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Surely #MeToo should be all over The Wife, The Ghost Brush, Colette, and Lady Franklin?

Surely #MeToo should be all over The Wife, The Ghost Brush, Colette, and Lady Franklin?


 So we caught the hit film The Wife last night. The movie, based on a novel by Meg Wolitzer, features a tour-de-force performance by  Glenn Close. But what struck me is that you can change the culture, the time period, the mode of expression . . . yet the story remains the same.
-- In The Wife, Joan Castleman does the writing . . . but her husband Joe wins the Nobel Prize. Backstory set in 1990s U.S.A.
-- The Ghost Brush, by Katherine Govier, is set in Japan in the late Edo period. The daughter Katsushika Oei does the printmaking, her father Hokusai takes the credit.
-- Colette, set in late 19th century France, finds the eponymous heroine doing the writing . . . and her husband Willy reaping the celebrity.
-- In Lady Franklin's Revenge, which unrolls through Victorian England, Jane Franklin emerges as the real explorer, the one who orchestrates the mid-to-late career of Sir John Franklin . . . yet he is the one celebrated in myth and legend.
The Wife, The Ghost Brush, Colette, Lady Franklin's Revenge . . . surely #MeToo should be all over this?




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Ken McGoogan
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Frozen Dreams Quintet makes for Bethlehem

Frozen Dreams Quintet makes for Bethlehem


People tell me I am too modest and self-effacing. They say, Ken, enough with the shy-and-retiring. You have to stop shunning the spotlight. Lately, in response, I've been banging the drum for the newly released paperback edition of Dead Reckoning. While working up a nifty little song-and-dance, I chanced upon the above slide and The Frozen Dreams Quintet. So of course I thought of Yeats and his rough beast slouching towards Bethlehem to be born. And I realized that, with Christmas whirling toward us, probably I should ask my publisher to drop everything and bring out my Arctic books as a boxed set. Makes sense, right?

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Ken McGoogan
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St. Kilda evokes Flight of the Highlanders

St. Kilda evokes Flight of the Highlanders


The December issue of Celtic Life International features a gorgeous 3-page spread on a visit to the Scottish island of St. Kilda. We turned up in the vicinity while sailing with Adventure Canada earlier this year. A version of the article, which begins as below, will appear in a 2019 book to be published by Patrick Crean / HarperCollins Canada. We're calling it FLIGHT OF THE  HIGHLANDERS: Canada's First Refugees.

Unbelievable. Overwhelming. Voyagers who have visited the archipelago of St. Kilda more than a dozen times declared this The Best Visit Ever. If they had said anything else, the rest of us would not have believed them. Bright sunshine, balmy temperatures, no wind . . . was there a cloud in the sky?
During the morning, when we arrived in this vicinity aboard the Ocean Endeavour, the day had looked less promising. Most ships that reach St. Kilda never land a soul. Winds too rough. Today, a serious swell caused people to doubt we would make it ashore. But in an inspired bit of decision-making, our Adventure Canada expedition leader turned the day upside down, switching early with late.
Instead of attempting a morning landing, we sailed directly to the bird cliffs of Stac Lee, home to the largest colony of gannets in the world. As the winds died and the sun came out, the captain showcased his navigational skills. Seventy or eighty metres in front of the towering black wall, he held ship steady. We found ourselves gazing almost straight up at a whirlwind of wheeling birds more than 400 metres above. I’m no birder but this was impressive.
A back-deck barbecue kept us busy as we sailed to Hirta, the archipelago’s main island. We’re talking about the remotest part of the British Isles, 66 kilometres west of Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides. I had landed here once and knew enough to remain dubious. But on arriving, we found the swell had receded. We piled into zodiacs and zoomed ashore. Incredible!

