“Extraordinary Canadians: Tommy Douglas” by Vincent Lam

tommydouglas.jpegThis is one of the most successful books in the Extraordinary Canadians series.

Dr. Vincent Lam, emergency physician and author of the prize-winning “Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures”, takes on the biography of the legendary Tommy Douglas, leader of the CCF government in Saskatchewan and responsible for introducing medicare legislation in that province that eventually spread to the whole of Canada.

Dr. Lam gives a sympathetic portrait of the young Scottish boy immigrating with his family to Winnipeg, l9ll, and later l9l9, their involvement in the Great Depression and Winnipeg General Strike, Tommy’s career as a Baptist minister in Weyburn, Saskatchewan and eventual involvement in politics as a more practical way to fix what he considered a broken and unjust economic system. He had already shown his willingness to fight, winning the lightweight boxing championship of Manitoba in l923. Perhaps more significantly, he had suffered as a boy from recurrent osteomyelitis in his right leg and was only saved from amputation when a renowned orthopedic surgeon offered to operate at no cost as a teaching case. He recovered but never forgot what the care meant to him.

In l932 J.C. Woodsworth, who founded the CCF party, introduced Douglas to M. J. Caldwell,the labour leader. In l935 Douglas ran as a CCF candidate in the federal election and won a seat for Weyburn, Saskatchewan. In l942 he became leader of the Saskatchewan CCF and in years after that introduced socialist measures in a prudently run mixed economy, e.g. universal hospital insurance, the Saskatchewan Arts Board, the rural electrification program.

Douglas own career took him to the leadership of the new NDP party in l96l. It was not until l964 that the Hall Commission recommended the adoption of universal medical care modelled on Saskatchewan’s plan.

Dr. Lam introduces Douglas’ family, his wife Irma, actress daughter Shirley and later adopted daughter Joan. Tommy Douglas retired as leader of the NDP in l97l and spent the rest of his life in Ottawa and a cottage in Wakefield, Quebec.

It is not hard to see why this feisty Scot was once named the most important Canadian of all time. He never gave up on his care for other people – and we all know that.

Review by Anne McDougall

Joseph Maingot signing “Politicians Above the Law” on Saturday, March 26 from 1-3p.m.

Come down to Books on Beechwood on Saturday, March 26 to meet author Joseph Maingot. He will be here signing his book Politicians Above the Law from 1:00p.m. to 3:00p.m.

From the jacket:
“More than 70% of the world’s nations spell out clearly in their constitutions that members of their parliaments or national assemblies are protected from the criminal process. This is called parliamentary inviolability. Only the Commonwealth parliaments and the Congress of the United States refuse to grant such special immunity to its members. This discourages good governance and encourages clashes among the three branches of government as the Craxi scandal in Italy (1993), the Juppe affair in France (2004), and the ongoing Berlusconi matter in Italy amply demonstrate.”
Buy the book to learn more!

About the author:
“J.P. Joseph Maingot Q.C. is a consultant in parliamentary matters. Formerly Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel of the House of Commons and Member of the Law Reform Commission of Canada, he is the author of the standard classic reference, Parliamentary Privilege in Canada, 2ed 1997, which is also known at Westminster. He has advised on parliamentary matters in Canada and in Yemen, the Kyrgyz Republic (Kyrgyzstan) and, East Timor.”

Come down to the bookstore on Saturday afternoon, meet the author, and buy a book! We look forward to seeing you all then!

Grete Hale Signing “Baker’s Daughter” Saturday, March 19 from 12pm to 2pm

gretehale2.JPGGrete Hale is coming back!!! For those of you who missed her when she was here in January, or if you just want to come and see her again, she will be here signing her book “Baker’s Daughter: The Story of a Long, Rich and Very Canadian Life” on Saturday, March 19 from 12:00pm to 2:00pm.

What readers are saying:
“If you have a treasured place where you keep precious delights, then you will experience an instant appreciation for the treats that Grete serves up in this delightful and heartwarming book.” -Jim Orban

“Reading these stories is much like being in Grete’s presence – having a thoroughly entertaining time while learning about the past and being inspired for the future. Generations after us will be grateful that she has taken the time to write down the tales she tells so well.” -Barbara McInnes, CM

“Grete Hale is a wonderful storyteller with a penchant for colourful detail that invites you to read on as she shares a unique perspective to the life of a city and the intrinsic family bond that has remained steadfast for nearly 100 years. Grete has worked hard for everything she has accomplished and she takes neither her family or the community for granted.” -Roger Greenberg

The book retails for $19.95 (plus tax) and net proceeds go to the Ottawa-based “CanHave Children’s Centre,” helping young people in Uganda.

