Lost ‘n’ Harbour founder
Back in 1990, publisher Howard White was interviewed for Books & Water: The Story of Harbour Publishing. The documentary has now resurfaced, featuring interviews with Anne Cameron, Peter Trower and many others.
March 08th, 2016
The documentary has resurfaced twenty-six years later. Introduced by Rowland Lorimer, who co-created the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing, this 28-minute production made by Simon Fraser University was produced and directed by Paul McIsaac. It has been unavailable to the public almost since it was made.
Howard White has since become the owner-publisher of both Harbour Publishing as well as the revitalized Douglas & McIntyre imprint, making him the most influential trade publisher in Western Canada. And he’s done it all while living in the community of Madeira Park on the Sunshine Coast.
BCBookLook has acquired and remounted the seldom-seen documentary for public viewing with the assistance of B.C. BookWorld art director David Lester.
Howard (Howie) White is also an author, a member of the Order of Canada, and a member of the Order of British Columbia.
“Howard White and his Harbour Publishing have done more for regional writers, the history of the West Coast, its people, its character, its fast-fading uniqueness, than any other publisher in North America–hell, in the world.” — Barry Broadfoot
Howard White is one of the key figures in the evolution of British Columbia culture–and certainly one of the foremost figures in the rise of B.C. literature during his lifetime.
Born in Abbotsford on April 18, 1945, Howard White was raised in a series of camps and unnamed settlements, particularly at Greene’s Bay and on Nelson Island, “and never got over it.” Initially his schooling was correspondence courses. His upbringing was remote but not underprivileged. “I grew up pitying poor city boys,” he says, “who couldn’t walk a slippery boomstick without falling in the drink or tell a red cedar from a yellow cedar.” Logging and literature were not necessarily antithetical. The bunkhouse ballads of Robert Swanson, the Robert Service of the West Coast, had been popular in the no-name camps for decades. “Many of the loggers I knew were well-read, they loved to recite poetry, and a lot even wrote their own ballads. I grew up thinking that writing was not a freakish occupation, though I seldom saw a book. My parents belonged to the Book of the Month Club and Dad read Steinbeck to us at night. There was no Mother Goose.” In particular, White remembers an aristocratic French logger named Robert La Roix who travelled the world and liked to discourse on the classics to the gypo loggers. “That was MY logger,” White once told coastal writer Tom Henry.
White later grew up in Pender Harbour, where he still lives and operates Harbour Publishing from two houses in Madeira Park. Invariably profiles of him mention he used to drive bulldozers and backhoes, or that he only reluctantly gave up his job as ‘Solid Waste Supervisor of the Sanitary Disposal Unit’ at the Pender Harbour dumpsite in the late 1980s. They fail to note the influence of his father, Frank White, who supplied his son with a model for do-it-yourself creativity, political savvy and hard work. “My Dad used to try and read to me from Organic Evolution and the Wealth of Nations when I was eight. In school I was nicknamed The Professor.”
Having attended UBC–where he crossed paths with Scott McIntyre who later steered the Douglas & McIntrye imprint in Vancouver as White’s chief competitor–White began writing in 1970 for his own newspaper, Peninsula Voice (1969-74). In 1972, he and Mary Lee began publishing the West Coast journal Raincoast Chronicles. In 1974 he published the first title bearing the Harbour Publishing imprint. “I was trying to prove that the West Coast existed, that it was a legitimate subject.” He married Mary Lee in 1975.
The Whites’ first book-length, hardcover compendium of Raincoast Chronicles, called Raincoast Chronicles First Five, received the Eaton’s B.C. Book Award in 1976, the most prestigious literary prize in the province at the time. It has been reprinted at least ten times. The original foreword states: “Raincoast Chronicles is essentially a no-bullshit book that opens up the past of those of us living along the West Coast of Canada in a way that no other magazine has ever succeeded. No glossy tourist nonsense. No political monkeying with the facts of life. Sweat and grease and silver and salmon. Lovely yellowing old photographs. Steam engines. Diesels. Oars. Easthopes. Rigging. Donkeys.”
Howard White was the president of the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia (1988-1990). His home-based firm published approximately 400 titles during its first 35 years of operation, including the Encyclopedia of British Columbia, a ten-year project that was also the culmination of a lifetime spent appreciating and building B.C. culture. The book, edited by Daniel Francis, received two B.C. Book Prizes. White’s initiative earned him the inaugural Jim Douglas Award for outstanding publisher in B.C. in 2002. (Jim Douglas was the founder, in 1970, of J.J. Douglas, which later became Douglas & McIntyre.)
“I still miss outdoor work,” he told the Toronto Star in 1991, “and I have a sneaking suspicion that what I do is not a legitimate way to earn a living. Someday all this paper shuffling will be found out and I’ll have to get my hands dirty again.” He remains a director of his family’s Indian Isle Construction. White has continued to oversee individual and collected editions of Raincoast Chronicles while publishing distinctively West Coast authors such as Peter Trower, Hubert Evans and Anne Cameron. His close friendship with Garden Bay’s Edith Iglauer Daly led to her bestseller Fishing With John, adapted into a movie. She later married his father, Frank White, with whom Howard Write co-wrote to volumes of autobiography, uncredited.
Howard White is the subject of two related documentary profiles by Paul McIsaac, Books and Water (for Simon Fraser University) and Writing in the Rain (Knowledge Network). He has given many readings, some as a member of a touring stage show called Caulk Boots and Marlin Spikes.
By 2003, Harbour Publishing was one of western Canada’s leading book publishers and White had self-published eight of his own books. These have ranged from labour history to poetry to children’s literature. His first book, A Hard Man To Beat, documents the life and times of Bill White (no relation), the longtime Marine and Boilermakers Union president. Reprinted in 2012, it was shortlisted for George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature, sponsored by Okanagan College and BC BookWorld.
The Men There Were Then pays tribute to characters of the coastal working class and his experiences growing up. Illustrated by Bus Griffiths, his Patrick and the Backhoe is about a boy who just can’t resist heavy machinery. The two books he wrote for, with and about Jim Spilsbury, with Jim Spilsbury as the narrator, were both bestsellers. Although Writing in the Rain made him only the fourth British Columbian to win the Leacock Medal for humour, it’s an anthology of miscellaneous articles that aren’t primarily meant to be funny. He has also edited Raincoast Chronicles: Forgotten Villages of the B.C. Coast and cumulative versions of the ongoing Raincoast Chronicles series.
Howard White has long been active in provincial and community politics, campaigning against the Cheekeye-Dunsmuir powerline project (“a billion-dollar boondoggle”) and succeeding in the establishment of a new marine park in Pender Harbour. He was part of a small team that raised an extraordinary donation from Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen to kickstart Canadian funding that was otherwise not forthcoming. He ran unsuccessfully for the provincial NDP in his home riding on the Sunshine Coast in 1991, gaining mosts of the votes on his home turf of the Sunshine Coast but unable to receive adequate support from the Powell River area where he was little-known. He has been a director on the board of the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design since 1997 and the president of Pacific BookWorld News Society since 1988.
Among his many awards and honours that include the Order of Canada and the Order of British Columbia, he has twice been runner-up in the Whiskey Slough Putty Man Triathalon.
The Whites have two sons, Silas (b. 1977) and Patrick (b. 1981), both of whom are involved in literary careers. Silas is the publisher of Nightwood Editions; Patrick is a journalist.
