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The Red Agitator

Ron Verzuh examines the turbulent life and times of B.C. communist trade union organizer Harvey Murphy, and why he is all but forgotten. FULL STORY

Who’s Who

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Luanne Armstrong

A is for Armstrong
Kootenay-born-and-raised Luanne Armstrong is an organic farmer on a fourth-generation family farm in the small community of Boswell, B.C. With her MFA degree from UBC, she has increasingly taught writing and worked as a feminist researcher, a freelance journalist, and as a publisher and editor for Blue Lake Books and HodgePog Books. In her teen novel, Sand (Ronsdale $11.95), fifteen-year-old Willy Cameron is paralyzed from the waist down after a car accident. Demoralized, she takes up therapeutic horse riding and regains the use of her legs, developing a bond with a spirited rescue horse named Sand. Trouble arises when she takes Sand from the stable, against the order of the stable owner, to search for a missing friend. It’s Armstrong’s 19th book. 978-1-55380-473-4

B is for Bolen
Chelsea Bolan’s debut novel, The Good Sister (HarperAvenue $22.99) was selected as the second winner of the HarperCollins/UBC Prize for Best New Fiction, a program devised to release new work emanating from the UBC Creative Writing department. Bolan’s novel focuses on contemporary Mexican culture in a tourist town in the Baja, particularly one family whose young daughter Gabriela Amador Prieto has been banished after a sexual assault, just prior to her fifteenth birthday. The novel opens with Gabi’s father burning all her belongings, removing every trace of her, including all photos. Angry at her father, brothers and devious brother-in-law for their silence and complicity surrounding Gabi’s unexplained disappearance, Gabi’s older sister and best friend, Lucy, is determined to find her. She eventually explores the dark underbelly of Mexico City to track Gabriela down, then flies to San Diego. Born in Spokane, Washington, Chelsea Bolan of Seattle has a BA in English Literature from the University of Washington and a MFA from the University of British Columbia. Her work has appeared in The Kenyon Review, The Seattle Weekly, CutBank, Fourteen Hills, Borderlands and in Particles on the Wall, an exhibition about Hanford and nuclear issues. 978-1-44344-241-1

©Imaging by Marlis 2012 Permission granted to Marion Crook for personal and promotional use

Marion Crook

C is for Crook
Born in New Westminster on October 16, 1941, Marion McKinnon Crook grew up in Cloverdale and graduated from Seattle University with a BSc in Nursing in 1963. She worked as a public health nurse, primarily in the Cariboo, for 21 years. “I had Horsefly, Likely, Black Creek and Lac La Hache. It was 38-below sometimes, on logging roads, 60 miles from the nearest doctor. When you’re 23 years old and naive, you learn a lot of things fast. The first time I went to Likely they flew in a 20-year-old boy who had been hit by a tree. He was dead. That was my introduction.” She raised three children and tended a flock of sheep, and cattle. Having sold three stories to CBC Radio in 1969, she began self-publishing a series of Susan George mysteries for juveniles, plus B.C. stories about 11-year-olds named Megan and Ricky, including The Hidden Gold Mystery and Crosscurrents. Her self-published historical novel about early Vancouver was A Question of Justice – 1986 (Williams Lake, 1985). Later Crook co-wrote and published How To Self-Publish and Make Money with Nancy Wise of Kelowna, something of landmark text that recognizes and encourages the viability of self-publishing in B.C. Crook has since written (but not published herself) various books about teenagers, including The Face in the Mirror: Teenagers Talk About Abortion and Every Parent’s Guide to Understanding Teenagers and Suicide. The Body Image Trap is “for the 92% of women who don’t fit the idealized frame.” In 1995 she received an MA in liberal studies at SFU. She has a Ph.D in Education from UBC and has spend several decades researching and writing about difficulties faced by teenagers.  Now she has released a third printing of her book of advice first released in 1998, Writing for Children and Young Adults (Self-Counsel epub $8.99). “The writing process for this edition of the book,” she says, “was fast and exciting. I followed the outline of the second edition of the book, but the world of writing and publishing had changed so much that I muttered a kind of schizophrenic conversation with myself discussing every paragraph. Was this still true? What else contributed to this aspect of writing in this modern world? I was, at the time of writing, on a private Facebook page with about fifty other writers, most of them living in the US, who discussed writing and contracts and were willing to give advice. I volunteered to participate in their virtual tours, street trams, contests and promotional schemes in order to find experience in this new digital marketing. It was strange and fascinating.” 978-1-77040-828-9 

