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Fall preview 2012: biography and memoir, politics and history

The season of high-profile literary awards and author festivals is on its way, and there’s no shortage of new releases from marquee names. In the July/August issue, Q&Q looks ahead at some of the fall’s biggest books.


After four decades of making music “ on his own and with seminal rock bands Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and Crazy Horse “ and reinventing himself more often than Madonna and David Bowie combined, Neil Young has earned a reputation as one of the most uncompromising musicians of his generation. His highly anticipated memoir, Waging Heavy Peace (Blue Rider Press/Penguin, $31.50 cl.), drops in October.

Speaking of Bowie, it seems the Thin White Duke was something of an obsession for one particular teen and budding musician in the 1980s. Jian Ghomeshi, who would go on to play in the band Moxy Früvous and later host the CBC Radio programs Q and Canada Reads, came of age clad in Bowie-esque pointed black boots and eyeliner, much to the confusion of his Iranian immigrant parents. Ghomeshi’s memoir, 1982 ($30 cl.), appears this September from Viking Canada.

Gordon Pinsent is known as one of Canada’s most beloved and accomplished stage and screen actors, having worked with everyone from Steve McQueen to Julie Christie to fellow Canucks Christopher Plummer and Donald Sutherland. Celebrating his 82nd birthday on July 12, Pinsent shows no signs of slowing down. In case there were any doubts about that, the title of his forthcoming memoir, Next (McClelland & Stewart, $32.99 cl., Oct.), co-written with George Anthony, should put them to rest.

Rock journalist Sylvie Simmons has written for Rolling Stone, Creem, Q, and Mojo, covering artists as diverse as Johnny Cash and the Beach Boys. This fall, Simmons tells the story of Montreal’s poet laureate of sexy melancholy in I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen (M&S, $32.99 cl., Oct.), which features interviews with the famously reclusive troubadour himself. ¢ Katherine Monk is best known for her writing on film, in particular her bestseller on the Canadian film industry, Weird Sex and Snowshoes. In Joni: The Creative Odyssey of Joni Mitchell (Greystone Books, $22.95 pa., Oct.), Monk turns her attention to one of the quintessential Canadian singer-songwriters of the 1960s and ’70s.

Lloyd Robertson has been front and centre covering most of the significant events of our time, from Terry Fox’s cross-Canada marathon to the Montreal Massacre to 9/11. In That’s the Kind of Life It’s Been (HarperCollins Canada, $33.99 cl., Oct.), the former CTV News anchor (and current co-host of W5) shares his experiences from six decades in television.

When Jack Layton succumbed to cancer in 2011, he left behind a remarkable letter of encouragement that identified three key values for the New Democratic Party, and for all Canadians. That trio forms the title of Love, Hope, Optimism (Lorimer, $22.95 pa., Sept.), a collection of reminiscences about the charismatic politician from those who knew him best. Jean Charest, Brian Topp, and Ed Broadbent are among the contributors; James Turk and Charis Wahl serve as editors.

Jael Ealey Richardson, the daughter of ex-CFL quarterback Chuck Ealey, traces her father’s roots to his childhood during the Civil Rights era in the projects of Portsmouth, Ohio, in the process learning why he was unable to play in the NFL. Richardson’s combined memoir and biography, The Stone Thrower ($24.95 pa.), is forthcoming from Thomas Allen Publishers in September. ¢ Bernadette McDonald won the Grand Prize at the Banff Mountain Book Festival and the U.K.’s Boardman-Tasker Prize for 2011’s Freedom Climbers. She follows that book with Keeper of the Mountains: The Elizabeth Hawley Story (Rocky Mountain Books, $22.95 pa., Oct.), about a woman who became an authority on mountaineering in Nepal, despite never having ascended a peak herself.

Stephen Reid, a member of the notorious Stopwatch Gang of bank robbers, has spent much of his adult life behind bars. (It was while serving a 21-year sentence that he began writing, and met his wife, Susan Musgrave, who has a novel out this season.) A Crowbar in the Buddhist Garden: Writing from Prison (Thistledown Press, $18.95 pa., Oct.) collects Reid’s writings about life inside jailhouse walls. ¢ In the spring of 1896, a young magician named Handcuff Harry embarked upon a tour of Eastern Canada, during which the young man “ born Erik Weisz, but better known to history as Harry Houdini “ began making a name for himself as an escape artist. In his debut book, The Metamorphosis: The Apprenticeship of Harry Houdini (Goose Lane Editions, $24.95 pa., Sept.), Nova Scotia writer Bruce MacNab recounts Houdini’s formative experiences in Canada.

P.K. Page was a 20th-century giant of Canadian poetry, yet when she died in 2010 at age 93, no one had written a full-length biography of her life. Sandra Djwa, professor emeritus at Simon Fraser University, rectifies this oversight in Journey with No Maps: A Life of P.K. Page (McGill-Queen’s University Press, $39.95 cl., Oct.). ¢ Michael W. Higgins, author of Suffer the Children Unto Me, an exposé of sex abuse cases among Canada’s clergy, teams up with producer Kevin Burns for Genius Born of Anguish: The Life and Legacy of Henri Nouwen (Novalis, $18.95 pa., Sept.), a volume timed to coincide with an episode of CBC Radio’s Ideas about the Dutch-born Catholic priest and author.