In 2013, Howard White became publisher and owner of Douglas & McIntyre, adding D&M as a separate imprint, making him the foremost book publisher west of Ontario–while still operating his business from Pender Harbour.
DATE OF BIRTH: April 18, 1945
BACKGROUND: “Fifth generation BCian”
Raincoast Chronicles 23 (Harbour Publishing, 2015) $24.95 978-1-55017-710-7. Introduction.
The Airplane Ride (Harbour 2006). Children’s book illustrated by Greta Guzek.
Raincoast Chronicles Fourth Five (Harbour, 2005). Editor — Anthology of Issues 16-20. [Preceded by Raincoast Chronicles First Five; Raincoast Chronicles Six/Ten; Raincoast Chronicles Eleven Up]
Raincoast Chronicles 19 (Harbour, 2003) $16.95 1-55017-316-2 – Editor [Preceded by 18 issues of Raincoast Chronicles since 1972]
The Sunshine Coast: From Gibsons to Powell River (Harbour, 1996; reprinted and revised 2011) – history, with photography by Dean Van’t Schip, Keith Thirkell, Allan Forest, Darren Robinson & others.
Writing in the Rain (Harbour, 1990) – humour, memoir
The Ghost in the Gears (Harbour, 1993) – poetry
Patrick and the Backhoe (Harbour) – children’s picture book, illustrated by Bus Griffith
The Accidental Airline (Harbour, 1988) – history, co-written with Jim Spilsbury
Spilsbury’s Coast (Harbour, 1987) – history, co-written with Jim Spilsbury
The Men There Were Then (Arsenal Pulp, 1983)- poetry
A Hard Man to Beat (Arsenal Pulp, 1983; Harbour 2012) – oral history
Raincoast Chronicles First Five (Harbour, 1976) – history. Editor.
Order of Canada (2008)
Honorary Doctorate of Law, UVic (2003)
James Douglas Publisher of the Year Award (2002)
Roderick Haig-Brown Prize (2001)
Order of British Columbia (1997)
Bill Duthie BC Booksellers’ Choice Award (multiple recipient)
Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour (1991)
J.P. Wiser Award (1991)
Canadian Historical Association Career Award for Regional History (1989)
B.C. Historical Federation Certificate of Merit (1987)
Eaton’s Book Award (1976)
Canadian Media Club Awards, Best Magazine Feature (1975, 1977)
[BCBW 2013] “Eaton’s”
Review of the author’s work by BC Studies:
The Accidental Airline: Spilsbury’s QCA
A Hard Man to Beat: The Story of Bill White, Labour Leader, Historian, Shipyard Worker, Raconteur
Raincoast Chronicles Fourth Five
Spilsbury’s Coast: Pioneer Years in the Wet West
The Sunshine Coast from Gibsons to Powell
June 9, 2003
Howard White has come a long way since growing up in his father’s logging camp with only one book for company–not that the camp’s imposing,leather-bound copy of the Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan made lively company for a crew of grizzled loggers and a young boy in the 1950s.
White, who never saw the inside of a classroom until he was 10 and ended his formal education as a dropout from the University of BC in 1969, went on to compensate for his culturally deprived childhood by publishing over 400 books about logging, fishing and pioneer life in BC through his family firm, Harbour Publishing. But he always felt guilty about failing to get a university degree after his father had worked so hard to put him through school.
On June 5, the University of Victoria set matters right by awarding him an honorary Doctorate of Laws at its spring convocation. “God knows how these things happen, Dad, but I hope you are feeling better today,” White, 58, said in his acceptance speech at the University Centre Thursday. The author’s father, Frank White, 89, was in the audience to witness the long-awaited event.
University presenter Dr. Anthony Jenkins told the convocation White had “enabled fishers and loggers, story tellers and poets, to weave their voices into the nation’s fabric,” citing White’s Raincoast Chronicles series, historical books like The Great Bear Rainforest , poetry anthologies like Breathing Fire, and The Encyclopedia of British Columbia as examples.
Jenkins also praised White’s efforts as a writer, noting that he had won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour for his 1990 collection, Writing in the Rain, among many other honours. He quoted the poet Lorna Crozier, who said “Howard White has placed this province on the map, both for those of us who live here and those from away. He has given us words to dwell in so we can come closer to an understanding of this place we call home. What a gift that has been!”
White was one of six to receive honorary degrees at the convocation. Others included ethnobotanist Wade Davis, former Lieutenant Governor Garde Gardom, broadcaster Mark Starowicz, retired professor Norma Mickelson and Mexican educator Antonio Leano Alvarez de Castillo.
[Press Release, June 2003]
ACCEPTANCE SPEECH BY HOWARD WHITE
Thank you Mr. Chancellor. I am immensely honoured.
The entire White clan is honoured, or more accurately, astonished. You see, I grew up in a logging camp. I always feel I have to make that clear at the outset, so people can adjust their expectations.
You’ve heard of one-horse towns. Ours was a one-book camp.
We owned it and until the age of twelve it was the only book I’d ever seen. It was called The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan. My parents weren’t religious, but their parents had been religious enough to do for the next three generations and my mother inherited The Great Controversy when Gramma died. Gramma owned a pretty good dairy farm on Sumas Prairie mostly by virtue of the fact she made her kids work like Trojans. A lot of people in her place would have been tempted to return the favour by spreading the wealth around a little, but Gramma was a woman of rare principal so she spread it mainly to places like Phil Gagliardi’s radio bible program. After she died and my parents were past needing it, they did get a modest settlement, but while the old lady lived we saw not a penny. Instead of money we got The Great Controversy Between Christ And Satan.
It was no doubt an act of generosity in her way of thinking because she had a lot of money and who knows what kind of sinful ways it might have led us into. And there was no denying it, The Great Controversy was a pretty impressive book.
A monster it was, all tooled leather and gilt edging. It held a place of prominence in our cookhouse for years. Everybody who came by ended up hauling it down at one time or another because it was the only thing in camp that wasn’t directly connected to getting logs in the water. They would open it, too, but just to admire the psychedelic marbelling on the endpapers. They knew better than to try reading the words. I tried it a couple of times but could make no sense of it.
Dad used to refer to it bitterly as the $100-thousand-dollar book, and it was regarded with abhorrence by our entire family. Even the men in the crew joined in detesting it, I guess because they thought if Dad had inherited the $100 thousand instead of Gaglardi he would have been able to afford some new chokers and put up a bit better grub.
For a long time I thought it really was worth $100 thousand and it was years before I realized the full weight of my father’s bitterness. To me the most interesting thing about that book was it had an actual bookworm in it which was diligently honeycombing the leather spine.
It must have been lonely work. I’m sure he was the only bookworm of any kind in that part of the country.
People have often said to me that this must have been a discouraging upbringing for a future writer and publisher, but this is not the case. I was surrounded on all sides by the most effective kind of encouragement a boy could ask for. Our crew was comprised of broken down toothless, liverless, one-eyed old loggers who never passed me by without chorusing the refrain, “git a eddication, kid an ya won’t end up like us.”
It made an impression.
My mother has left us but my father is here today, and in spite of their rather short bookshelf (in those days–my mother discovered the Book-of-the-Month Club later), they raised me to worship the world of thought, of education, and they worked long hours monkey wrenching their old trucks through the night to get my sisters and I through school and on the path of higher learning, which they once dreamed of taking themselves. Dad had grown up in Abbotsford during the 1920s and was the best scholar in the valley, but when he was 14 his father died and the stock market crashed in the same year, and that was the end of his educational dreams, but they never stopped dreaming they’d see their children go where they had been denied.