Come down to the bookstore on Saturday to meet Grete, buy a book, and get it signed! We look forward to seeing you all here!

“The Best Laid Plans” by Terry Fallis

bestlaidplans.jpeg Nothing like a good story – especially one set in Ottawa, where you can recognize the people and the places if you live here too.

Terry Fallis creates some memorable characters in “The Best Laid Plans”: the crusty Scots engineering professor who never planned to get into politics; the ragtail set of students who helped get him in, and what happened when he got there.

The book is a satire on Canadian politics, especially the current Ottawa version which is sometimes funny enough all by itself. Terry Fallis runs a public relations agency in Toronto, but writes with an intimate knowledge of a small eastern suburb of Ottawa, as well as downtown and up on Parliament Hill. The satire covers all aspects of life in the hallowed halls of Parliament including some unexpected after-hours drama.

The publication of the book is a story in itself. Fallis got tired of trying to find a publisher, and so recorded a reading of his novel and brought it out chapter by chapter as a podcast. He then published the book on his own. After that it won the Stephen Leacock Award for Humour. It is indeed very clever, very well written and very funny. “Brisk and humorous”, says the Ottawa Citizen.

Review by Anne McDougall

David Holdsworth Signing “The Ambassador’s Camel” on Saturday, March 12 from 2:00 to 4:00 pm!

ambassadorcamel.jpgCome on down to Books on Beechwood on Saturday, March 12th and meet local Ottawa author David Holdsworth and illustrator Jean-H. Guilmette. They will be here signing their new book The Ambassador’s Camel: Undiplomatic Tales of Embassy Life between 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm.

The book is a collection of funny short stories on diplomatic life in a Canadian embassy in a fictional Asian country, along the lines of Lawrence Durrell’s famous spoof of the British Foreign Service, ESPRIT DE CORPS.

From the jacket:
“When politics and policy clash, politics always win. And in this case, senior diplomat Percy Williamson loses. At odds with Canada’s new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Percy draws an overseas assignment as ambassador to Bharalya, a small country in Asia that recently discovered a big cache of oil. When Percy and his wife Marilyn arrive in Bharalya they are quite unprepared for the experiences they will share and the eccentric people they will meet. There’s the king who’s addicted to collecting medals from foreign governments, a junior diplomat who impersonates his own foreign minister, a visiting minister caught by the press in a brothel, and a travel-averse diplomat reduced to jelly by his one and only trip outside the capital. Regularly erupting at the most awkward moments is the dreaded Bharali amoeba, scourge of the diplomatic intestinal tract. But all frivolity is set aside when the government threatens to close down the embassy; the Foreign Service springs into action, with surprising results.”

Be sure to stop by on Saturday, March 12 between 2:00pm and 4:00pm to meet David and Jean-H., have a chat, buy a book, and get it signed! We look forward to seeing you all then.

“The Mapping of Love and Death” by Jacqueline Winspear

mappinglovedeath.jpeg For anyone who knows the detective Maisie Dobbs, The Mapping of Love and Death will be a welcome addition to the highly successful detective series. For newcomers, the London investigator comes as a real treat to read.

Set in the U.K. between the wars, i.e. l932 to begin, the story follows the murder of a young American map-maker who left the U.S. in l9l4 to join up and fight for the country his father had come from, England. Jacqueline Winspear is an English writer who has lived for a long time in California. The result is that she has very keen feelings for both countries. From the sunny warmth of her new home, she writes vividly of the wet smog of London on winter afternoons, and the endless cups of tea and scones in everyone’s homes.

Maisie herself is a bright young woman who once worked as a maid on a large estate before she was trained to be a public investigator. She has a natural charm that enables her to slip between the class barriers and get the information she seeks.

The narrative is ingenious and sometimes horrifying in its ramifications but written in a low-key British way that takes you very close to the families concerned and makes for a page-turning read. This is the seventh book in this series that Winspear has produced, many of them winning prizes.

Review by Anne McDougall