Friday, April 24, 2020

Canadian Authors Past and Present by Joan Donaldson-Yarmey--British Columbia

Canadian Authors Past and Present
Canada celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2017. To commemorate the occasion my publisher, Books We Love, Ltd (BWL) brought out the Canadian Historical Brides Series during 2017 and 2018. There are twelve books, one about each province, one about the Yukon, and one combining the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Each book was written by a BWL Canadian author or co-authored by a Canadian and an international BWL author.
Each province and territory of Canada has spawned many well-known authors and my series of posts this year will be about them-one or two from the past and one or two from the present, the present-day ones being the authors of the Brides book for the corresponding province or territory. The posts are in the order that the books were published.

British Columbia

Stephen Reid was born in Massey Ontario (ON) on March 13, 1950. He is the author of two books but his main claim to fame is that he belonged to Canada’s notorious Stopwatch Gang of bank robbers. The gang which also included Lionel Wright and Patrick Michael "Paddy" Mitchell who was the leader, was given its name because of the stopwatch Reid carried during the robberies. The gang was also known for their politeness to their victims and their non-violent methods.
     During the 1970s and 1980s the three men stole an estimated $15 million from more than 140 banks, gas stations, and shops across Canada and the United States. With the help of an inside man they robbed the Ottawa, ON, airport of $750,000 in gold in 1974. They were arrested but by 1979 they had all escaped from prison.
     Stephen Reid was arrested in Arizona in 1980 and returned to Canada where he began serving a twenty-one year sentence at the Kent institution in Agassiz, B.C. He started writing in 1984 and sent his manuscript to Susan Musgrave who, though her home was on Haidi Gwaii off the coast of the B.C. mainland, was the writer-in-residence at the University of Waterloo at the time. They developed a relationship and were married at the prison in 1986. Reid’s first book, Jackrabbit Patrol was published that year.
     When Stephen was released on full parole in 1987 the couple lived in Sidney, B.C. where he taught creative writing at Camosun College. He also worked as a youth counsellor in the Northwest Territories. Unfortunately, he became addicted to heroin and cocaine and returned to his old ways, robbing a bank in Victoria in June 1999. This time he was sentenced to eighteen years in prison. In 2007, a National Film Board of Canada produced a documentary film titled Inside Time about Stephen Reid’s life. His second book, A Crowbar in the Buddhist Garden: Writing from Prison, was published in 2012. It is a number of essays about his life in prison and he won the Victoria Butler Book Prize for it in 2013. Reid was granted full parole in 2014. He lived on Haidi Gwaii with his wife, Susan, until June 12, 2018 when he died from pulmonary edema and third degree heart block.
Note: Patrick Mitchell wrote his autobiography titled, This Bank Robber's Life, while he was in prison. He died of lung cancer on January 14, 2007 and his manuscript was published posthumously in 2015.
Lionel Wright, was nicknamed ‘The Ghost’ because he had the ability to blend into a crowd and disappear. He was released from prison in 1994 and his whereabouts are unknown.

Emily Carr was born on December 13, 1871, in Victoria, B.C. She was the second youngest of nine children and she and her siblings were raised by parents who kept the English customs they had been used to in England. Their home had high ceilings, decorative mouldings, and there was a parlour. Sunday mornings were for prayers, and there were evening Bible readings. Emily’s mother died in 1886 and her father in 1888.
     Emily’s father had encouraged her in her artistic pursuits but it wasn’t until two years after his death that she enrolled at the San Francisco Art Institute. She returned to Victoria in 1892 and over the next twenty years she alternated between travelling to aboriginal villages in British Columbia to sketch and paint their lifestyle and going to England and France to study art. During that time she took a job teaching at the Ladies Art Club in Vancouver but the students didn’t like her because she smoked in class and cursed them. She left after a month.
     She continued to paint and even opened a gallery in Vancouver. However, it was not a success so 1913, she once again moved to Victoria. For the next fifteen years Emily ran a boarding house called the House of all Sorts. She continued to do a little painting and over time her work was recognized by influential members of the art world and she put on an exhibit at Canada’s National Gallery. She is best known for her paintings on Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest and later in life her modernist and post-impressionist styles.
     Emily Carr suffered heart attacks in 1937 and 1939. She had a serious stroke in 1940 and another heart attack in 1942. These left her unable to paint so she concentrating on her writing. Her first book Klee Wyck was published in 1941 and she won the Governor-General Award for non-fiction for the book. The Book of Small came out in 1942 and The House of all Sorts, named after her boarding house which provided material for the book, was published in 1944.
     Emily Carr died from a heart attack On March 2, 1945. She had three books published posthumously: Growing Pains (1946); Pause, The Heart of a Peacock (1953); and Hundreds and Thousands (1966).
     As an author, Emily Carr was one of the earliest story tellers of life in the province of British Columbia.