Well, with him and his crew of reprobates cheering me on, I made it to UBC in 1965 but I didn’t get my degree. I was too eager to drop out and start an underground newspaper, which was the fashion in those days. I tried to explain to Dad that I had taken the measure of the academic world and found it wanting, and I think he wanted to believe me, but I suspect it was one of the great disappointments of his life. Well, Dad, God only knows how these things happen, but I hope you feel better today.
I take enormous satisfaction in this honour, and not just personally. I know this is really not for me, this is for Jim Spilsbury and Bus Griffiths and Frank White and Pete Trower and all of the extraordinary but otherwise quite unsung BC people Mary and I have had the great privilege to give voice to over the years of operating our kitchen table publishing company in Pender Harbour.
What I will take credit for is the idea that the local matters, that lives of our fathers and mothers is more than an incidental curiosity, that the history of our communities is not minor culture, it is the root from which all our culture grows. It’s not my idea, but it’s an idea that seems to have fallen to me to act out in this place in this time. I won’t let on I’m alone in this–I wouldn’t dare with Jack Hodgins in the room–but it has been lonely work at times, and I sometimes grow tired of the sound of my own voice repeating “the local, the local, the local” like the proverbial ass braying in the woods. Certainly, we are in a time now when my kind of ass is completely drowned out by a whole herd of bigger asses braying “the global, the global, the global” and for that reason that this recognition is doubly appreciated.
Growing up as the son of a gypo logger on Nelson Island, publisher Howard White never dreamed he’d be competing with the Beatles. But these days his line-up of Terry (Fox), Pauline (Johnson), James (Douglas) and Wacky (Bennett) is proving almost as popular as John, Paul, George and Ringo. White’s 850-page, million-word Encyclopedia of British Columbia (Harbour $99), edited by Daniel Francis, is in a two-horse race for top sales with the 368-page Beatles Anthology (Raincoast $92). The full-colour B.C. Encyclopedia, with a CD-ROM included, was reprinted less than a month after it was released.
“Somebody told me after reading the EBC,” says White, “that they hadn’t felt as good about B.C. since Expo ’86. It made me realize that’s the sort of feeling we were aiming for. We wanted to give B.C. people a millennium present that would get them feeling good about themselves again, and it seems to be working.”
The risky publishing venture is the third of its kind in Canada. Hurtig Publishers of Alberta were ruined by a national encyclopedia project in 1990 (now managed by M&S) and there is an encyclopedia for Newfoundland.
[BCBW WINTER 2000]
Margaret Reynolds presented the Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award to publisher Howard White and author Tom Henry for Westcoasters: Boats that Built B.C. (Harbour). WHITE: “It’s always a real special pleasure to be nominated for this prize because the Bill Duthie Booksellers Choice Award gets voted on by the people on the front lines, the booksellers… I have a tremendous respect for the job they do and never get tired of thanking them for it. Without them, none of us could be here. As well, Bill Duthie bought the first case of books I ever sold. He’s very much responsible for me being hooked in this business… It’s always wonderful to be here. I wouldn’t miss this night for the world. It’s great to see all these friends and all these people who are working so hard to create a written culture for this province.”
[BCBW SUMMER 1999]
Everybody knows the former liquor store in Gibsons was transformed into Molly’s Reach cafe and became a national landmark for the The Beachcombers. But when CBC ended the series in 1992, the town wasn’t eager to capitalize on its tourism value.
“Any other town in the universe,” writes Howard White in The Sunshine Coast: From Gibsons to Powell River (Harbour $29.95), “would have bronzed the Persephone, the beachcombing tug operated by series hero Nick Adonidas (played by the late Bruno Gerussi) and mounted it in Pioneer Square, surrounded by fibreglass replicas of the entire Beachcombers cast, but Gibsons shrugs and goes about its life, glad the traffic stoppages caused by outdoor shooting are finally over.”
The Sunshine Coast became a surprise bestseller over Christmas partly because it includes little known local lore — such as the time a hefty Norwegian boatbuilder named Sandvold was assaulted by Harry Roberts (of Roberts Creek fame) after the diminutive Roberts had discovered his wife ‘entertaining’ Sandvold at Ballet Bay. The judge dropped the assault charges because Roberts was smaller than Sandvold.
Other legendary figures such as George Gibsons and author Bertrand Sinclair are introduced, along with living legends such as Peter Trower, Edith Iglauer and the colourful Solberg sisters. Bergliot and Minnie Solberg grew up in the bush around Sechelt Inlet, sometimes working as loggers, and have worked as trappers and hunters into their 70s.
Project photographer for the 100 mile stretch from Gibsons to Powell River was Keith A. E. Thirkell, assisted by Ken Bell, Mary Cain, Tim Poole, Tim Turner, Dean vant Schip and others.
from BCBW Spring 1990
Howard White was raised on Nelson Island in a gyppo logging camp. “I grew up pitying poor city boys,” he says, “who couldn’t walk a slippery boomstick without falling in the drink or tell a red cedar from a yellow cedar.” After attending UBC, he returned to the Sunshine Coast and started a local newspaper in Pender Harbour. He entered magazine publishing with Raincoast Chronicles, an ongoing collection of articles about the B.C. coast.
When he decided to become a fulltime book publisher, White bought a miscellany of antiquated printing and binding equipment—everything needed for the manufacture of books in the backwoods—and set up shop in an unheated workshed that he and his father had used for fixing backhoes and dumptrucks. White and White Sr. then proceeded to teach themselves how to operate and repair all the machinery.
Since 1965 his Harbour Publishing has produced 100 titles including Edith Iglauer’s Fishing with John, George Woodcock’s Confederation Betrayed, Donald Graham’s bestsellers, Keepers of the Light and Lights of the Inside Passage, Anne Cameron’s Dzelarhons, Rudy Dangelmaier’s Pioneer Buildings of British Columbia and Hubert Evans’ 0 Time In Your Flight. While remaining in Pender Harbour and raising two sons, he and his wife Mary have completely moved into the computer age of high-tech production. Only one other company, Douglas & McIntyre (with far more employees), has received more B.C. Book Prizes.
For the past two years Howard White: has been the president of the 45-member Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia. As such, he’s been at the forefront of decade-long lobbying efforts to ultimately win parity with other provinces for B.C.’s growing bookmaking community.
Since his teens White has been involved in dozens of campaigns to protect and enhance the coastal region. The Cheekeye-Dunsmuir powerline project, he says, was “a billion- dollar boondoggle financed with with money that could have been used to give this province the best educational system in the world.”
He has been back in the provincial headlines recently in a confrontation with B.C. Liberal Party leader Gordon Wilson over a big Hong Kong-based condominium project for Pender Harbour. Wilson supports it; White thinks it’s “a social and ecological disaster.”
White’s first book, A Hard Man to Beat (Pulp 1982), documented the life of longtime Marine and Boilermakers Union president Bill White (no relation) by using an innovative first-person narrative approach.
After a collection of West Coast poems, The Men There Were Then, he joined with pioneer entrepreneur Jim Spilsbury to write two B.C. bestsellers, Spilsbury’s Coast and The Accidental Airline.
