Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Death of Larry Kwong

It is with sadness that I share the news of Larry Kwong's death. He passed away peacefully, at home in Calgary, aged 94. Donations in his name are being accepted by the Rotary Foundation in Calgary.
This fine gentleman is well eulogised by the CBC article at this link
It was a great experience as a writer, writing his biography for Five Rivers Publishing. Plus, getting to meet one of my dad's hockey heroes was a blast! He will be remembered.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Context for Kwong

It was a great experience, writing a biography of Larry Kwong, the star hockey player who was known as the "China Clipper" back in the day. (Click here for a link to my website's Biographies page and scroll down a little to read all about King Kwong.) Since then, I've been keeping up on the news about him. He's in his nineties, and there's still news about him, or connected to him.

Chad Soon, who made a film about Larry Kwong, is my major source for these news stories. He posted on Facebook this wonderful vintage photo of Kwong's father, Ng Shu Kwong. (When he ran a store in Vernon BC, Mr Ng put his given name Kwong on the sign. Many of his children later came to use Kwong as their family name.)

Chad Soon brought the photo to the attention of Larry Kwong's daughter, writing on Facebook:
Hi Kristina, Last weekend your grandfather was in the Vernon Winter Carnival parade! This poster was part of the museum's float which won Best Overall. The photo will now be displayed at City Hall. Also, your family will be included in a new museum exhibit called "Gold Mountain Dream," a joint project with the Royal BC Museum, from Oct. 16-Feb. 28.

Context is everything in biographical studies! It's terrific to see Larry Kwong's father celebrated as a "Prominent Businessman" from the history of the city of Vernon. And now I've got another reason to visit the Royal BC Museum in the fall, to see the exhibit.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Trudeau book reviewed by Barbie Thompson

Today Canadian writer Barbie Thompson sent a quick review of my latest book, a biography of Pierre Elliott Trudeau. You can learn a little about Barbie and her writing on her Facebook page.

Barbie had this to say about the book:

I congratulate you on a wonderful book on Trudeau, pointing out, as you rightly did, the great things that man accomplished which many Canadians oft choose to ignore or on which they were never educated. Your series will go far in improving Canadian school childrens' knowledge of their great leaders and this great country. I wish I had had such a valuable resource when I was in school.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Trudeau biography released from Five Rivers

Today my newest book has been released from Five Rivers Publishing. It is a biography of Canada's fifteenth prime minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau. There's always something new to bring to a study of the life of such an active person. I'm particularly proud of pulling together so many moments in his life as an enthusiastic canoeist!

cover of Trudeau book

This book is my third from this expanding press based in Ontario, and either my thirty-first or thirty-third overall .. time to check and update my C.V.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Roosevelt and the Black Troopers

I promised to post again about the information on the regiments of Black Troopers which I was able to bring to the revision of my book The Spanish-American War.

Now available in hardcover or e-book formats, through Amazon!
Stories of Theodore Roosevelt and his hastily created cavalry regiment of Rough Riders tend to dominate most commentaries on the Spanish-American War. But they were out-performed time and again by the experienced regiments of African-American soldiers, the 9th and 10th cavalry and the 24th and 25th infantry, who were known as Black Troopers. A sergeant from the 25th infantry, Mingo Sanders, even shared B Company's hardtack rations with the unprepared new regiment, when Roosevelt came to him and admitted he'd set out for Cuba without checking if there were any food supplies packed for his Rough Riders.

Sergeant Mingo Sanders was partially blinded when the 25th Infantry came under heavy fire at El Caney. Because of his record later in the Philippines, Colonel A. S. Burt, the regiment’s commanding officer said, “Mingo Sanders is the best non-commissioned officer I have ever known.”

And eight years later, when Roosevelt was president, his life crossed paths with Mingo Sanders once again. In Brownsville, Texas, the 25th Infantry was accused of a shooting incident. President Roosevelt sent officers to conduct an inquiry, who could find no witnesses. Roosevelt ordered the men to be given dishonorable discharges without any kind of trial, including Sergeant Sanders, the man who had shared food and a daring battle with him. He waited to order the discharges until November 7, 1906, one day after Congressional elections, so that black voters would not abandon the party. The discharges were not forgotten in later years. President Taft appointed Sanders to federal positions as an anti-Roosevelt reminder.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Yippie ki yay, a history book

Ever hear much about the Spanish-American War? Most of the little that's taught about it these days focuses on Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders. But there's a helluva lot more going on in that story than one battle on Kettle Hill. Even that battle got that name only because nobody wants to brag about fighting on "Washtub Hill." The other option for naming the battle was "I thought this was San Juan hill -- damn this lousy map" which didn't really work either.
I was assigned a book to revise for a series on The United States at War, from Enslow Publishing. This assignment was a revision of an existing book by Robert Somerlott, so I wasn't starting from scratch. I was able to bring to the book some particularly interesting material about the Black Troopers, who were an important part of the American troops. The American army was not integrated in 1900, but there were regiments for men of colour, who were known as the Black Troopers. Two regiments of infantry and two of cavalry served during the Spanish-American War, as well as several men in the American navy, which was integrated.