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Ron Dart

D is for Dart
Ron Dart of Abbotsford has taught in the department of political science/philosophy/religious studies at University of the Fraser Valley since 1990, undertaken Ph.D studies at McMaster University and served on staff with Amnesty International in the 1980s in B.C. He is a leading authority on the subject of Canadian High–Red Toryism, and some of its most significant thinkers, including Stephen Leacock and George Grant. His 25th book The North American High Tory Tradition (American Anglican Press $55) has a foreword from Jonathan M. Paquette of the University of St Andrews Institute of Intellectual History.  It was celebrated with a public event sponsored by American Anglican Press and the George Grant Society. 978-0-9963248-3-0

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Ann Eriksson

E is for Eriksson
Ann Eriksson’s fifth novel The Performance (D&M $22.95) contrasts the worlds of elite classical piano with urban homelessness. Hana Knight, a privileged and talented young pianist, develops a tenuous friendship with Jacqueline, a homeless woman who collects empty bottles and cans to buy tickets to Hana’s concerts. Hana is blessed with a magnificent Steinway piano, a place at Juilliard, a Manhattan apartment and a patron who arranges everything, including a European tour. But there is a dark mystery from her past that needs to be faced, and she must put her privileged life at risk to do so. Eriksson was born in Saskatchewan and grew up in all three prairie provinces. Having studied and lived in New Zealand, Europe and Halifax, she came to the West Coast in 1978, living for ten years on Galiano Island. Moving to Victoria in 1990, she completed a degree in Biology with a minor in Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria. Her work as consulting biologist on biodiversity has had an impact on her writing. In 2007 she married poet Gary Geddes and they now divide their time between Victoria and Thetis Island, B.C. Ann Eriksson is a founding director of the Thetis Island Nature Conservancy. 978-1-77162-125-0

F is for Farrant
In 2014, the much-nominated M.A.C. (Marion) Farrant received the $5,000 City of Victoria Butler Prize for her fiction collection, The World Afloat: Miniatures. She’s keeping it small with The Days: Forecasts, Warnings, Advice (Talonbooks $14.95), her new absurdist guidebook made up of 90 short stories collected into three sections that delve into the mundanity of life as well as what makes life special day after day. Farrant captures the ordinary moment in an average day and brings overwhelming truths to the readers’ attention. 978-1-77201-007-7

G is for Geddes
Gary Geddes has spent four years interviewing elders for his next non-fiction book, due in January, Medicine Unbundled: Dispatches from the Indigenous Frontlines (Heritage House), about the segregated Indian hospitals in Canada, put in place not to help Indigenous patients but to keep them separate from a white, racist society. These hospitals, he claims, were chronically under-funded (run for 50% of the cost for white hospitals), poorly staffed and struggling always to maintain a full complement of sick Indians. Joan Morris, a Songhees elder, told Geddes how her mother was taken to the Nanaimo Indian Hospital at age 18, in apparent good health, and not released until she was 35. The hospitals, in cahoots with residential schools, were also responsible for forced sterilizations, gratuitous drug and surgical experiments, and electric shock treatment to destroy the short-term memory of sexual abuse. Geddes reveals that children spent years in the segregated hospitals as guinea pigs but their victimization has never been part of any compensation process.  “The big presses all said this is a great idea and an important project,” Geddes says, but they wouldn’t be able to sell it because ‘Alas, no one in Canada is interested in Indians.’ I hope to prove those publishers wrong, not for my own sake, as I am giving any royalties to set up a scholarship in Indigenous Studies at UVic, but because the subject is so important.”

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Ralph Hancox

H is for Hancox
Ralph Hancox’s third novel in two years, The Ape and the Peacock (Fictive Press $17.99), emanates from his social conscience. Set in the fictional Canadian province of Superior, his story spans a few days in November of 1957, following the paths of two miscreants and their differing fates. As the lives of several high-level government officials and a colourful cast of “destitutes” are forever altered, Hancox explores unequal consequences for the privileged and the dispossessed. After some 50 years in the publishing industry in the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, and Italy – – including 16 years as CEO, chairman and president of The Reader’s Digest Association (Canada) Ltd. – –  Hancox taught Topics in Publishing Management at SFU’s Master of Publishing program for almost ten years upon his retirement.1927663334