St. Kilda is one of very few places with Dual World Heritage Status for both natural and cultural significance. Bronze Age travellers appear to have visited 4000 to 5000 years ago, and Vikings landed here in the 800s. Written history reveals that a scattering of people (around 180 in 1700) rented land here from the Macleods of Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye. While living in a settlement (Village Bay) of stone-built, dome-shaped houses with thatched roofs, they developed a unique way of life, subsisting mostly on seabirds.
Gradually, as better ships enabled more contact with the outside world, they came to rely more on importing food, fuel and building materials. They constructed better houses. In 1852, 36 people emigrated to Australia, so beginning a long slow population decline. During the First World War, a naval detachment brought regular deliveries of food. When those ended after 1918, St. Kildans felt increasingly isolated. In 1930, the last 36 islanders were evacuated to the Scottish mainland.
During our June visit, we strolled along the curved Village Street where these last holdouts had resided. Most passengers found time to climb the saddle between two high hills. After a rise in elevation of perhaps 150 metres, we came to a cliff edge. Gazing back over the vista in the sun – the Village Street, the scattered beehive cleits, the Ocean Endeavour in the harbour, the occasional zodiac, the distant mountains – a consensus emerged: unbelievable!
Beyond this, everyone had their personal highlights. I registered two. The first came when I found the beehive cleit that stands today on the foundations of what was once the home of Lady Grange. She was an articulate, headstrong woman who, in the 1730s, spent eight lonely years as a prisoner on this island. While living in high-society Edinburgh, she learned that her husband was having an affair in London. Infuriated, she had threatened to expose him as a treasonous Jacobite.
That gentleman – who was indeed conspiring with such powerful figures as Macdonald of Sleat, Fraser of Lovat, and Macleod of Dunvegan -- responded by having his irrepressible wife violently kidnapped and bundled off, ultimately, to this almost inaccessible island. Here Lady Grange endured as the only educated, English-speaking mainlander on Hirta except for the minister and his wife. Her house is long gone, but a ranger directed me to the hut that stands today on its foundations. Made me shiver.
(To read the rest of the article, check out the December issue of Celtic Life International.)

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Ken McGoogan
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Michael Palin's Erebus and Dead Reckoning look alike because they belong together

Michael Palin's Erebus and Dead Reckoning look alike because they belong together



"What the publishing industry hath joined together let no bookseller put asunder." That's the way I see it.
Faithful readers have been nudging me: "Have you seen the cover of Erebus? Michael Palin's new book? Doesn't it remind you of the cover of Dead Reckoning: The Untold Story of the Northwest Passage?"
Well, now that you mention it, I say, yes, yes it does. It’s a perfect match. And that is as it should be. The two books complement each other. Ideally, they form part of the same whole. Erebus tells the story of a single ship. Dead Reckoning puts that story in context.  The two books should be displayed, bought, sold and read together.
When I was asked to provide a blurb for Palin’s book, I wrote: “At this late date, and against all odds, Michael Palin has found an original way to enter and explore the Royal Navy narrative of polar exploration. Palin is a superb stylist, low-key and conversational, who skillfully incorporates personal experience.”

Dead Reckoning, published in hardcover last autumn, drew an equally enthusiastic response. The paperback edition, which is now rolling into bookstores, quotes a couple of reviews on the back cover. “This book is a masterpiece, setting the standard for future works on Arctic exploration,” one reviewer wrote. “Dead Reckoning could be the best work of Canadian history this year.”
A second wrote: “Outstanding. . . . This is not the Canadian history that we learned in school.” And a third: “A sweeping work that sets out to bring the Indigenous contributors to northern exploration into the story as participants with names – not just tribal affiliations or occupations stated as ‘hunter’ or ‘my faithful interpreter.”
You get the idea. Since Palin’s book is published by Random House Canada and my own by HarperCollins Canada, I don’t think we can expect to see a boxed set any time soon. No worries. My advice would be that, when you buy the one, you should always pick up the other. Hey, just my opinion.