Book 4 of the Canadian Historical Brides Series:  Barkerville Beginnings (British Columbia) - A.M. Westerling) - June 2017
A.M. Westerling grew up in a small Alberta town. She loved to read and when she was in her teens, her mother introduced her to romance novels, then her father got her reading historical romance novels. Historical novels are still her favourite today. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering, from the University of Calgary, married and worked in the oil industry. She tried writing but when she and her husband had two children and began an engineering business in Calgary she set that aside.
     After selling the business years later, A.M. began her full-time writing career, concentrating on action-adventure, historical romance. Her aim is to take her readers away from their every-day lives and transport them into a different time. Her first two novels, A Countess’ Lucky Charm and Her Proper Scoundrel both came out in 2012. Since then she has had three more books published with Books We Love, Ltd.
     Besides writing, she enjoys gardening, camping, yoga, going for walks, and watching sports, especially her hometown Calgary Stampeders and Calgary Flames. She belongs to the Romance Writers of America, and is active in the Calgary chapter of the RWA.
     As she says: “History is romantic. To combine history with a love story is my ultimate joy and, I hope, yours as well.”

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Queen Elizabeth II is 94

My Mother, a staunch Anglophile, would have been 100 this year.  On April 21, a woman she very much admired, Queen Elizabeth II, became 94.   Queen Elizabeth II has had the longest reign of any English monarch.  A few years ago, she also became the world's oldest living head of state.

I can trace my own love of English history back to the year of 1952, the year Elizabeth came to the throne. My parents subscribed to the Sunday New York Times. That early morning car trip to the drug store to pick up the paper with my Dad, into the picturesque lakeside town of Skaneateles, NY., was part of our weekly routine.  I went along to ogle little china animals that were for sale there and to attempt to wheedle a candy bar out of Daddy before he'd picked up the paper. 

My Uncle Leo, Aunt Judy, myself & my Dad, 1952

As the coronation approached, The NY Times was full of historical pieces about the royal families who had preceded the Windsors. There were images of the many monarchs who were her predecessors, and lots of snippets about the famous and the infamous.  I was a voracious reader and sufficiently interested in the historical background they were printing to not only read, but scissor out and paste into a scrapbook I'd begun, everything I could find pertaining to the royals and the coming coronation.

Anne Boleyn

Of course, the tales of Henry VIII and his doomed Queen Anne Boleyn, made for exciting reading, as did the stories of their daughter,  Elizabeth I. The first Elizabeth, I learned, had almost as many lives as a cat as she survived various plots to dispose of her during the reigns of her half-brother, Edward VI, and her half-sister, Queen Mary. The later was the most dangerous enemy, because Mary's mother had been dispossessed of both husband and crown by Anne Boleyn.  It wasn't long after that I was cutting my historical novel teeth on "Young Bess," "Elizabeth, Captive Princess," and "Elizabeth and the Prince of Spain" by Margaret Irwin, one of my favorite writers. 

Three images of the first Queen Elizabeth

The Second World War was only seven years distant in 1952. My Mom was very proud of the way the English royal family had comported themselves during the German bombing campaign. At one point, after Buckingham Palace was bombed, it was suggested that the Queen Mother and her two daughters should leave England for the safer Canada, which was more closely enmeshed with the English government than it is today. The Queen Mother refused to leave the country, saying:

"The children won't go without me. I won't leave without the King. And the King will never leave."

At sixteen, the war ongoing, Elizabeth signed up with the British Labour Registry, even though her parents, King George and Queen Elizabeth, had to be persuaded. In this "all hands on deck" moment, the Princess was soon in military coveralls, working as a truck driver and a mechanic. Today, Elizabeth II is the only living head of State who served in World War II. 

Second Subaltern Elizabeth Windsor
& the Queen Mother during World War II

Queen Elizabeth has seen enormous changes in the world during her long rule. She's presided over decolonization as the British Empire has been eroded away by popular political movements. This list --(Ceylon/Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa) also includes Canada. The Canada Act of 1982 finally severed the country's legal dependence upon the British parliament. 

Despite a 94th birthday being a momentous occasion for the monarch, the traditional gun salute was foregone this year because of our current pandemic. The Queen's official birthday, in June, which is normally marked with a magnificent display of trooping of the colours, has also been cancelled. 

~~Juliet Waldron

All my historical novels