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Fall preview 2013: Canadian non-fiction politics, memoir, biography, and more

In the July/August issue, Q&Q looks ahead at fall’s most anticipated Canadian non-fiction.


Two years after his death, NDP leader Jack Layton continues to be the subject of movies and books. This fall, for the first time, someone from the politician’s inner circle tells all. Former campaign manager Brad Lavigne recounts Layton’s political rise in Building the Orange Wave (Douglas & McIntyre, $34.95 cl., Sept.). ¢ Harper endures. I figure it is not too soon to try to understand him, Maclean’s columnist Paul Wells writes in The Longer I’m Prime Minister (Random House Canada, $32 cl., Oct.), a critical account of the Conservative leader’s time as PM. ¢ Canada is often seen as a sympathetic ally, but as global power dynamics shift, former Prime Minister Joe Clark argues that the nation needs to reassert its place on the world stage. How We Lead: Canada in a Century of Change (Random House Canada, $32 cl.) appears in November.

In Shopping for Votes: How Politicians Choose Us and We Choose Them (D&M, $32.95 cl., Sept.), Toronto Star senior political writer Susan Delacourt takes readers inside the world of political marketing in Canada, explaining how public-relations experts manage the media and serve up palatable politics for public consumption.

Binge drinking, DUIs, drunkorexia, and health conditions related to alcoholism are all on the rise among young women. Part journalism, part memoir, Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol (HarperCollins Canada, $29 cl., Oct.), by Ann Dowsett Johnston, traces the connections between corporate marketing strategies targeted exclusively at women and this startling epidemic. ¢ From magician David Copperfield’s archipelago in the Bahamas to an anti-aging symposium at Harvard University, Adam Leith Gollner delves into a strange array of characters, cults, myths, and businesses devoted to postponing death indefinitely in The Book of Immortality (Doubleday Canada, $29.95 cl., Aug.).

Two fall titles offer insight into recent examples of large-scale political activism. The history, philosophy, and controversy surrounding the titular masked protesters is explored in Black Blocs (Between the Lines, $22.95 pa., Nov.), by Université du Québec à Montréal professor Francis Dupuis-Déri. Translated from a 2007 French edition, the book includes updates on recent Black Bloc actions at protests in Greece, Germany, Canada, and England. ¢ Using first-hand accounts of the Occupy movement, the Quebec student spring, and the Idle No More protests, Joel D. Harden explores recent expressions of discontent in Canada in Quiet No More (Lorimer, $22.95 pa., Oct.).

Memoir & Biography

Known for his modernist concrete structures, including the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto, and the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C. (for which then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau intervened to get him the commission), the internationally renowned architect Arthur Erickson passed away in 2009. In Arthur Erickson: An Architect’s Life (D&M, $34.95 cl., Sept.), David Stouk, a professor emeritus of English at Simon Fraser University, offers the first full biography of a man whose personal excesses ultimately left him penniless.

As one of a comparatively small number of women in the RCMP, Janet Merlo experienced her share of trials in her nearly 20-year career. In 2012, she brought forth allegations of persistent sexual harassment and became the representative plaintiff in a proposed class-action lawsuit. The former B.C. Mountie tells her story in No One To Tell: Breaking My Silence on Life in the RCMP ($24.95 pa., Sept.), published by Newfoundland’s Breakwater Books.

Billed as a novel, Andrew Steinmetz‘s 2008 memoir-­fiction hybrid, Eva’s Threepenny Theatre, intrigued readers and received a Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize nomination. This Great Escape (Biblioasis, $19.95 pa., Sept.) is a sequel of sorts, telling the surreal tale of Michael Paryla, the nephew of Steinmetz’s great-aunt Eva. A European Jew who fled Nazism as a child, Paryla went on to play the part of a Gestapo agent in The Great Escape. Shortly after filming the movie, which intersects bitterly, ironically, and often movingly with his own life, Paryla died a suspicious death.