His Raincoast Chronicles First Five received the first Eatons B. C. Book Award. Raincoast Chronicles Six/Ten was also a bestseller containing articles on lighthouses, tugboats, Queen Charlotte Airlines, the cadborosaurus, mission boats and early settlers; with logging illustrations, poetry, book reviews and paintings by E.J. Hughes.
In recognition of his contributions to B.C. history, Howard White received the Certificate of Merit in Regional History award from the Canadian Historical Association in 1989. His forthcoming book this spring, Writing in the Rain (Harbour $12.95), is a collection of his coastal articles and memoirs.
BCBW: The B.C. coast has so many terrific characters. The Brother XII, William Duncan of Metlakatla, Premier Amor de Cosmos, John Jewitt.
WHITE: And Sealskin Norton. And Step-And-Half Phelps. And Sidney Sauderman and Captain Spratt and Boilermaker Bill and Bunkhouse Betty.
BCBW: Yet less than 1% of our population seems to know these people ever existed.
WHITE: You’re right. People respond to it if they happen to encounter it. But so far the department of education has made sure most of us never do.
BCBW: Why hasn’t someone put all these fantastic coastal stories into The Great B.C. Novel?
WHITE: Well, Jack Hodgins definitely has the bit in his teeth. And Anne Cameron is another one who has the vision for it. Itll happen eventually. Great novels don’t happen on a one-off basis. They come out of a body of work and our body is still at the crawling stage.
BCBW: Growing up on Nelson Island, did you think you’d become a writer?
WHITE: If I knew what a writer was, I might have. But I never thought of writing as a career. I assumed books were tossed off in spare moments by people who drove bulldozers during the day.
BCBW: What books influenced you?
WHITE: There were no children’s books so I mostly made do with Bookof-the-Month-Club selections. Tortilla Flat. Giant. The Cruel Sea. A Bell for Adano. I read great works later but none of them could measure up to the thrill of those early potboilers.
My Dad used to try and read to me from Organic Evolution and the Wealth of Nations when I was eight. In school I was nicknamed “The Professor”. But I was able to keep my critics off guard by spending my study time running a backhoe.
BCBW: Many people still like to believe there’s a hierarchy of sophistication in this world. It emanates from the Mecca of good taste and intelligence, New York. ..
WHITE: Well, when I first came up for air it was London. The only right way was the British way. But I’ve spent a lot of time in New York and in many ways it’s more parochial than Pender Harbour. New Yorkers don’t even like to recognize that New Jersey exists. It’s only ten minutes across the river but they talk about it like it was Outer Mongolia. Torontonians are much the same way about Hamilton. These places have the media leverage so they get to pass off their localism as universalism. The crazy thing is, as you say, many of the rest of us buy it. But people who grow up in big cities aren’t necessarily any smarter. Samuel Johnson came to London from a small town. And that ultimate expression of the big city psyche, the New Yorker magazine, was actually the brainchild of a guy who grew up in Aspen, Colorado back when Aspen had a population of about 300 people.
BCBW: Perhaps one of the reasons Edith Iglauer’s Fishing with John has been so successful is that it offers proof that a crusty commercial fisherman can be just as sophisticated and complex as a New Yorker socialite.
WHITE: Well, John Daly had a lot of barnacles. Sophisticated was not one of the things he was aiming for. Moral strength is more the quality I would think of; “mental protein” as he put it. Edith’s genius is that she was able to see that, and not be distracted by the barnacles. That on her part was greatly sophisticated. If you want to talk about hierarchies of sophistication, Edith is quite a study. She makes no distinction whether she’s talking to an Eskimo seal hunter or the president of the United Nations. They are just human beings to her, and she’ll call one a wise man or a fool as quickly as the other. To me, that is real sophistication.
BCBW: As the Canadian editor for Fishing with John, were you confident that book would sell?
WHITE: Yes. Farrar Strauss Giroux in the U.S. and Harbour went together on the printing and we ordered 2,000 more copies than they did on the first run. Then we reordered three times. I think we probably doubled them in the end. For me this was a case study of how a regional publisher can be better for a certain kind of book than a New York publisher. If you’ve got a blockbuster, you have to have the big guy. But if you’re going to be mid-list with the big guy, you’re probably a lot better off being top of the list with someone like Harbour.
BCBW: Do you think there’s any chance the B.C. coastline will have a renaissance?
WHITE: Historically there have been waves of settlement and waves of abandonment. It’s a function of the zeitgeist. In romantic, experimental periods people seek challenges in nature, and the B.C. coast is always there, shrouded in mystery and promise. We saw that in the sixties and during the expansive times following the two world wars. In times of retrenchment and conservatism, people slip back to the security of urban enclaves. That’s where we’re at today.
BCBW: One global trend these days is that more writers seem to be entering politics.
WHITE: Ken Mitchell in Saskatchewan. And Maria Largas Lhosa, the Chilean novelist, was really the first one to put the skids under Pinochet by beating his candidate for mayor of Santiago.
BCBW: Plus a playwright is now the president of Czechoslovakia.
WHITE: The pencil-necks are taking over!
BCBW: Let’s say I’m the premier and I’ve just appointed you as Minister of Culture. What are your priorities for the 1990s?
WHITE: Hoboy. Where would you start? With the sole exception of film, B.C. has the lowest per-capita support for cultural activities of any developed province. It’s been this way for decades. There’s a staggering job of catching up to be done. I’ve got a pretty long list. I guess the main item would be the establishment of a B.C. Arts Council along the lines of the Ontario Arts Council which would provide arm’s length administration for a whole slate of cultural support programs, the way it’s done in most civilized jurisdictions. I would also like to nudge the Knowledge Network more in the direction of a local PBS, except, of course, more perfect. I’d like to see it as more of a catalyst for independent production and more of an outlet for B.C.based writing and research. I’d also like to stimulate more activity in the cable television and home video areas, by making production facilities much more accessible at the community level. But my good friend Rolf Maurer of New Star Books assures me one thing they never do in politics is put you in charge of anything you know something about and have ideas for.
BCBW: What about the publishing industry? Isn’t it about time it received more than token assistance?
WHITE: Of all the endangered species in the cultural sector, books and writing are by far the worst off. Of the miserable excuse for a cultural budget that does exist in B.C., the literary arts receive something like 3% of the total. The normal literary arts share of global cultural budgets, taking the Canada Council and the Ontario Arts Council as examples, is something on the order of 15% to 20%. B.C. has no program of support for individual adult writers at all. And this in the province with the highest rate of book consumption and library use in the country. It’s a complete scandal”.
BCBW: In B.C. an author still can’t get a nickel to help him write a book. Yet the government is spending millions on some very questionable film projects; plus B.C. Film recently announced even greater levels of direct funding for screenwriters.
WHITE: I’ve got no beef with the new $15-million film development program. If the films are schlocky, the government should look at its standards, but not back away from the idea of building an indigenous film industry. We need one. But while we venture forth in search of new cultural triumphs, we should make sure we maintain the success we’ve had, and the book industry has been enormously successful and remarkably efficient. According to the new Lorimer Report our book publishers have the highest average sales per title of any province. But because of the government’s lack of backing we’re still experiencing the highest average deficit per title.
BCBW: What about the argument that B.C.’s publishing industry probably gets twenty times less money and twenty times less publicity; but it probably does the general public ten times more good.
WHITE: Well, I can tell you that in the past ten years or so B.C. publishers have published over 2,000 widely diverse titles with sales of over three million copies. Their annual revenues are $16 million. Both the cultural and economic impact of this activity dwarfs that of the indigenous film industry.