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Inge Israel

I is for Israel
Born of a Russian mother and Polish father in Frankfurt in 1927, Inge Israel escaped Hitler’s rise with her parents to France. After also living in Ireland, Belgium and Denmark, she came to Edmonton in 1958 and Victoria in 1996. She speaks four languages and has eight previous books in French and English. Now her reflective and emotionally-charged memoir Finding the Words (Niagara: Seraphim Editions 2016) recalls the events and people who shaped her life in many places all over the world. Among her previous books, Rifts in the Visible is a bilingual collection about the life and art of expressionist painter Chaim Soutine, much admired by Modigliani. In Beckett Soundings (Ronsdale, 2011), Israel examines the paradoxical life of playwright Samuel Beckett through a collection of poems. 978-1927079409

J is for Jones
Kari Jones’ forthcoming tale of West Coast surfing, alcohol abuse and teen angst, At the Edge of the World (Orca 2016) will be also about a deep friendship that becomes burdened by a secret. Maddie and Ivan are long-time friends but as Ivan’s life goes seriously awry, she has to make a decision as to whether or not she tells Ivan’s biggest secret in order to possibly save his life. By letting others know what is going on in Ivan’s family, she will be betraying his trust. 9781459810624

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Kara-lee MacDonald

K is for Kara-lee
A lifelong resident of northern B.C., Kara-lee MacDonald teaches English at the Fort St. John Literacy Society while completing her MA in English (UNBC) and releasing her first poetry collection, Eating Matters (Caitlin $18), in which a semiautobiographical narrator overcomes her complex drives and compulsions arising from anorexia and bulimia. It’s described as part trauma travelogue, part self-analysis, part cultural critique and part healing journey into binge/purge purgatory. 978-1-987915-13-6

L is for Laurence
Vancouver-based independent writer and critic, Robin Laurence won this year’s Royal Canadian Academy of Arts medal, given to individuals who have made a significant contributuion to the cultural life in Canada. Joseph-­Richard Veilleux, RCA President wrote to Laurence that, “You have been one of Vancouver’s most active and integral arts writers and cultural contributors for over twenty years. Your achievements as an award-winning visual arts critic for The Georgia Straight and as a contributing editor of both Canadian Art and Border Crossings magazines, have provided an insightful and intelligent context for the arts in the BC region, and Canada as a whole. Your ongoing dedication to the visual arts in Canada through numerous publications, reviews, essays, and curatorial work, has informed and supported the cultural community of arts in this nation.” Robin Laurence’s published titles include: The Spirit of Haida Gwaii: Bill Reid’s Masterpiece (Douglas & McIntyre, 1997; 2006); and A Sense of Place: Art at Vancouver International Airport (Figure 1 Publishing, 2015). 9781927958261

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Claire McCague

M is for McCague
As a scientist with a serious addiction to the arts, Claire McCague’s first novel, The Rosetta Man (Edge US$19.95), is in the sci-fi genre. The protagonist, Estlin Hume loves squirrels and is constantly followed by them. This “talent” results in chronic unemployment and occasional homelessness until two aliens adopt him as their translator. Caught in this ‘first contact’ crisis, Estlin hopes that the military forces converging in the South Pacific don’t kill the messenger. McCague holds a doctorate in chemistry, works in the high tech industry, and her plays have been have been featured in festivals across Canada. She lives in Delta and Sechelt. 9781770531246

N is for Namir
God in Pink, the debut novel by Hasan Namir, won the Lambda Literary Award in the category of best gay novel at an awards ceremony in New York on June 6, 2016. Previously it was named to the “Globe 100” list of the best books of 2015 by The Globe and Mail. God in Pink (Arsenal Pulp $17.95) is about Ramy, a young Iraqi boy who is gay. Ramy struggles to find a balance between his sexual yearnings and his culture. Having lost his parents, he lives with his strict brother and sister-in-law, who pressure Ramy to marry. Eventually Ramy turns to Ammar, a sheikh at a local mosque. A searing exploration of the world of gay Muslims in Iraq, the book contains graphic depictions of violence juxtaposed against serene moments of beauty. Born in Iraq in 1987, Hasan Namir of Vancouver came to Canada at a young age and holds a BA in English from Simon Fraser University. Hosted by comedienne Kate Clinton at NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, the Lambda ceremony brought together over 500 attendees, sponsors, and celebrities to celebrate excellence in LGBT literature and 28 years of the groundbreaking literary awards. 978-1-55152-607-2