Throughout his career, Peter S. Grant has been a pioneer in the field of communications law in Canada, acting as counsel for virtually all the major players in the Canadian telecommunications and broadcast industry. His second book, Changing Channels: Confessions of a Canadian Communications Lawyer (The Porcupine’s Quill, $27.95 pa., Oct.), is a memoir about his time in the trenches. ¢ Charles Foster had the kind of career that only seems possible for enterprising white men of a certain vintage. As described in From Old Hollywood to New Brunswick (Nimbus Publishing, $17.95 pa., Oct.), Foster left London, England, in 1943 to join pilot school in Calgary, only to end up in showbiz, where he received mysterious invitations from Charlie Chaplin, had heart-to-hearts with John F. Kennedy, and did jigsaw puzzles with Marilyn Monroe. To top it off, Foster became a speechwriter for three Canadian prime ministers.


Noted historian and biographer Charlotte Gray will release her 10th book this September. Set in 1915 against the backdrop of the First World War, The Massey Murder: A Maid, Her Master and the Trial that Shocked a Nation (HarperCollins Canada, $33.99 cl.) tells the sensational story of a court case that implicated a member of one of Canada’s wealthiest families.

Renowned historian Margaret MacMillan returns with yet another book on the First World War, following her 2003 international bestseller Paris 1919. In The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 (Allen Lane Canada, $38 cl., Oct.), MacMillan charts the political and technological changes leading up to the war that changed Europe forever. ¢ Authors Dan Black and John Boileau recount the untold story of underage soldiers who fought for Canada in the First World War. Old Enough to Fight (Lorimer, $29.95 cl.) appears in October.

Mike McCardell‘s Haunting Vancouver: A Nearly True History (Harbour Publishing, $32.95 cl., Sept.) provides sketches of some of Vancouver’s more eccentric movers and shakers, including A.E.B. Davie, the city’s first openly gay politician, and Chang Toy, a businessman who rebelled against racist city planners and built the narrowest commercial building in the world.

Two of Canada’s major library systems celebrate their 100th anniversaries this year, and each is marking the milestone with a book. Novelist Todd Babiak penned Just Getting Started: Edmonton Public Library’s First 100 Years, 1913“2013 ($24.95 pa., $45 cl., Oct.) for the University of Alberta Press, while Turning Back the Pages: 100 Years at the Saskatoon Public Library (Coteau Books, $29.95 pa., Oct.) was written by Ruth Wright Millar and contains an introduction by Yann Martel.

Science & Environment

In recent years, fracking has become one of the most controversial and polarizing eco-political issues. Both sides of the debate are represented in non-fiction this fall. Coming out in favour of the practice is Ezra Levant, the prominent right-wing pundit and Sun TV host, in Groundswell: The Case for Fracking (Signal/McClelland & Stewart, $29.95 cl., Nov.). ¢ On the other side of the debate is first-time author C. Alexia Lane, who argues that there is an urgent need for policy reform to protect Canada’s water sources. On Fracking ($16 cl.) appears from Rocky Mountain Books in October.

Inuit activist Sheila Watt-Cloutier, an expert on the effects of global warming in the North, argues that climate change is a human-rights issue in The Right to Be Cold: One Woman’s Story of Protecting Her Culture (Allen Lane Canada, $32 cl., Sept.).

The world’s increasingly scarce freshwater supply has become a critical topic in recent years, particularly in Canada. The global water crisis is the subject of Maude Barlow‘s final book in her Blue trilogy, Blue Future: Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever (House of Anansi Press, $24.95 cl., Sept.). ¢ John L. Riley charts centuries of upheaval in the Great Lakes region in The Once and Future Great Lakes Country: An Ecological History (McGill-Queen’s University Press, $39.95 cl., Oct.). From the impacts of climate change, invasive species, and urban sprawl to more recent efforts at re-wilding, Riley chronicles a region at a crossroads. ¢ In February, the Global Nature Fund identified Lake Winnipeg as the world’s most threatened lake. An authority on freshwater issues, Robert William Sandford calls for changes in government, industry, and society in Saving Lake Winnipeg (RMB, $16 cl., Oct.).