The Shadow of the Wind

I just finished a great book. So great, I feel like reading it again right away. It’s a combination of Umberto Eco’s “Name of the Rose”, Wilkie Collins’ “Women in White” and a fifties mystery/adventure/horror movie filmed in Barcelona, Spain.

Maybe I loved it more because I was just in Barcelona, but I don’t think so. “The Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is a complete and immensely satisfying entertainment. It’s exciting, magical, complex and thought provoking. In many ways the book is about reading and the power of the writer’s art. Here’s a quote I love from near the end of the book:

“Bea says that the art of reading is slowly dying, that it’s an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us, that when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind, and great readers are becoming more scarce by the day.”

Book News

My book has received some excellent reviews and has been nominated for the Blooker Prize. Also, I ran into the guys from April Wine at the Saskatoon Airport today and Brian Greenway (who is in the book and, apparently enjoyed reading the book) told me that he had seen it front-racked at bookstores in the Toronto International Airport. Which makes me very happy.

My Dinner at … uh … Janey’s

Despite its jazzy parisian cool, the live recording of Toots Theilemans playing ‘Moulin Rouge’ is, oddly, the perfect headphone soundtrack for this calm and quiet drive to Campbellton, New Brunswick. It’s Saturday, and it feels like a Saturday. People are out in their yards, talking to neighbours, tending to their horses, and lounging in plastic chairs while their kids jump on backyard trampolines. It’s neither sunny nor warm but it’s Saturday, damn it, and the weekend is honoured with great respect in this neck of the woods.

In just twenty-four short hours, the high-intensity rock-and-roll adrenalin of Toronto has subsided to the point where recalling events and impressions will be difficult. As the green and peaceful countryside rolls by my passenger seat window, I’m fighting a strong resistance to the idea of re-visiting the events of the past few days. And that’s as it should be. I am here now. In New Brunswick. In that world so eloquently and lovingly documented by David Adams Richards, one of my favourite living authors, in his magnificent novels.

Many years ago now, I bought David’s first book, “The Coming of Winter”, and was stunned by the power and depth of its intimate human drama. Several years later, In an uncharacteristically audacious move, I called up my literary hero, nervously suggesting we get together for a drink.

“Why don’t you come over for dinner?” he replied.

One of my personal highlights of 2005 was the brilliantly written Globe and Mail story about Trooper, “The Long Good Time”. As a consequence of his week in the van with the boys in the band, its author, Peter Cheney, - one of Canada’s most respected feature writers - became a close friend and the honourary sixth member of Trooper.

I invited Peter and David Richards to join me for dinner in Toronto on Wednesday night. Thanks, in part, to the hospitality of our excellent hosts, Dave and Jane Doherty and the delicious food and casually classy ambience of their ‘Town Grill’ in Old Cabbagetown, the evening became my favourite of the tour. Although the two writers had never met, I had a feeling that they would hit it off - and they did.

Cheney is an outgoing and dramatic character who speaks and thinks like he writes. He is nearly always funny, even when he’s serious.

“I met the Devil at the crossroads …” he often solemnly admits as an introduction to his next story.

David is quiet and deeply thoughtful but can also be equally hilarious.

I had a wonderful time. I think they did too.

Dinner was the welcome antidote to a pressure-filled day that included a live performance with Kim Mitchell on Toronto’s Q107 and a national interview with ET Canada’s Rick Campanelli. The next day I met with Shauna MacDonald (Officer Erica Miller on the Trailer Park Boys, Promo Girl on CBC Radio One) to talk about my possible involvement with a new TV show, and Tom Kemp and Jeff Craib from the S. L. Feldman and Associates Toronto office, with whom we drank a few beers. My book reading was at 7:00, where my old pal Stu Jeffries (97.3 FM EZ Rock in Toronto - ‘Good Rockin’ Tonight’) brought me on … followed by a riotous (and particularly excellent) Horseshoe Tavern rock show with my awesome band, Trooper.


David Adams Richards’ new book “The Friends of Meager Fortune” will be released September 19th 2006. I love all of David’s books. “The Bay of Love and Sorrows” is my very favourite.

Peter Cheney’s work can be seen in the Globe and Mail His Trooper story, “The Long Good Time” can be read here.