B.C. books play key roles in education, in literacy, in creating identity and in projecting a favourable image of B.C. to the world. But the annual support budget for book publishing is under $400,00. Simultaneously one new film development program alone is worth $15 million. Just think about that! And there are other major funding sources for film as well. I am sure this isn’t a penny more than the film industry needs but it’s indefensible for the government to lavish care on the one cultural genre that tickles their fancy while subjecting all others to the most crippling kind of neglect.
BCBW: Similarly, does it bother you when you look at Max Wyman’s Christmas book roundup in The Province and see only two B.C. books mentioned, one of which was his own.
WHITE: A little. (Laughter) I’ve had an ongoing argument with the Vancouver papers about this. I could be wrong but it strikes me their reluctance to adequately cover B.C. books could be the result of lingering cultural colonialism. But the Sun book coverage has certainly improved under Peter Wilson and we’re hopeful it’s going to be improving more under the new editor, Nick Hills.
BCBW: What do you feel are some classic B.C. books?
WHITE: Mist on the River by Hubert Evans. Tay John by Howard O’Hagan. Woodsmen of the West by M.A. Grainger. Curve of Time by M.W. Blanchef. Klee Wyck by Emily Carr. Fish the Strong Water by N.C. McDonald. Plus something by Haig-Brown, probably Measure of the Year.
BCBW: What about B.C. writers who have fallen through the cracks?
WHITE: Red Lillard seems to have collected the names of about thirty thousand of them. It’s a good thing the cracks were there for lots of them. But it certainly doesn’t take much for a writer to disappear, nowadays as much as ever. Look at Alan Fry. He published about seven books in the sixties and seventies, took a few years off and this year when we brought out Beating Around the Bush I had to explain to everyone all over again who he was. Rolf Knight is another one who wrote a string of excellent regional books in the seventies and you hear nothing about them. This is depressing.
BCBW: The B.C. coast is less populated today than it was forty years ago. Yet more people seem to be reading about it.
WHITE: Yes, this is something that amuses me. There never was more than about 5,000 people on the part of the coast I write about, the rural coast, and today there’s hardly 500. But we publish something like Forgotten Villages of the B.C. Coast and it’ll sell 10,000 copies. Obviously there are some outsiders getting into the act. But it doesn’t surprise me. I always thought if you wrote perceptively about where you live, you could strike a universal note people everywhere would appreciate. You could find the universal more surely that way than going out deliberately trying to write “for the world” the way a writer like, say, John Metcalfe advocates. I don’t think the world even exists on that abstract level. The world is that thing under your feet.
[Here is the portion of Howard White’s speech in Penticton which dealt with politics and culture.]
BC WRITERS AND PUBLISHERS combined last year to produce more than 400 new titles. In this past year BC retained its title as the national and North American champion in library use and in per capita book consumption. “Anybody who has seen a copy of Twigg’s Directory of 1001 BC Writers will realize what a prolific breeder of literary talent this province is. Between our writers, our publishers and our booksellers, we’re pumping $150 million a year into the provincial economy. That’s dependable income, not here-today-gone tomorrow-Hollywood-play-money. Provincial government please take note.”
“1992 has to be considered a banner year in that we were finally discovered by the Toronto media, with Val Ross of The Globe and Mail leading a veritable chorus hailing the little miracle of B.C. publishing. They chose to characterize it as a “boom” but this was just a case of Toronto journalists venturing beyond the Lakehead and being amazed to find signs of intelligent life. Most of us tried to encourage it in the hope the Toronto enthusiasm might rub off on some Vancouver newspaper and magazine books’ editors, but no such luck.
“Books in B.C. have come a long way, and what we’ve done so far is nothing compared to what our potential is. But we have a big problem and it’s time we faced it. Most of the writers you will see up here tonight have been forced to subsidize the creation of their own books by an average amount of $50,000, generally by working in other fields to buy time to write, time that is never repaid. B.C. has the worst record of cultural support of any but the poorest maritime provinces. In the cultural industries alone, B.C. would have to increase its federal/ provincial expenditure by $140 million just to come up to the average level of support in other provinces. In our sector, the written arts, provincial spending would have to increase 400 per cent to come up to the average spent by other provinces.
“The Czech playwright Vaclav Havel has said modem governments will pay a higher price for their neglect of culture than for any other shortcoming, and he proved it by taking down the world’s largest empire with nothing but a sharp pencil. Political and economic strength can only be built on cultural strength.
[BCBW, Summer, 1993]
FOR THE FIRST TIME, A BOOK PUBLISHED in B.C. has received the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. “I’m delighted,” says Howard White, this year’s winner for Writing in the Rain (Harbour $12.95), “My book is regional. And the other finalists included W.O. Mitchell and Morley Torgov.” White is the publisher of Harbour Publishing and the NDP candidate in the provincial riding of Sunshine Coast/Powell River. Since 1947 the Leacock Medal has been awarded to only three B.C. writers: Earle Birney, Eric Nicol and W.P. Kinsella. The award now includes a $3,500 cash award from the J.P. Wiser distillery. “It will be particularly nice to get some cash back from Mr. Wiser,” White reflected. And on the serious side, Mission novelist Andreas Schroeder has won this year’s Investigative Journalism Award for his Saturday Night feature, ‘Boys Will Be Boys: But Why Are They Starting To Murder?’
If there’s a typical entry in the 400-page Raincoast Chronicles Fourth Five, edited by Howard White, it might be Alder Bloom’s memoir that begins, “It was late August in 1937 when I first sighted Ceepeecee, or should I saw when I first smelled it.” CeepeeCee, or CPC, was an abbreviation of California Packing Corporation, an American company that built a processing plant for pilchards (sardines) on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, southwest of Tahsis, ‘behind’ Nootka Island, in 1926. Eight years later this plant was sold to Nelson Brothers Fisheries who added a salmon cannery. “It was very smelly,” recalls Bloom, “but so are most industrial towns, each in its own way. To someone looking for work, the smell meant money.” After stints as a carpenter at McBride Bay, Nootka and Port Albion, as well as working at Gibson brothers’ logging camps, Bloom returned to the cluster of wood-framed buildings known as Ceepeecee in 1941, to work for Del Lutes, the virtual king of the town, who kept ‘dry laws’ in place.
“Lutes ran a very strict camp but he had to relent a little during the war years,” Bloom recalls. “Esperanza Hotel, just 15 minutes away by boat, was a modern building with a good-sized beer parlour.” Zeballos, two hours away by boat, had cafes, hotels, a doctor and a bawdy house, described by Bloom as a frontier necessity, but cannery hours made the trip prohibitive.
Prior to refrigeration, most canning had to occur near the fishery. Therefore the denizens of Ceepeecee were isolated at the head of Tahsis Inlet, dependent on the bi-monthly arrivals of the Maquinna and a radio wireless that used only Morse code. “Mr. Lee, the Chinese cook, and his helper served tasty and abundant meals for the crew,” Booms writes. But the most essential citizen turned out to be a little Scotsman who could squeeze out tunes on his little accordion.
