the call for assistance.


Perhaps because of the early time period, there is not a lot of printed material on this event in Canadian history. Ms. Sherrard has performed a great service in writing this book, and she includes a very informative, fact-filled author’s note at the end of the story. Overall, a book with a realistic story (like “Little House on the Prairie” with a little bit of “Anne of Green Gables”) set against a tragic natural disaster in Canada’s past.

This article has been Digiproved © 2015 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Autistic Resources Miramichi’s Book Nook

Note: Check out the new Book Nook location at 1 Allen St. Douglastown (behind Northumberland Square Mall, formerly Sky-Tech and T&R Sports).

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I was on the Chatham side of the Miramichi River today looking for places that sell books due to the fact that we no longer have a dedicated book seller here in Miramichi since the Books Inn fire over two years ago. The ARM (Autistic Resources Miramichi) Book Nook was a place I had heard about since it opened last June; I really don’t know why it took me so long to get there, I drive by Chatham almost every day on my way to and from work. The store sells used books for adults and children as well as movies and CDs and (yes) even cassette tapes.

The store is extremely well-stocked and – most importantly for book hounds like me – well organized and tidy. A young man named Tyler was working the day I visited and was helpful in telling me about the general layout of the store. I was able to find a signed copy of Miramichi’s own Larry Lynch’s “An Expectation of Hope” (Gaspereau Press, 2002) as well as a copy of Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” (Vintage, 1989). The total: $6.00.

The Book Nook is located at 139 Duke Street in Chatham. It’s open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 4:30. They only accept cash at this time.

Pay them a visit soon; I’m sure you will not walk out empty-handed!

This article has been Digiproved © 2015 James FisherSome Rights Reserved