All About Yesterday

(This is the post that followed the final post in the book - and the last entry before I shut the site down for the winter)


"You should know that there may be some weight issues on the way back."

The young pilot leaned close to me and spoke quietly.

"Sorry?" I said.

"Well, with the gravel and all ..."

"The gravel?"

"Well, ya ... and the short runway. And the fact that the take off is over water. There may be some weight issues. You may have to leave some things behind tonight."

"We already left a bunch of stuff behind in Winnipeg." I said, thinking out loud. "And we play tomorrow night ..."

I paused, weighing safety against a potentially missed gig, "How much stuff?"

"No more than a hundred pounds ... but it's really up to the pilot ..." He thought for a moment, "and the wind".

Our tiny ten passenger Pilatus single engine turbo prop sat alone on the Big Trout Lake air strip - a ragged gravel swatch cut out of the lakeside forest - surrounded by the band, the crew, a small collection of gear and the community's welcoming committee.

We moved quietly through the gathering entourage, shaking hands and making introductions. Accompanied by Eno, the show's coordinator, Luke, our constant companion for the evening, and three teenage boys, we boarded a battered yellow school bus for the ride to the "resting place". We crashed and bounced through the trees on dusty dirt roads - I raised my left hand, like a rodeo bull rider, bouncing on my seat. We hooted and hollered. Glen the school teacher - obviously British, wearing a Tilley hat, steel-rimmed glasses, shorts and boots grinned from behind the wheel.

"Kish'n'mayg'sib" Luke delivers the community's name as though it contains no more than two syllables.

"A little slower, Luke. Who's got a pen?"

"Kitchen - aw - maygo - sip" I repeated the word over and over in the arena's basement dressing room.

"Kitchenawmagosip, Kitchenawmagosip, Kitchenawmagosip"

"You've got it now" said Luke, smiling.

"Kitchenawmagosip" I repeated, unconvinced.

Kitchenawmagosip, or Big Trout Lake as it's called on the map, is an hour and a half flight northeast of Winnipeg. It's not accessible by road in the summer, when the ice-roads have melted. They have two stores, a school, a police station with three policemen, a woman's shelter, and a small hotel with a restaurant. They are planning a youth centre and a laundromat. We were there as part of a celebration that also included square dancing, fiddle music and a $50,000 Bingo game.

"Take us there!" we said when we heard.

"Two Fifty a card" replied one of the buzz-cut teenagers.

"Two hundred and fifty dollars?"

"That's how we do things." Eno said proudly.

About a hundred people, in two rows of chairs, sat at the halfway point in the large dark arena. The six o'clock show-time had drifted to seven. Our high-intensity intro music exploded in the silent, near empty arena and the first show began. It is fair to say that first nations people have a general tendency to shyness. As an audience, they applaud appreciatively between songs but lack the animated interaction of a typical rock crowd. After I insisted that they move their chairs closer to the stage, the small audience began to warm up. They smile. Shyly.

We have flown from Vancouver to Winnipeg, from Winnipeg to Big Trout Lake and performed a ninety minute set. Our second show begins after a short thirty minute break - most of which is squandered signing autographs at the t-shirt table. We are already exhausted as we take the stage for the second time that day.

"That second show was on fire!" says Luke quietly as we make our way down the basement hallway to our bright yellow dressing room.

"Hey thanks." I say, shaking his outstretched hand.

By 11:00 PM we are assembled again at the airstrip. The warm, clear northern night is pin-drop quiet - headlights from a few randomly parked pickups provide enough light to load the gear. We talk quietly as we say our farewells. Luke promises to email photos. Eno's handshake turns into a hug. I step away from the group for a moment to discuss the weight issue with the pilot.

Ten minutes later, as we fly back to the tree-line, the copilot shuts off all the lights in the plane. We are high above the clouds and sharing the sky with a massive display of northern lights. Our tiny plane is surrounded by enormous curtains of shimmering and dancing light. Like children, we press our faces to the small windows - maneuvering our elbows to the seats in an effort to see higher into the night sky.

An hour passes before Winnipeg floats into view in front of us. We take turns craning over the pilots' shoulders as the city lights grow brighter. Soon, two clearly defined parallel rows of lights position themselves below and ahead of us. It still seems like a very long way down. Tilted at a slight angle to break our speed, but moving straight towards the runway, we descend smoothly to the Winnipeg tarmac.