Bloom fondly recalls how Scotty went to the hotel on weekends so the few girls in town could do their fast steps with any of the boys who could keep up—and Bloom wasn’t one of them. “One Sunday morning, Scotty didn’t check in for his reduction plant shift so a search was started. Scotty travelled in his own little skiff and tied it up at the unloading dock. He had to climb a ladder to get to the dock and somehow he fell. “We found him at low tide resting on the bottom below the ladder. Scotty was everybody’s friend and he gave more pleasure to the crew than anyone in camp. In a place where radio reception was very poor, his little accordion was a godsend.” Another godsend was Florence French. One day when Bloom was picking up supplies from Ceepeecee in the fall of 1940, she noticed him and smiled. A few minutes later Bloom was in the company store, she glided in, smiled again, bought her cigarettes, and left. Two years later they became the first of several Ceepeecee couples to tie the knot. Their first son Bob was born in Port Alberni in 1943. The Blooms left Ceepeecee in 1946. With the sudden disappearance of the pilchards in the late 1940s, shore workers like Florence could no longer be sure to work four-month stints of 12-hour days at 35 cents an hour. Ceepeecee closed in 1951, along with other wooden cannery communities along the coast. Some were left to rot; Ceepeecee’s buildings were destroyed by fire in 1954.
White’s fourth compilation of Raincoast Chronicles–begun in 1972–also features Pat Wastell Norris’ reminiscences of Alert Bay along with her book-length history of Telegraph Cove (released as Raincoast Chronicles 16). Among the longer entries Fourth Five also reprints Stephen Hume’s Lillies & Fireweed (Raincoast Chronicles 20), a panorama of some noteworthy B.C. women.
Douglas Hamilton recalls the worst fire aboard ship in B.C. history when the steamer Grappler sank in Seymour Narrows in 1883, with more than 100 lives lost. Conversely, Doreen Armitage recalls rescues by tugboat skippers in the days before search and rescue. Classic West Coast raconteurs Dick Hammond, Arthur Mayse, Bus Griffiths and White himself add some levity. Other subjects include shipyards, squatters, log barging, fishing superstitions, the Pisces sub, West Coast patriarch Claus Carl Daniel Botel, pioneer photographer Hannah Maynard, the ‘mega-village’ of Kalpalin on the shores of Pender Harbour.
Margaret McKirdy recalls how her mother placed The People’s Home Medical Book alongside the Eaton’s catalogue and the Bible—and its influence was greater than either. More fundamental than even the Joy of Cooking, this 1919 treatise, known in many households as simply ‘the Doctor Book,’ advised that most means of contraception were injurious to a woman’s health. One of several contributions by Douglas Hamilton, ‘Who Shot Estevan Light? A Traditionalist Returns Fire’ returns to the controversial subject of why the Estevan Point Lighthouse was shelled on June 20, 1942. Hamilton refutes claims made on Fifth Estate by lightkeeper Donald Graham that the attack on “the boldest, most beautiful lighthouse in British Columbia” Canadian government was instigated in order to incite public alarm. Citing Bert Webber’s Retaliation: Japanese Attacks and Allied Countermeasures on the Pacific Coast in World War II, Hamilton states, “A number of daring raids on the west coast of North America were carried out by Japanese submarines in 1942.” 1-55017-372-3
Sunshine Coast Publisher Awarded Canada’s Highest Honour
It was a quiet Monday morning when book publisher Howard White received a phone call from the Governor General’s office in Ottawa, telling him he was going to receive Canada’s highest civilian honour, the Order of Canada, which is awarded to acknowledge outstanding achievements and contributions to Canadian society.
“I was completely surprised. I didn’t expect it at all,” mused White. “But of course once the news sunk in I was absolutely delighted, it made me feel good all day long.” White had to keep the information under wraps until the official announcement by Michaëlle Jean, the Governor General of Canada, on June 29.
Not only is White is the publisher and founder of Harbour Publishing–which has been operating in Pender Harbour since 1974–he is also the author of nine books and the editor of the award-winning Raincoast Chronicles series. But the publisher remains modest about his own accomplishments.
“In my case, this is a team award,” says White. “This isn’t for the half dozen or so books I wrote, this is for the 500 books by other people that Mary and I helped to bring into the world over the last thirty years. But they can’t give the award to Bus Griffiths and Patrick Lane and Anne Cameron and Tom Wayman and Dan Francis and Jim Spilsbury and Clayton Mack and all 200 contributors to the The Encyclopedia of British Columbia, so they have to give it to me. But I accept it on behalf of all of our authors, and all of our publishing team. I am also deeply appreciative of my nominator, Ron MacIsaac, and those who advocated for me.”
MacIsaac, who is a barrister in Victoria, BC, has been a fan of Howard White and Harbour Publishing for close to twenty years. “The impact of being made a member of the Order of Canada is the equivalent of being made a knight in the United Kingdom,” says MacIsaac, who practiced law in the British Crown Colony of Grand Cayman Island. “There, people of Howard’s stature are given knighthoods. I wanted to see him recognized. From now on, when I call him up, I’m going to call him Sir.”
White was one of only six British Columbians to be appointed to the Order of Canada on June 29. Among 70 others receiving the Order of Canada at the same time will be former Prime Minister Jean Chretien, broadcaster Pamela Wallin, author Alistair Mcleod, golfer Mike Weir and rocker Tom Cochrane. The award will be presented at Rideau Hall in Ottawa later in the year.
from Kathleen Konrad
After finishing his B.A. in English at U.B.C. in 1970, White saw the need for a local paper in Pender Harbour, so he and his wife started one, learning to do everything themselves, even running the printing press. He wrote and published stories he wanted to share with his community. Then, writers came to him with stories they wanted published in his paper. Since he had a printing press, others came to him as well to have their books printed.
In 1972, White published his now famous Raincoast Chronicles, a series of anthologies on B.C. coast history and culture, as a periodical. He, along with his wife Mary, then decided to start up their own book-publishing house to publish their books about British Columbia. Harbour Publishing emerged as an entity in 1974. Soon, other authors approached White, asking him to publish their books.
Even in its early stages, Harbour Publishing had a definite focus: to publish books that “tell the story of British Columbia.” Once again, White had seen a need in the publishing industry that hadn’t been met adequately and decided to do something about it. He gives a large part of the credit for the success of his publishing company to this thematic type of publishing. He has seen a lot of other publishers, who didn’t know what kind of books they wanted to do, fade away. Focusing on regional historical works has its challenges though. Along with the recent “retail market shift from independent small stores to chains and large discount stores”, has come a “resistance to regional books,” which “makes it difficult to sell locally made products.” He says that Harbour Publishing is “struggling with it” but at the same time has been “reasonably successful” by changing their books to be more commercially viable.
White enjoys all parts of his job as a publisher saying, “If I didn’t, I don’t think I could have kept it up for 33 years.” And although he’s now over 60 years old, he doesn’t have plans to stop working as a publisher any time soon. As a writer himself, he enjoys the hands on aspect of editing. His favourite part is “bringing books from a concept into fulfillment.” He likes to talk to authors early on while their books are still being shaped by reviewing the writing and coaching the writers.
White says that it can be challenging to “persuade authors to make changes that they may not want to make. That just requires developing good diplomatic skills.” Analysis is often the best place to start this process. He reports mixed success with avoiding conflict, although he always tries to do this. “Some authors don’t take direction very well. Mostly inexperienced authors are not prepared to have another person become involved in the writing process. They weren’t educated to expect that. They were educated to think that it was up to the writer alone, so they have to get used to the idea of working with other people.” When agreement cannot be reached, White has sometimes been forced to decide between dropping a book or publishing it as written despite remaining flaws.