The war was part of what brought Teddy Roosevelt to the American presidency, and there are many connections between him and the Black Troopers. From the mustering in Florida, the landing in Cuba, and the battles on Kettle Hill and San Juan Hill, Roosevelt and his hastily created regiment of Rough Riders were out-performed time and again by the Black Troopers, who even shared their own rations with the unprepared new regiment. And in years to come, when Roosevelt was president, there was an incident that really takes more time to tell than I can today. I'll post about it in the future.
For now, ask your library to order in a copy of The Spanish-American War from Enslow.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Blog Tour -- Flames of Nevyana by Edward Willett

catalog listing for this book

It's always a treat to find a new book by Edward Willett. He's a Canadian writer who can be relied on to put narrative -- story, if you prefer -- before anything else in his books, whether fantasy, or science fiction, or even the nonfiction writing he's done. As a friend of Edward Willett's, I'm pleased to be able to participate in his promotional blog tour this October. I've been a fan of his work since before Andy Nebula: Interstellar Rock Star was first released!

Willett's newest fantasy is Flames of Nevyana, from Rebelight Publishing. Though many YA fantasies are coming-of-age novels, this one is different in that perhaps its time not only for the young protagonists to take on active, responsible roles, but for their communities at large to leave behind old behaviours and interactions. Click here for a link to this book's listing in the publisher's online catalog.
In a few images, Willett presents the differing communities of his protagonists, making these young people and their surroundings distinct and memorable.

One very young woman lives in a community like gypsies or Travelers:
Amlinn might have been imagining it, but it seemed to her that the gathering twilight darkened at the same instant that Samarrind touched the rod to the sigil of the Keystone.
With a crackle, the Fence sprang instantly to life and a wall of glowing blue light surrounded the Freefolk camp. The hair on Amlinn’s head and arms stirred as though alive, and a sharp smell assaulted her nostrils. Some Freefolk claimed to hate it, but she loved that smell. It meant the Fence was working. It meant the Nightdwellers couldn’t get in.
It meant tonight, no children would lose their parents to the monsters of the forest as Amlinn had when she was four.

There's a different barrier, but of a similar magical kind, surrounding the temple Petra is patrolling:
Occasionally, the gloom was lit by distant lightning-like flashes of blue from atop the dark bulk of the Temple. All around City Primaxis, magical Hearths took in that Blue Fire and turned it into the light and heat Petra was currently in such desperately short supply of.
As he and Cort passed each other at the gate, the rain redoubled its efforts to drown them. Even through the tin-roof patter of the drops on his steel helmet, Petra heard the Curtain hiss like a giant teakettle. Vast clouds of blue-tinged steam rose from it into the night.
The icy water poured over Petra’s helmet and down his neck. Useless and sodden, his blue woolen cloak hung heavy as lead from his mail-clad shoulders. His boots squelched with every step. His damp leather trousers chafed his thighs. He couldn’t even feel his fingers: they’d gone numb inside his soaked gloves eleven circuits ago.

And when Jin dares to stand outside his warren for a few moments at sunrise, one of the other boys tells him:
“I thought your head was on fire.”
Jin laughed. “My fur wasn’t even singed.”
The truth was, in the last thirty seconds he had stood under the brilliant glare of the sun filled with both pride and terror, he had felt something—but not the agony Scrollkeepers swore would befall any Nightdweller touched by the unholy rays of Arrica’s sun.
No. All he’d felt had been warmth.
A pleasant touch of warmth.

Anyone who can write with such immediacy about light, rain, and mystic discipline has my attention! If this book is the first in a series, I'm up for reading any book with the same subtitle: A Voltpunk Novel. There are steampunk elements in many kinds of science fiction, but Willett is ringing his own changes on the charm and appeal of the technology of electricity as it is introduced to people of differing cultures.

I've read this book only in e-format, not in print format, but I've got to say how much the cover art pleased me. A lot of books available as e-books have "cover art" that doesn't work for me, either as art or as the cover of a book. There is considerable tradition about how to present information on a book cover, and what to expect from the art elements -- and I am impressed with the design choices for this book cover. Clear lettering for the author's name is a good choice, and imaginative serifs on the lettering for the title told me to expect a fantasy element even in a story subtitled: A Voltpunk Novel.  The interlocking gears of the art reminds me of how technology can seem magical, and how magic is intended to fit together effectively.