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Catherine Owen

O is for Owen
Prolific Catherine Owen’s The Day of the Dead: Sliver Fictions, Short Stories & an Homage (Caitlin $20) is described as a series of collisions between genders in the realms of sexuality, relationships, art and grief in three sections: Men & Women, Muses and The Dead. We are told to expect interactions between boys, girls, ghosts, men, women and all sorts of bystander animals. LGBTQ?+ What the heck, we might as well also mention Owen is a bass player in the metal band Medea and she blogs at Marrow Reviews. 978-1-987915-20-4

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Gudrun Pflüger & Nahanni, her dog

P is for Pflüger
When Austrian-born Gudrun Pflüger retired from athletics (Mountain Running World trophy winner 1993, 1995, 1996 and 1997) the certified field biologist relocated to Western Canada where she got involved in the conservation of B.C.’s coastal wolf population and studied wild wolves in the Rocky Mountains. Diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor, Pflüger was told she had eighteen months to live. Taking the wolf as her role model, she immersed herself in the wilderness of the mountain ranges of western Canada as an unconventional approach to self-healing–and has survived. Her memoir Wolf Spirit: A Story of Healing, Wolves and Wonder (Rocky Mountain Books $28) has been shortlisted for the 2016 Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival award for Mountain and Wilderness Literature. 978-1-77160-127-6

Q is for Quartermain
Set in Vancouver, in 1972, U Girl (Talon $19.95) is a coming of age story about Frances Nelson as she arrives in big city for her first year of university, escaping her small-town life. Sexual experimentation, drugs, working at menial jobs, meditating on Wreck Beach and studying at the University of British Columbia during the “free love” era are all incorporated in her struggle to be taken seriously as a woman with a desire for gender equality. 978-1-77201-040-4

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Lenore Rowntree

R is for Rowntree
Lawyer and painter Lenore Rowntree has followed her brilliant but almost entirely unnoticed linked collection, Dovetail Joint and other stories (Quadra Books 2015) with a first novel, Cluck (Thistledown $19.95), in which we follow the life of a socially awkward man, Henry, as he attempts to navigate through Kitsilano burdened by his own mother’s mental illness and his own sexual repression. He’s a radio junkie, an obsessive romantic and a chronic outsider. It was a finalist in The Great BC Novel Contest. Her play The Woods at Tender Creek was produced at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre in 2010. Rowntree’s short stories and poetry have been published in several Canadian literary journals; her poetry was included in the anthology Best Canadian Poetry 2010. Rowntree grew up in Toronto, then moved to Vancouver where she practiced law, and taught at the university and high school level. She began painting and exhibiting in the 1990s. She co-edited Hidden Lives: Coming Out on Mental Illness (Brinle & Glass, 2012) with Andrew Boden. The foreword was by Gabor Mate. 978-1-77187-108-2

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Stephen Scobie

S is for Scobie
The Griffin in the Griffin’s Wood (Ekstasis $29.95), a spy novel in the tradition of John Le Carre’s The Russia House, is a marked departure for Victoria-based poet Stephen Scobie. Known for his  long narrative poems (McAlmon’s Chinese Opera; RLS: At the World’s End), and for his extensive critical work on Canadian literature, as well as on figures such as Georges Braque and Bob Dylan, Scobie’s latest literary output is set against the backdrop of a critical moment in modern European history (the fall of the Berlin Wall), and at the same time a playful game with the genre conventions of the spy novel itself. He earned a PhD from the UBC after which he taught at the University of Alberta and at the University of Victoria. Scobie is a founding editor of Longspoon Press, an elected member of the Royal Society of Canada, and the recipient of the 1980 Governor General’s Award for McAlmon’s Chinese Opera (1980) and the 1986 Prix Gabrielle Roy for Canadian Criticism. 978-1-77171-105-0