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Ken McGoogan
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Beautiful quest narrative finds Dude Quixote hauling a surfboard along Atlantic Coast

Beautiful quest narrative finds Dude Quixote hauling a surfboard along Atlantic Coast


Say hello to my friend Ryan (R.C.) Shaw. And his surfboard, Old Yeller. Ryan is launching his first book tonight in Toronto. It's called Louisbourg or Bust. And it's one of 19 books (and counting) produced by graduates of that unique MFA program in Creative Nonfiction offered at University of King's College in Halifax.
That's the one in which, full disclosure, I serve as a mentor. When Ryan asked me for a book-jacket squib, I was delighted to offer a few words: "This crazy beautiful quest narrative puts Don Quixote on a bicycle and sends him out to face history with a surfboard. Half hilarious dream-adventure, half marathon-nightmare, Louisbourg or Bust is all madcap love letter to Nova Scotia."
The launch is happening at 865 Bloor Street West from 7 p.m., and if you're looking for a bunch of folks who are ready to party, I'd suggest that this is where to find them.
In related news, things will be more sedate -- but equally welcoming -- on November 12 at the Toronto Meet and Greet for interested potential students. What happens is that the program's faculty, mentors, students, and alumni get together for wine and nibblies in the boardroom of Penguin Random House Canada. That's at 320 Front Street West, Suite 1400.
From 6 p.m. onward, you can hang out with us while contemplating whether this program might work for you. We're talking two years during which you combine short intense residencies in Halifax, Toronto and New York with ongoing one-on-one mentoring with professional nonfiction writers. At the end, you graduate with a degree, a polished book proposal, and a substantial portion of a finished manuscript -- or maybe, if you're like Ryan, a contract to publish a book. Anyway, lots more here:
https://ukings.ca/area-of-study/master-of-fine-arts-in-creative-nonfiction. And maybe see you tonight or on Nov. 12.

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Ken McGoogan
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Frozen Dreams bring Dead Reckoning to T.O.

Frozen Dreams bring Dead Reckoning to T.O.



OK, so the photo is from Back in the Day. August 1999, to be precise. That would be me on King William Island as taken by the late Louie Kamookak. We were atop Mount Matheson on King William Island. Behind me: Rae Strait.
I'll probably mention this adventure when I give an illustrated talk called FROZEN DREAMS: Dead Reckoning in the Northwest Passage. That's going to happen in the near future at three different venues in the Toronto area. 
The talk is based on my 14th book, Dead Reckoning, which is now available in paperback. The book challenges the conventional history of Arctic exploration and highlights the contributions of fur-trade explorers and the indigenous peoples, notably the Inuit. 
In recent times, I have been visiting the Arctic almost every year, sailing as a resource historian with Adventure Canada. I am also involved in planning the 2019 Arctic Return Expedition, which will retrace the 1854 journey of explorer John Rae, who discovered the final link in the first navigable Northwest Passage. Hope to see you here or there!
Oct. 30: Arts & Letters Club
Nov. 5: Canadian Federation of University Women, Mississauga
Nov. 14: Carlton Theatre Lecture Series
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Ken McGoogan
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Detective hunts psychopathic killer in Sixties San Francisco

Detective hunts psychopathic killer in Sixties San Francisco


Hands up if you remember when the Haight-Ashbury was THE place to be. Well, it was a magical time, let me tell you -- before it went bad. Peter Moreira's detective novel, set shortly after the Summer of Love, finds detective Jimmy Spracklin trying to solve a series of brutal murders in The Haight. Spracklin is a terrific tough-guy detective. Of course he is flawed. His marriage is in trouble, partly because he is fiercely committed to his job. And he is desperate to find his teenage stepdaughter, who disappeared into the District some months before. Moreira sets his eventful crime novel against the larger political landscape, as Spracklin is also a Kennedy Democrat hoping that Senator Bobby Kennedy will give his career a boost. The author builds the stakes with every twist and turn, and when the daughter takes up with a psychopathic killer, Spracklin's quest becomes a race against time. Highly recommended for those who enjoy a cracking good detective story -- or for anyone who remembers when the Haight was the centre of the universe.
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Ken McGoogan
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Before turning mainly to books about arctic exploration and Canadian history, Ken McGoogan worked for two decades as a journalist at major dailies in Toronto, Calgary, and Montreal. He teaches creative nonfiction writing through the University of Toronto and in the MFA program at King’s College in Halifax. Ken served as chair of the Public Lending Right Commission, has written recently for Canada’s History, Canadian Geographic, and Maclean’s, and sails with Adventure Canada as a resource historian. Based in Toronto, he has given talks and presentations across Canada, from Dawson City to Dartmouth, and in places as different as Edinburgh, Melbourne, and Hobart.