Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Fall books in trade-market history

Blogger and Bev

Toronto's fall book launch and book prize season opened last night (for me, anyway) with a well attended event at the HotDocs Theatre in Toronto to launch Truth Be Told, the memoirs of Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin.  A large number of admiring young women lawyers in the crowd, including one from my own family, truth be told.

McLachlin says in the book that when first offered a judgeship in British Columbia, her only qualm was that she was part way through a novel and would have to give up fiction-writing.  (Who says she did? cry out the critics of her jurisprudence, no doubt.) Anyway it is a very readable memoir -- the Chief Justice of Canada can write, woudn't you know? It's pretty discreet about legal inside-baseball matters, actually.)

Meanwhile the trade-market history book scene for the fall seems to be taking shape.

Ken McGooghan recently launched the fourth in his Arctic exploration quartet, Dead ReckoningI recall Ken telling me years ago he was working on a book about John Rae, and I thought, tough to sell more than about three copies of that. Whadda I know?

Katie Daubs has The Missing Millionaire, a book about the 1919 murder (well, disappearance, but....) of Ambrose Small, Toronto millionaire cad-about-town.

Almost simultaneously, Charlotte Gray offers Murdered Midas, all about the unsolved 1943 murder of Harry Oakes, who made a fortune in the northern Ontario mining boom in the early 1900s and got whacked in Bermuda in 1943, in mysterious circumstances that involved such unsavory personalities as the Duke of Windsor.  I hope dead Oakes and dead Small do not cannibalize each other's market  -- Gray's previous book on the Eaton murder was good, and Daubs has been a lively presence in the Toronto Star in recent years.

Not in Toronto, and I don't think there's a murder in it, but when Candace Savage started investigating the original owners of the old house (hey, 1920s counts) she lives in in Saskatoon, apparently she found a (creepy?) story about these people the Blondins and what they got involved with.  It's called Strangers in the House.

Also from Saskatchewan, there has been excellent buzz about a collection of essays about former premier Allan Blakeney.  Evidently it has substantial things to say about how much good a skilled, well-organized premier with a plan can -- or once could, maybe -- achieve. It's ambitiously called Back to Blakeney: The Revitalization of the Democratic State.

So not a bad history season this fall, and I'm sure there are others I've not noticed yet.  Good to see a bunch of different publishers taking up Canadian history:  PenguinRandom, HarperCollins, Simon & Shuster, Greystone, University of Regina Press.

I should note, I guess, that practically every one of these books has a friend of mine involved, but what the hell, so I know some writers -- and admire them all.  (Okay, my acquaintance is with Bev is very slight.)

Update, September 26:  Beverley McLachlin may some 'splaining to do next time she's in BC.  Every reference to Mary Southin, a mentor to her and one of Canada's pre-eminent woman lawyers before Bev herself, calls her "Mary Southam".  A problem created by copyediting and spellchecking no doubt, but ouch.

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