T is for Trunkey
One of the benefits of book awards, beyond serving as a good excuse for writers and supportive book folks to break bread, is they can introduce emerging authors such as Laura Trunkey who first received a Social Work degree before veering towards her MFA in Creative Writing through UBC’s Optional Residency program.  After graduating with a degree in social work, she was employed at a shelter for homeless youth and worked with children who have special needs at Tillicum Elementary. A writing class from Lorna Jackson was a major catalyst along the way to becoming a freelance editor and an Artistic Associate of the Victoria Festival of Authors. She has written a children’s novel, The Incredibly Ordinary Danny Chandelier (Annick 2008) and had stories appear in Darwin’s Bastards: Astounding Tales from Tomorrow (D&M, 2010) and Pennies in My Pocket: Stories of My Brother (Brindle & Glass 2012). The appearance of her first short fiction collection, Double Dutch (House of Anansi $19.95) hasn’t made her a household name yet either. But now the Victoria resident, who grew up in the Fairfield neighborhood, has been shortlisted for the $5,000 City of Victoria Butler Book Prize for Greater Victoria authors. Appropriately dubbed as weird and wonderful, Trunkey’s stories can delve into bizarre storylines: An elephant named Topsy is killed on Coney Island by Thomas Edison in 1903. Ronald Reagan’s body double falls in love with the first lady. A single mother believes her toddler is the reincarnation of a terrorist. A man grieves for his wife after a bear takes over her body. But other stories can be touching and realistic: A young deaf girl visits Niagara Falls before she goes blind.  9781770898776

Alternes, Serge book jacket Live SoulsU is for Uncharted
Jim McDowell’s book from Ronsdale Press about the first European to reach the area that has become greater Vancouver, Uncharted Waters: The Explorations of José Narváez (1768-1840), received a Silver Medal for Western Canadian history at the Independent Publisher Book Awards that honour the year’s best independently published titles from around the world. Another Ronsdale title, Live Souls: Citizens and Volunteers of Civil War Spain by Serge Alternes and Alec Wainman received a Bronze Medal for European regional history. The IPPY Independent Publisher awards were presented in Chicago before Book Expo America.

V is for von Essen
With text by Phil Saunders, Derek von Essen’s photos are featured in No Flash, Please!: Toronto Music Scene 1987-92 (Anvil $25), a compendium that records the pop music scene in Canada’s largest city during the early 1990s. Working for various independent publications of that era, the pair covered concerts and gigs by local bands as well as music from touring groups that included Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Jesus Lizard, Mudhoney, Soundgarden, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Henry Rollins. Von Essen works in graphic art, photography, painting and mixed-media assemblage for fine arts, dance, theatre, music, film and publishing projects. 978-1-77214-037-8

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Christine Wheeler

W is for Wheeler
Since 2002 Christine Wheeler as been certified as an Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) practitioner, helping alleviate thousands of people from physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges and instead to live with hope and joy. Wheeler lives in Vancouver, B.C. In The Tapping Solution for Teenage Girls: How to Stop Freaking Out and Keep Being Awesome (Raincoast $15.99), Wheeler applies her EFT skillset and teaches teenage girls how to use tapping to reduce stress and have more confidence in any situation. Tapping is a technique where one physically taps meridian points through the human body which helps with the flow of energy. This book focuses tapping on the stresses of teenage girls and helps them deal with problems such as grades, test anxiety, conflicts with parents or sibilings, as well as friendships, romantic relationships and breakups. 978-1401948924

X is for Xinjiang
As a sessional lecturer at UBC, Kim Trainor has released Karyotype (Brick $20), a poetry collection about a woman who lived four thousand years ago. Dubbed Loulan, her body has been preserved in the sands of the Taklamakan Desert—the largest desert in China, in the southwest Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The word karyotype, we are told, is “the characteristic chromosome complement of a species.” Trainor worked in a biomedical library and for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Previously her poetry won the Ralph Gustafson Prize from The Fiddlehead and the Long Poem Prize from The Malahat Review. 978-1-77131-379-7

YakuglasY is for Yakuglas
Yakuglas’ Legacy (UTP $85) by Ronald W. Hawker examines the life and times of Charlie James (1867-1937), also known by his ceremonial name Yakuglas, who was a premier carver and painter from the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation. Hawker examines James’ transition from art that was primarily ceremonial to more contemporary art in the 1920s, which allowed James to make critical statements about the vitality of the Kwakwaka’wakw culture during a time of widespread oppression. The son of a Kwakwaka’wakw mother and an American father, he is often cited for playing a key role in the revival of totem pole carving among his people. 978-1-4426-4940-8

Z is for Zsuzsi
We confess we have a hard time flipping through many of the lit mags. But there are some outstanding exceptions. Hence we’re glad to report that Zsuzsi Gartner recently picked up the Silver National Magazine Award in Fiction for her story The Beguiling that was published in subTerrain‘s Outsiders Issue. We actually read subTerrain cover to cover. They don’t bombard us with self-promotional emails every week. They rely on content.

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