Journalist, biographer, and former newspaper owner Barry Grills lived for three years with a wolf/German Shepherd cross named Lupus. Every Wolf’s Howl (Freehand Books, $21.95 pa., Oct.) is the story of how the dog’s untamed fierceness restored a sense of self-worth and courage in its human companion. ¢ Brian Busby, author of A Gentleman of Pleasure, the 2011 biography of eccentric Canadian writer John Glassco, returns as the editor of a collection of Glassco’s letters. The correspondence reveals Glassco’s ideas about literature and art, and his battles with publishers and censors. The Heart Accepts It All: Selected Letters of John Glassco ($22 pa.) is due from Véhicule Press in November.

Before his untimely death at 44, bpNichol was a major force in 20th-century Canadian poetry, and his influence lives on in the work of younger sound, visual, and flarf poets. Nichol’s frequent collaborator, Frank Davey, has penned a biography of the poet that focuses, in part, on the influences of Freudian dream analysis on Nichol’s work. ECW Press will publish aka bpNichol: a preliminary biography ($22.95 pa.) in October.


In The Energy of Slaves: Oil and the New Servitude (Greystone, $29.95 cl., Sept.), Andrew Nikiforuk, who won the Rachel Carson Environment Book Award for 2008’s Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent, argues that our oil- and coal-based extravagance has provided us with lifestyles not so far removed from those of Caribbean plantation owners. But with half the world’s oil supply having been consumed, we need a radical new plan for emancipation. ¢ Whether scrapping in the political trenches as a Liberal Party of Canada campaign strategist, or writing about the history of punk music, Warren Kinsella could never be considered a shrinking violet. His new book, Fight the Right: A Manual for Surviving the Coming Conservative Apocalypse (Random House Canada, $22.95 pa., Sept.), is a typically provocative, confrontational guidebook for progressives who want to better understand their conservative adversaries.

Edward Keenan is a senior editor at the Toronto weekly The Grid. He is also one of the most vocal and persistent critics of the city’s pro-car, anti-union mayor, Rob Ford. In Some Great Idea: Good Neighbourhoods, Crazy Politics and the Invention of Toronto (Coach House Books, $12 pa., Sept.), Keenan uses the mayor’s divisive tenure at City Hall as a springboard to examine the effects municipal politics can have on a city’s landscape, temper, and citizenry.

Globe and Mail international affairs columnist Doug Saunders follows up 2010’s Arrival City with a book that aims to debunk Western angst over Muslim immigration. The Myth of the Muslim Tide: Do Immigrants Threaten the West? ($24.95 cl.) is due out from Knopf Canada in August. ¢ Another foreign correspondent, Michael Petrou of Maclean’s, has spent the years following 9/11 travelling throughout Afghanistan and other parts of the Middle East, reporting on the lives of people buffeted by the conflicting forces of Islam, ethnic nationalism, and Western intervention. Is This Your First War? Travels through the Post 9/11 Islamic World (Dundurn Press, $24.99 pa., Oct.) records his experiences in a region undergoing great turmoil and change.

Embedded on the Homefront: Where Military and Civilian Lives Converge (Heritage House, $19.95 pa., Sept.) collects 14 essays by writers who have either found themselves on the front lines of military conflict or been directly affected by military action. Barb Howard and Joan Dixon serve as co-editors. ¢ In Slouching toward Sirte: NATO’s War on Libya and Africa (Baraka Books, $19.95 pa., Oct.), Concordia University associate professor of anthropology Maximilian C. Forte argues that NATO’s decision to invade Libya was not prompted by humanitarian concerns or even the thirst for oil, but by a broader process of militarizing U.S. relations with Africa.


Stephen R. Bown, author of 1494 and Merchant Kings, turns his attention to the explorer who beat the British in the race to the South Pole, and also reached the North Pole, the Northeast Passage, and the Northwest Passage in the span of 20 years. The Last Viking: The Life of Roald Amundsen (Douglas & McIntyre, $32.95 cl., Oct.) tells the story of an adventurer who was arrogant and entertaining in roughly equal measure.

In 1980, when Pierre Elliott Trudeau and his energy minister, Marc Lalonde, instituted Canada’s National Energy Program, the oil-rich West reacted vociferously in opposition, but this was hardly the first time such conflict had erupted. Mary Janigan‘s Let the Eastern Bastards Freeze in the Dark: The West Versus the Rest Since Confederation (Knopf Canada, $32 cl., Nov.) examines an almost forgotten 1918 incident in which three Western premiers attempted to wrest away control of their provinces’ natural resources from Ottawa.

The Cold War is usually associated with the twin superpowers of the U.S. and the Soviet Union, but Canada was not immune from the danger and paranoia fostered by the burgeoning nuclear arms race. In Give Me Shelter: The Failure of Canada’s Cold War Civil Defence (UBC Press, $32.95 pa., July), Canadian War Museum historian Andrew Burtch examines the tactics employed, unsuccessfully in many cases, to prepare Canadians for the threat of nuclear war.

The Hon. Barry L. Strayer was instrumental in designing Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the 1982 repatriation of the Constitution. In Canada’s Constitutional Revolution (University of Alberta Press, $34.95 pa., Oct.), the retired federal court judge recalls his involvement as a legal adviser during the period of constitutional reform from 1960 to ’82.

Since its debut in 1947, Vancouver’s Penthouse Nightclub has earned a reputation as one of the city’s most notorious locales. Aaron Chapman‘s Liquor, Lust, and the Law: The Story of Vancouver’s Legendary Penthouse Nightclub (Arsenal Pulp Press, $27.95 pa., Oct.), written with the blessing of the club’s current owner, tells the salacious story of this West Coast institution.

Q&Q‘s fall preview covers books published between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2012. ¢ All information (titles, prices, publication dates, etc.) was supplied by publishers and may have been tentative at Q&Q’s press time. ¢ Titles that have been listed in previous previews do not appear here.