Wiseman’s Wager
Coteau Books / 18 December 2014

Wiseman’s Wager by Dave Margoshes Published by Coteau Books Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $21.95 ISBN 978-1-55050-601-3 Winter’s an especially wonderful time to settle in with a thick and thought-provoking novel, and Coteau Books provides one that fits the bill nicely. Wiseman’s Wager is by the prolific and award-winning Dave Margoshes, who has been entertaining readers with his novels, short story collections, poetry, and nonfiction (a biography of Tommy Douglas) for decades. The Saskatchewan-based writer has now spun a 382-page tale about two Jewish-Canadian brothers, both in their 80s, and their often tumultuous lives. There’s a gun, and prison time. There are multiple marriages, Yiddish, and the Communist Party. There are counselling sessions with a desirable female psychologist, and there’s a wife in a 12-year coma. This dialogue-driven novel is less about plot, however, and more about the relationship between the brothers-and the family they’ve lost-and how memory kicks in and out, seemingly of its own volition, like a weak signal on an ancient radio. Zan, the intellectual protagonist, wrote a novel (“The Wise Men of Chelm”) that was a failure when published in 1932, but re-released 30 years later to great acclaim. Throughout the story feisty Zan mourns his…

Thugs, Thieves, and Outlaws of Alberta
University of Regina Press / 18 December 2014

Thugs, Thieves & Outlaws: Alberta Crime Stories by Ryan Cormier Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $19.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-300-4 In the decades before Canada abolished capital punishment, hanging was a popular mode of execution. It was not an efficient method. An executioner mistakenly cut down one man while he was still alive, with his neck grotesquely dislocated. As the young man struggled for breath in front of witnesses for another 12 minutes, prison officials discussed hanging him a second time. In the 40 chapters of Thugs, Thieves & Outlaws: Alberta Crime Stories, author Ryan Cormier describes many grisly crimes and their punishments. He explains that “good people can be fascinated by gruesome things.” A reporter for the Edmonton Journal, Cormier relies heavily on court transcripts, newspaper accounts, and his own notes. While acknowledging that “every crime has at least two sides,” he uses only the official version, the one sanctioned by the courts. Cormier’s book covers crimes in Alberta from 1870 to 2008. Many of the stories are ripped straight from the headlines, such as the murder of four RCMP officers at Mayerthorpe in 2005. Some stories seem beyond belief, like the banker who embezzled millions…

Wes Side Story
Your Nickel's Worth Publishing / 18 December 2014

Wes Side Story by Wes Funk Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing Review by Alison Slowski $19.95 ISBN 978-1-927756-15-7 A thoroughly entertaining book, author Wes Funk’s memoir Wes Side Story is light-hearted, fun-filled, and engaging. Funk glides effortlessly through several scenes in the story of his life from when he was a young boy to the present day. He writes candidly about every topic: from deep issues such as discrimination and suicide, to lighter, fresher topics such as getting married, and being wholly devoted to a man who is the love of his life. He describes his work as the host of a popular community TV show with a spotlight on writers in the Saskatchewan community, “Lit Happens”. Funk’s writing paints a picture of nn intelligent and unassuming Prairie boy at heart; there is a refreshingly honest quality to it. Funk’s memoir begins with details of his early life in rural Saskatchewan, growing up in a small town and then moving to an acreage with his family while still in his younger years. His beautifully rendered heartfelt memories of growing up as a teenager in the 1970’s and 1980’s speak to his earlier work, Dead Rock Stars. Coupled with his…

A Gift of the Prairie
LMLCC / 18 December 2014

A Gift of the Prairie: Writing from the Southern Shores of Last Mountain Lake Edited by Bernadette Wagner Published by Last Mountain Lake Cultural Centre Review by Courtney Bates-Hardy $20.00 ISBN 978-0-9937215-0-2 A Gift of the Prairie combines all of the best things a poetry anthology can be: it’s short, focused, and includes a variety of work and writers. The anthology was the brain child of Bernadette Wagner, who served as the literary artist-in-residence at the Last Mountain Lake Cultural Centre in Regina Beach, Saskatchewan. Wagner worked quite closely with the community and wanted to showcase their work, so she sent out a call for writing about the Last Mountain Lake area. According to her foreword, she wasn’t sure at first that there would be enough of a response from local writers to create the anthology. However, as she states, the community came together and soon offered up their memories and writings about the area. A Gift of the Prairie is a short and satisfying read at a slim 71 pages. It starts off strong, with four beautifully minimalist poems from Jillian Bell and ends on an equally strong note with poetry from Paul Wilson, whose most recent book of…