Although he claimed that he enjoys every aspect of his work, White did admit that there is one facet of his work that he, along with all other publishers, hates. He doesn’t like to turn down people who want to be published. Unfortunately, this is a daily event, and there are lots of rejection slips to be sent. Someone else sifts through his slush pile for him leaving him to review the proposals with more potential. Regrettably, not even all good ideas from good writers can be accepted since there are always more submitted than can be used. Although he finds the process painful, he does not delegate this task to someone else. White does it himself; saying that it is simpler, and he wouldn’t want to pass on “bad karma” to someone else. He seldom has time to give feedback to rejected authors, but if their book has a lot of promise, he might redirect them or make suggestions on how to make it more acceptable.
As White looks back on his career as a publisher at Harbour Publishing, he wishes he had “cultivated and taken care of valuable authors” more than he did, to keep them happy, focused, and generative. Some good, but untended writers started to write more slowly or stopped writing altogether. He regrets that he didn’t take more time to try “to keep the successful writers producing.”
White would like to encourage anyone interested in publishing saying it’s a great career. “It has satisfactions, which more than makes up for the low financial rewards.” He admits that publishing is fairly hard to get into but can be done with determination and stick-to-itiveness. One of the great things about publishing books is that one can look back and see what’s been done. He says, “Books don’t disappear,” and Harbour Publishing has over 500 B.C. books in its catalogue. White sees this legacy as the most rewarding aspect of his publishing career.
Book publisher Howard White was awarded Canada’s highest civilian honour, the Order of Canada, on Friday, April 11. White was bestowed the honour by Michäelle Jean, the Governor General of Canada, at Rideau Hall in Ottawa with 43 other Canadians, among them former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, social activist Craig Kielberger, author Charlotte Gray, golfer Mike Weir and rocker Tom Cochrane.
The Order of Canada was established in 1967 to recognize outstanding achievement and service in various fields of human endeavour. It is our country’s highest civilian honour for lifetime achievement. There are three different levels of membership—Companion, Officer and Member—that honour people whose accomplishments vary in degree and scope. Appointments are made on the recommendation of an advisory council, chaired by the chief justice of Canada.
White, now a Member of the Order of Canada, was honoured “as the founder and president of Harbour Publishing [.] Howard White has contributed over 30 years to the growth of Canada’s West Coast publishing industry. After the initial success of his own Raincoast Chronicles, he has dedicated his efforts to publishing and promoting British Columbia’s unique literary creations. Through an eclectic array of works reflecting the cultural heart of the region, including the acclaimed Encyclopedia of British Columbia, he has brought to life the personal stories and histories of his province.”
White accepts the award “on behalf of all of our authors, and all of our publishing team.”
Howard White Shortlisted for the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature
Howard White has been shortlisted for the 2012 George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature for his book, A Hard Man to Beat: The Story of Bill White, Labour Leader, Shipyard Worker, Raconteur (Harbour Publishing, $21.95). The George Ryga Award is awarded to a British Columbia author who has achieved an outstanding degree of social awareness in a newly published book, and is administered by Okanagan College. Past winners include Stephen Galloway, author of The Cellist of Sarajevo and Larry Campbell, Neil Boyd and Lori Culbert for their book, A Thousand Dreams: Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and the Fight for Its Future. Other books shortlisted for the 2012 award are Michael Christie’s The Beggars Garden (Harper Collins) and Joel Bakan’s Childhood Under Siege: How Big Business Targets Children (Penguin). The winner will be announced in March of 2012 and the award will be presented at a ceremony in Kelowna, BC on Saturday, March 23 during Okanagan College’s literary festival Word Ruckus.
In A Hard Man to Beat: The Story of Bill White, Howard White (no relation to Bill) has documented an oral history from one of the most pivotal forces in the Canadian labour movement. Bill White (known as “Bareknuckle Bill”) was the head of the Vancouver Labour Council and president of the Marine Workers and Boilermakers Union in the 1940s and ’50s during the heyday of West Coast ship building. He was in the centre of the struggle for safe working conditions, fair compensation and job security, and had an unwavering devotion to fair play, going to great lengths to accomplish it.
In writing A Hard Man to Beat, Howard White tried to maintain as much as Bill’s own language as possible. In doing so, he has created a riveting book that cuts through all the technical jargon, unfamiliar names and intricacies of the Canadian labour movement, and gives the reader a raw account of the frustrations, struggles and victories of West Coast unions. He has also revealed the strength of character in a man who was unrelenting in standing up for what he believed in.
Howard White was born in 1945 in Abbotsford, British Columbia. He was raised in a series of camps and settlements on the BC coast and never got over it. He is still to be found stuck barnacle-like to the shore at Pender Harbour, BC. He started Raincoast Chronicles and Harbour Publishing in the early 1970s and, in addition to A Hard Man to Beat, he is also the author of The Men There Were Then, Spilsbury’s Coast, The Accidental Airline, Patrick and the Backhoe, Writing in the Rain and The Sunshine Coast. He was awarded the Canadian Historical Association’s Career Award for Regional History in 1989. In 2000, he completed a ten-year project, The Encyclopedia of British Columbia. He has been awarded the Order of BC, the Canadian Historical Association’s Career Award for Regional History, the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, the Jim Douglas Publisher of the Year Award and a Honorary Doctorate of Laws Degree from the University of Victoria. In 2007, White was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. He has twice been runner-up in the Whisky Slough Putty Man Triathlon.
The country’s leading publishing trade magazine, Quill & Quire, has published this report by Stuart Woods, about the decision of Howard and Mary White to purchase Douglas & McIntyre.
History is repeating itself in British Columbia.
Less than two weeks after the sale of Greystone Books to Heritage House Publishing was approved, another West Coast publishing house – large by Canadian standards, but which mostly flies under the national radar – has stepped up to purchase the remaining assets of D&M Publishers, which filed for creditor protection in October.
This time Harbour Publishing is playing the role of saviour. The Sunshine Coast–based company announced on Thursday that owners Howard and Mary White had reached an agreement to purchase the Douglas & McIntyre imprint. Approval of the sale by the Supreme Court of British Columbia is expected in the coming weeks.
Under the deal, Harbour acquires an active backlist of about 400 titles, effectively doubling the size of its existing backlist. White says he intends to continue Douglas & McIntyre’s publishing program, including its fiction program, with as many as eight to 10 titles appearing by the end of the year.
“We haven’t been at liberty to contact any authors yet, but our intention is to carry the program forward and to add as many of the postponed Douglas & McIntyre spring books to our spring list and push the others forward to later dates,” Howard White says. “We’re going to try to keep the Douglas & McIntyre list intact and publish as many of the authors as we can.”
Douglas & McIntyre will operate as a separate company based in Vancouver and maintain distribution through HarperCollins Canada. Other aspects of the company will be combined with Harbour’s existing operations.
As for who will helm the revived company, White says he’s hoping to hire at least some of Douglas & McIntyre’s former staffers. Asked whether former publisher and CEO Scott McIntyre will be involved, White suggests it’s unlikely. “We’re trying to talk him into giving us his secret phone number, but I think he’s ready to retire,” he says.
The deal to acquire Douglas & McIntyre began to take shape in late December. White says he had been following the situation closely, but getting involved didn’t seem feasible until the assets of Greystone were stripped out.
