Canadian authors, great stories

Strong books by Canadian authors head my choice of new must reads this spring.

George Beaver’s Mohawk Reporter (Iroqraft, Ohsweken, Ont.) is a gem-box chock full of his brilliant newspaper pieces about the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford, Ont., where he was born in a log cabin. He also taught school there for 34 years.

Here is a master story teller’s kaleidoscope of his people. With incisive wit and poignancy, he penetrates the thicket of ignorance about his country’s native affairs an obligation too many of us seniors have shirked.

Just one of his piquant stories makes my point:

One day, an Indian man was walking down Colborne Street, Brantford, reading a book. A white man got curious and walked over and asked him what he was reading. The Indian replied: "This is a book on the Mohawk language. I’m learning to speak Mohawk." "That’s a waste of time," said the white man. "Don’t you know that Mohawk is a dead language?" "That’s okay," said the Indian. "When I die and go to the Happy Hunting Ground, I’ll be able to speak to my grandparents and relatives." The white man didn’t want to lose an argunt so he said "What if you die and go to hell?" "That’s okay" said the Indian. "I already know how to speak English."

Mohawk Reporter is distributed for Iroqraft by IPACS Ltd., R.R. 2, Ohsweken, Ont. N0A 1M0.

Hal Sisson’s Caverns of the Cross (Arsenal Pulp Press, Vancouver, B.C.) will grip you with its sheer fictional virtuosity. With his suspense novel, Sisson, a retired Peace River, Alta., lawyer, marches us into the lethal jungle of pharmaceutical contraceptives. He has guts. His protagonist, Canadian plant geneticist Nestor La Petre, discovers a "powerful plant" in Ecuador’s wilds and intends to market it as "Naturcept" despite, he concedes "…criticism from religious groups, right to life societies and rival scientists."

A daring plot line? You bet. Seeking the Pontiff’s blessing, LaPetre sets up a deadly tussle pitting Vatican stand fasters against predatory pill manufacturers — with himself in the middle. Sisson’s on the scene Central American and Vatican settings provide dazzling authenticity. He pulls no punches on this most controversial clinical subject. Arsenal Pulp Press is at l03 1014 Homer St., Vancouver, B.C. V6B 2W9.

George Blackburn’s Guns (McClelland & Stewart, Toronto) is the final book in his trilogy of Canadians in WWII. Between its covers, this ex newspaperman takes us deeply into life – and death – with the big guns. He writes eloquently about the gunners with his crowning touch — a passage on what D Day meant to them: "At last after all those years of training — of shoots at Sennybridge and Alfriston, of deploying in every kind of filthy weather on every kind of gorse covered down, bare mountain, foggy moor, and soggy cow pasture, of playing at war on exercises and schemes run by `umpires’ with mimeographed scripts — you are going into action." For Blackburn, "action" meant the Military Cross helping to save the Twente Canal bridgehead in Holland.

So much visibility has been given David Tafler’s 50+Survival Guide (ITP Nelson) that mention here might appear redundant. But Survival is not a one time read. It’s an extended use reference work for your healthcare shelf. My copy sits alongside my Guide to Prescription and Over the Counter Drugs (The Canadian Medical Association/Reader’s Digest), Family Medical and Prescription Guide (Editors of Consumer Guide) and Norman Cousin’s Anatomy of an Illness (W.W. Norton & Company). Impeccably researched. Briskly written. Made to be re-read.