Non-fiction

Category: Non-fiction

I love going to conferences. I love travelling and touring too, but there’s something about attending a conference, or any organized event that’s scheduled over an intense short period of time, in a new place, that makes life thrum in a different way. There’s a certain group of people all there for the same reason – but all with different agendas and perspectives. Some are the movers and shakers, the bigwigs, the celebrities of whatever group you are with. Their agendas are more obvious. There are things that you want, too. You schmooze, you connect, learn.

It’s always difficult to get everything that you want into a book. In the case of the Second Edition of The Ontario Craft Beer Guide, Robin and I trailed around all over the province in order to taste beer at well over 200 breweries. We revisited the majority of the brewers who were in their second year of operation because we wanted readers to understand that there is a sharp uptick in brewing quality year over year from the point when breweries open.

Tell us about your book: What was your inspiration? Were there overarching themes you felt compelled to explore?

I was inspired to write about my tour in Afghanistan after I came home in 2006 and this resulted in the strict accounting of events and combat actions described in my first book, What the Thunder Said: Reflections of a Canadian Officer in Afghanistan (2009). This book is a war story of a logistics unit.  It is all about the “up and out” experiences of my battalion. 

Yes, the lakes may still be ice-covered, and shrinking snowbanks might yet line the roads, but the spring season in Canada’s western mountains may be the optimal time to board one of the spectacular train excursions to explore the canyons and peaks of Canada’s finest scenery.

After all, it is the time of year when daylight extends well into the evening and busloads of tour groups have yet to clog the attractions.

Dundurn Press has just released Foreign Voices in the House, a striking book published ahead of Canada’s 150th anniversary. Its 600 pages are filled with, among other things, the major speeches 64 world leaders like Nelson Mandela, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Boris Yeltsin, and Barack Obama delivered in our House of Commons over the past century. Alongside pithy bios of each leader, illustrated with the dramatic Parliament Hill photos of these history-makers, are many surprising facts about them, which you might never have suspected.

While the future of the world weighed on his mind, a corporal in the middle of the Great War noted that life goes on.

In the spring of 1917, as he and the entire Canadian Corps prepared for the greatest battle of their lives, Ellis Sifton, a twenty-five-year-old farm boy from Wallacetown, Ontario, stopped to notice familiar activity in the French countryside. Despite the approaching Easter offensive against German armies entrenched on Vimy Ridge, he noted in letters home that the planting season in France would go ahead no matter what.

I grew up with a ghost. We all did in our family — the ghost of Billy Bishop — and that has meant for interesting times.

Like his other four grandchildren, I never knew my famous grandfather, the highly decorated First World War flying ace. I was only three years old when Billy died at the age of 62. But for our family, and as someone who has achieved almost mythical status in the annals of Canadian history, it feels as if grandpa Billy is still around, continuing to live on with us in spirit, shaping each of our lives in ways that we did not expect.

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