“I always thought of D&M as this giant publisher that dwarfed Harbour,” White says, “but once I realized that the Douglas & McIntyre list by itself is actually a little smaller than Heritage’s, it made me realize that it would be practical for us to take it over and manage it.”
Like Douglas & McIntyre, Harbour publishes a couple dozen new titles per year, mostly focused on West Coast non-fiction. The press, established in 1974, has an active backlist of about 500 titles.
“I think the synergies with Harbour are fairly obvious,” White says. “[Douglas & McIntyre] has a strong first nations’ thread in their content, and a lot of coffee-table and art books, which are books we do a lot of as well.”
However, Douglas & McIntyre brings something to the table that Harbour doesn’t have: a strong national presence. “We see that as bringing something to Harbour that we don’t have now,” White says.
The final purchase price for Douglas & McIntyre is still being worked out, but White says it will likely come to less than the $480,000 reportedly paid for Greystone. The deal is being financed personally by White and his partner Mary, who share ownership of Harbour.
White says he didn’t even consider approaching a bank about finanncing the deal.
“This is where all this scare talk about books really does hurt,” he says. “We’re finding people are just as interested in buying books now as they were 20 years ago, but all the death of the book talk in the financial pages has completely spooked the financial sector, and that really does impact the book industry.” — Stuart Woods
Douglas & McIntyre is pleased to announce the following staff appointments and its inaugural fall list under the new ownership of Howard and Mary White.
The Whites, who also own Harbour Publishing, wanted to ensure that some of Douglas & McIntyre’s veteran staff members were in place for the transition to the new company.
“I feel very fortunate to have found such a wide range of experience and skill in the employees who are helping guide us during this significant time,” says Howard White. “Restructuring and relaunching a company is never an easy task and we needed to face our first full season with seasoned people at hand.”
Dani Lacusta, previously Manager of Inventory & Financial Reporting with DMPI Books, is now the company’s Business Manager. Lacusta will work out of Douglas & McIntyre’s new Vancouver office.
Bruce Martin, previously National Accounts Manager for DMPI Books, will stay National Accounts Manager for Douglas & McIntyre. He will remain in Toronto.
Corina Eberle, previously Publicity Manager for DMPI Books, is now the Toronto and National Publicity Director for the company. She is also based in Toronto.
Douglas & McIntyre is also pleased to announce that they have acquired the regular services of ZG Communications (Zoe Grams), for on-going representation of their list in western Canada.
All the new employees will be working closely with the existing staff at Harbour Publishing, though more staff appointments will be announced in other departments in the near future.
The company’s fall list stays true to Douglas & McIntyre’s roots and features noteworthy national titles, including Shopping for Votes: How Politicians Choose Us and We Choose Them, an incisive and provocative look at the world of political marketing by Toronto Star senior political writer Susan Delacourt.
Another lead title is Building the Orange Wave: The Inside Story Behind the Historic Rise of Jack Layton and the NDP, which features a foreword by Olivia Chow and is written by Brad Lavigne, who was the New Democratic Party of Canada’s Campaign Director in 2011.
Other notable books include Grant Lawrence’s The Lonely End of the Rink: Confessions of a Reluctant Goalie, a memoir that combines the history of hockey with entertaining tales from Grant’s own life; Arno Kopecky’s The Oil Man and the Sea: Navigating the Northern Gateway, a powerful evocation of ecology, culture and history that explores the area that would be profoundly impacted by the approval of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal; and Nicole Lundrigan’s compelling fifth novel, The Widow Tree, a richly layered story set in 1950s postwar Yugoslavia.
While Douglas & McIntyre’s head office is in Madeira Park, sharing Harbour Publishing’s current headquarters on the Sunshine Coast, the company’s new office is located at Unit 211-2323 Quebec Street, Vancouver, BC, V5T 4S7.
A Letter from Howard White (printed in the Harbour Publishing Fall catalogue of 2014)
This year, 2014, marks the 40th year that books bearing the Harbour Publishing imprint have been flowing out into the world from our headquarters in Pender Harbour, BC.
My wife, Mary, and I actually bought our first printing press in 1969, started our newspaper in 1970 and published the first issue of Raincoast Chronicles in 1972, but it wasn’t until 1974 that the first actual book with the first actual Harbour Publishing imprint appeared, so that’s what we are using as Harbour’s official start date. Our very first book (A Dictionary of Chinook Jargon, 1972) and the first issues of Raincoast Chronicles didn’t have any imprint on the spine because we didn’t know they needed one. When a concerned reader pointed out the omission, we decided to call ourselves Harbour Publishing because every business in Pender Harbour was Harbour this or Harbour that—Harbour Motors, Harbour Grocery, Harbour Barber. There was also a Harbour Pub and for years the freight truck delivered our books to them, which we might not have minded if they delivered the pub’s beer to us, but somehow that never happened.
The Harbour Publishing imprint burst upon the scene with three books in 1974 and nobody can now remember which was first, Build Your Own Floor Loom by Steve Lones or The Dulcimer Tuning Book by Randy Christopher Rain (a.k.a. Randy Raine-Reusch). These were quickly followed by Between the Sky and the Splinters, a book of logging poems by Peter Trower that helped establish a distinguished literary career and became a classic of its kind.
My approach to starting a publishing operation was conditioned by my background in isolated BC coast logging camps where if something wanted making you made it yourself. My first move had been to get a bulldozer and clear a piece of land. Then I tore down an old building supply building in Vancouver and used the lumber to build a print shop on the cleared land. Then I bought a press and learned how to print with it (sort of). Only then did I start looking around for a likely book to publish. And only after the book was printed and bound did I begin to wonder if anybody might want to buy it. I know, I can hear the wiseacres muttering that my approach hasn’t changed much. Luckily I am now surrounded by a brilliant and dedicated staff, some of whom have actually studied modern publishing methods in university, and they do their best to compensate for my atavistic habits.
I don’t suppose many onlookers, watching Mary and I pulling armfuls of spoiled paper from our antique press late into the nights of those first years, would have given our enterprise much chance of surviving, but four decades and some 600 books later, here we are.
I should mention that in building our original shop we had much essential assistance from my father, Frank White, who was so relieved to see us doing something productive he put his full support behind it. Dad continued to give us encouragement down through the years, so it is a happy coincidence that in Harbour’s 40th anniversary year he is celebrating a rather significant milestone of his own. On May 9, 2014, as he turns 100, we are helping him mark the occasion by publishing a book by him called That Went By Fast: My First Hundred Years.
It is obviously a bit special for us but in another way it is a typical Harbour book—full of authentic knowledge about life on the BC coast during the past century and meant to be read mostly by the community out of which it grew. Looking back over the years, there have been many such books—Now You’re Logging by Bus Griffiths, Spilsbury’s Coast by Jim Spilsbury, Fishing with John by Edith Iglauer, Grizzlies and White Guys by Clayton Mack, Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest by Andy Lamb and Bernie Hanby and yes, The Encyclopedia of British Columbia edited by Dan Francis, to name only a few. Those are the kind of BC-born-and-bred books Harbour has become known for and the kind in which we take the greatest satisfaction because if Harbour hadn’t been here to coax them into life, perhaps that whole corpus of regional literature might not exist.
Meanwhile, the beat goes on. Last year Harbour made a significant leap in size and scope by taking charge of the historic Douglas & McIntyre list and we face the future with confidence and strength. Our profoundest thanks go to all the readers, writers and booksellers who have supported us along the way. It has been a great privilege.
Howard White (2014)